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Chime in Regarding Mushing

Of all the uses of animals, I believe the easiest to dispense with is entertainment, some of which is called "sport." Using another sentient being for fun is the worst kind of exploitation, pursued by people who clearly desire to dominate and control others. These people have two common defenses: tradition (i.e., it’s sacred today because it was sacred yesterday); and my personal favorite–the animals like it! Here’s what’s in my pamphlet regarding this issue, as you may have read:

  • I’ve heard that people who advocate for animal rights don’t think we should be racing horses or dogs. That’s ridiculous! Horse and dogs love to run! They’re just doing what they love to do!

Thousands of horses and dogs are created each year for the purposes of racing, with the hope of making their owners a profit. Early in their lives, animals who do not show promise are killed, and as the training process progresses, there are further kills to narrow the group down to only the most competitive animals. Many injuries during training result in further kills, if the careers of the animals are no longer promising. When the few animals who make it to competition are injured, they are often killed if their injuries are too expensive to fix, or if the injuries will be career-ending even if they heal well. The lucky ones are delivered to rescue groups, who will often pay for their treatment and get them adopted, as in the case of greyhounds and mushing dogs (used most famously in the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, both of which are over 1,000 miles), or sent to a sanctuary, as is often the case with horses. As of this writing, horses are still slaughtered here for human consumption elsewhere.

There’s a fight brewing (actually, I think it’s beyond the brewing phase) up in the Yukon Territory, and one way we can register our thoughts and feelings about what is being done to dogs in the name of fun today, is to comment on an Internet discussion where no one takes on the issues of use (it’s a cruelty thing), but the author is so blind to the cruelty, that I just might comment on that too. I think his two most appalling sentences are:

  1. "Yes, they live much of their lives tethered to their dog houses – how is that any worse than the way much of the human population lives?"
  2. And then there’s the classic: "How many sled dogs die each year doing what they love to do compared to the number of dogs who are ploughed (sic) under at the Whitehorse garbage dump every year because nobody wants them?" This last one of course assumes that mushing dogs–or any other dogs–have somehow by themselves created overpopulation without the help of breeders and people who don’t spay and neuter their dogs.

Chime in. I did. Here’s my comment:

I’m from very far away–South Florida. I’m attracted to this issue because South Florida is the home to more Greyhound racing tracks than any other state in the US. Supporters of dog racing down here like to say, as mushers do, that the dogs love it. They love to run. I have adopted two ex-racers and can attest to the fact that they do indeed love to run. However, that doesn’t mean we have a right to take over their lives and decide when they will run, for how long, and of course, what the consequences are if they don’t run as fast as I’d like.

Greyhound owners down here say, "So they live in a cage for 22 hours a day. At least they’re safe from the elements, they get some daily exercise, and they get two meals a day–that’s better than some dogs!" I hear the rationalizations echo in what mushers say. But the reality is that the desire to dominate and control the animals and the desire to profit from their lives and hard work is what underlies mushing and racing.

And as for any kind of population problem, it is usually people who are the cause: people who breed the dogs and people who don’t spay and neuter the dogs. If that part of the equation were resolved, soon there would not be a problem.

Finally, I take my dogs for chiropractic treatments as well as for acupuncture, as I don’t want them taking drugs for their arthritis from racing and I want them to live comfortable lives, NOT so they can continue to run as fast as they can, at my command.

Check out the debate, which has other interesting elements I didn’t mention, such as a discussion about whether taking down posters is or should be considered some kind of crime.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. >>However, that doesn’t mean we have a right to take over their lives and decide when they will run, for how long, and of course, what the consequences are if they don’t run as fast as we’d like.>And as for any kind of population problem, it is usually people who are the cause: people who breed the dogs and people who don’t spay and neuter the dogs. If that part of the equation were resolved, soon there would not be a problem.<<

    Read my initial post at my blog – I said that if Terry was to focus on that issue instead of what he’s doing, we wouldn’t be having a discussion at all because we’d be in full agreement.

    October 27, 2007
  2. Only part of my post came through for some reason. The rest is:

    >>However, that doesn’t mean we have a right to take over their lives and decide when they will run, for how long, and of course, what the consequences are if they don’t run as fast as we’d like.<<

    I have a surprise for you, Mary. By adopting an animal we are taking over its life. Mushers allow their dogs to have lots of adventure in their lives, compared to most dogs owner by people in cities – their biggest adventure is getting to sniff a new dog in the neighbourhood as it passes by on the sidewalk. And if you don't think that huskies love adventure, you know nothing at all about the breed.

    October 27, 2007
  3. By adopting a healthy animal who would have been killed because she was not fast enough or because there is not enough space in a shelter, and giving her a comfortable life full of stimulation and safety, is far different from breeding or training an animal so you can try to profit from her and use her for your own gain.

    October 27, 2007
  4. >>…giving her a comfortable life full of stimulation and safety…<<

    Which very, very ferw people do. If I come back as a dog, I want it to be a sled dog so my life at least has some major adventure.

    October 27, 2007
  5. Mary – I can not tell you how much I and the chained sled dogs around the Yukon appreciate your wise words and thoughts. Murray Lundberg has made himself a hero to the dog mushing community, for the time being that is. Unwittingly, from his ridiculous newspaper and blog rant, he has also helped to increase the number of people thinking about sled dogs, and not all those newly aware with the issue will agree with him, especially because of the cowardly way he posed his argument.

    I have been writing letters to the papers here for close to four years now about animal welfare (all animals and the issues that affect them) and dogs (sled dogs) who are now bred mainly to serve the ego and greed of man. I feel I have some right to talk about sled dogs, as I have dog mushing on both sides of my family, and no, the dogs were not used for racing, but for work, because back in the 1930's, 40's and 50's and living in the far North (NWT, northern Saskatchewan, northern Alberta) people needed them for that purpose. My father had a small team of dogs because after his father died, from a young age he had to help raise his family (his mother and nine siblings.

    He hauled water with a dog team from the Slave River near Fort Smith, NWT and also had a fish line at the river with which he fed his family and dogs. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to talk with him in depth about his dogs before he passed away suddenly in 2003. My maternal grandfather was a trapper (another should-be defunct means of earning a living) for most of his life and used dog teams to patrol the trapline. One of my mother's uncles was a well-known Roman Catholic priest (Father Lafferty) and traveled by dog team 'spreading the word' throughout the South Mackenzie district of the NWT and northern Alberta from the 1920's to the 1940's. So, I guess my advocacy for sled dogs does come from somewhere.

    Sled dogs are no longer needed for work, but here in the Yukon, our Territorial tourism department invests $150,000 towards promoting the dog-killing/dog-abusing Yukon Quest and gives a further $50,000 towards the prize purse. Currently, I believe less than half that amount is given to our two humane societies by the government. The Territorial tourism department and a Yukon tourism industry lobby group both promote sled dog tourism (the president of the lobby group owns a tour business and the executive director of the Yukon Quest also sits on the board), another way in which dogs can be exploited winter and summer. There is absolutely no oversight or regulation by government of racing kennels or dog tour operators. Any idiot or wannabe-musher in the Yukon can get a few dogs and start breeding them, or get unwanted dogs from other mushers, for purposes of racing and/or sled dog tours.

    I talked to a sled dog rescue organization owner from Alaska in 2005 and was told that in Alaska, competitive mushers often kill their unwanted dogs and puppies because they do not want their highly-treasured bloodlines benefitting other mushers. I also talked to a Yukon Quest musher who called me around the same time, and after listening to the same crap (for close to an hour) which Lundberg spouts, I cornered him into commenting about Yukon-based Quest mushers killing unwanted dogs and puppies. After, of course, stating that HE did not kill dogs (I neglected to also pose the question "did he have anybody, employee, etc. who killed his dogs?") I recall his words as being "possibly so" (in regard to the killing of dogs).

    Again, right around this time a person I consider to be highly knowledgable about dog mushing who told me that he or she was told by the dog handler(s) for one Yukon Quest musher that a man described as a very scary individual killed dogs (did not say how it was done, unfortunately I was so shocked to receive this information that I neglected to ask how the killing was/is done) for a Quest musher who was too cowardly to do this distasteful work for himself/herself. No insider has to this date stepped forth publicly to expose the 'industry' of competitive Yukon dog mushing.

    I recently talked to a couple who live in an area of the Yukon near dog mushers and they thanked me for speaking up for sled dogs but are themselves afraid of doing so because of the fear of possible harm to them or their companion animals. Dogs in many Yukon communities are shot as the prime means of controlling their population. It is actually not illegal to shoot dogs here in the Yukon, read the CBC interview about the Dawson-area dog hoarder who shot 74 of his dogs and was not charged with any crime:

    I have heard second hand that not all Yukon dog mushers support the Quest because of the racing aspect and also because of the inflated egos these people possess. Rarely if ever does anybody from the mushing industry speak up to criticize practices. Quest musher Frank Turner spoke up about Quest mushers culling dogs in 2007 but was quickly silenced by his peers and media made no attempt to pursue the story. Incidentally, I also read in the Yukon News this summer that Mr. Turner has 120 dogs and is still breeding more, and was planning to run in the 2008 Quest.

    For hard-hitting criticism from knowledgable dog mushers, read the Seppala Sled Dogs blog message at

    For a statement about 'Responsible sled dog breeding and ownership' read
    Not all AR people would agree with the concept itself but it is nice to see such sentiments expressed about an ethic that very few dog mushers (and no Yukon Quest musher) can live up to.

    Mr. Lundberg and his minions heads would spontaneously blow apart if THEY read the previous messages). What else would you expect after so many years of the local media (and blowhards like Murray Lundberg) treating Quest mushers like rock stars?

    Also, with regard to people like Lundberg who pop their heads up occasionally (it is like a game of 'whack-a-mole' to me, sorry if I offend anyone with this analogy) and wax eloquently about the glories of the Quest, even to the extent of defending the chaining of dogs, and the dog deaths and injuries that occur as a regular consequence of races like the Quest, they are pretty easily dealt with, as such cowardly individuals are. People like him usually have a vested interest in promoting the Quest and sled dog tourism.

    Murray, seeing that you say you profess to know me so well (I also know you very well – actually a whole lot better since this past Wednesday!), now please correct me if I am wrong and I will retract it, but did you and your partner not receive free or subsidized luxury Alaskan cruise(s) in return for you, as someone who makes a living in the Yukon tourism industry, giving talks/presentations to cruise ship passengers? How much Yukon Quest and Iditarod dog mushing propaganda did you spread to the passengers on the trip(s)? Holland America has tour buses go to certain Yukon dog mushing operations in the summers, and the dogs pull tourists around by wagon or cart, up to 7 days a week as I read in an article this summer.

    Murray, what is your response to 2007 Quest race marshal Mike McCowan's statement during this year's Quest that the dog culling policies and practices of Quest mushers were not the Quest organization's business? I call this the Yukon Quest "don't ask/don't tell/don't care" policy. I intend to stay off your Explore North blog because I feel like I need to be fumigated after visiting your site. Oh, yeah – I wrote a letter of response to you to the Yukon News which you will not like to read should the letter be published next week.

    October 27, 2007
  6. Mike Grieco #

    **Welcome to the Yukon!! Where animal "Exploitation" is a "Larger than Life" Celebration!!**

    …tearing down 'posters' does not change the 'historical' and 'current' truth of the 'message'.
    I, Mike Grieco will not be intimidated by the 'cowards' who "use" and "abuse" the lives of another…let the 'Dance' begin.

    **Praise the Animals**

    October 27, 2007
  7. Here is another glimpse into the psyche of Murray Lundberg, from a forwarded email message I received:

    The poster showing the “miserable, scared dogs” was made possible because you stuck a camera in the face of dogs who were already stressed by the pre-race commotion and they slunk back under the truck to get away from you (a friend of mine saw that happen – aren’t small towns great?). [Ed. Note – your friend is a bloody liar Murray, I kept a respectful distance from the dogs at all times – let me remind you of the quote from the Yukon News by Quest musher Michelle Phillips, during the 2007 race, as reported in the Yukon News – "never trust a musher, we're all full of bullshit" – apparently, so are their supporters]

    “…sell, give away or quite possibly kill unwanted …. dogs” accurately describes what goes on at one or both of the pet shelters in town. As you know, all race organizations are working to stop any abuses that do occur – the severe penalties given out are clear evidence of that. And “….gives the dogs everything they can take and they will take it” could have been be spoken by any coach of top-level athletes – Lance Mackey among tens of thousands of others.

    My post and Web sites make it very clear that I support the Yukon Quest, as yours make it clear that you object to it – what’s your point? I also managed the large “Beanie Baby” fund-raising campaign for them a few years ago as a volunteer. My “Everything Husky!” site is a non-commercial husky information (advocacy) site that works to stop the real cruelty of ignorant people owning huskies, and ExploreNorth promotes sled dog racing among 1,000 or so other Northern subjects.You ignore my question about not focussing on where the real cruelty is – pet owners. How about the huge number of pets who are ploughed under at the dump because of pet owners who won’t spay/neuter their dogs? Are you okay with that, or are you just chicken to take on the world? [Ed. Note – I have publicly advocated for spay and neuter campaigns on my web site and in the newspapers. I think a better place to start a spaying and neutering campaign is with the Yukon Quest mushers, themselves]

    Go ahead and have your posters printed in the papers – making yourself look as crazy as a PETA member should make for some interesting encounters on Main Street 🙂

    I’ll be checking to see if any updates on your Web site are being done from a government computer….. [Ed. note – Don't worry about that Murray, I have my own $3,000 laptop for the cause, but this just goes to show what a petty, miserable and despicable person you are]..

    Mary – sorry for responding to this on your site, because I know you are concerned about levels of discourse, incredible how somebody could sink so low to defend animal suffering and cruelty.

    October 27, 2007
  8. Hmmm, I have a natural instinct to clean, and sometimes I even take pleasure in cleaning and derive satisfaction from a clean house. However, I would not like to be contained in a kennel or kept chained and then only allowed any freedom on those occasions when leashed to other people I would be forced to clean as quickly as possible, maybe hit when I messed up, and forced to clean until my hands became bloody and then forced to keep going.

    I'm not sure why people always use these excuses. Dogs love to run, therefore we should force them to run for our pleasure until they collapse. Geese in the wild like to eat, therefore it's ok to stick funnels down their throats and force feed them until their livers become diseased.


    October 27, 2007
  9. Mary – this is the last posting I will make in response to Murray Lundberg on your blog. It is a waste of time and energy continuing to respond to such people, who never deal with the real issues when they defend such exploitation and cruelty. I will sum this up by saying that I might not have needed to spend so much time and [largely negative] energy as an advocate had our local media done their jobs throughout the years. They have largely served the Yukon Quest as media cheerleaders since the conception of the race, and have NEVER done any investigative journalism. Our CBC Yukon (public broadcasting) affiliate continues to be most reprehensible in supporting the race and assisting in its promotion.

    Although the two local newspapers are fairly good at publishing letters in opposition to the Quest, they have not done their jobs either. One of the Whitehorse papers is a major media sponsor and while our organization puts up its little posters around town, this newspaper gives numerous full-page ads to the Quest whenever it is promoting a fundraising event or the race itself. I am concerned that some of my tax dollars may be used for this advertising expense.

    If the Quest had ever bothered to address the many important issues of complaint I (and a very few others) have brought up over the years, we would not have to contend with the garbage espoused by the person whose name I will no longer mention. Instead they have an official position not to respond other than with two or three little one-liners. Here are some of the concerns I have publicly raised about the Quest:

    Published allegations of marijuana use by Quest mushers during the race – as reported by John Balzar (and he supports the Quest!) in his book 'Yukon Alone' [ ]. Balzar wrote that cannabis smoking by some Quest mushers (Balzar knew of "half a dozen" who were cannabis users and "guessed there were others") was an "integral part of the race", furthermore the mushers were "not all also-rans either". The Quest drug tests the dogs, though. This year the controversial drug DMSO was allowed to be used on dogs experiencing joint pain. I had read on an Ontario sled dog racing web site that this drug is banned in their events.

    Forcing dogs to run when sick, injured, while pregnant or "in heat" – many sled dogs are afflicted with bleeding stomach ulcers. I had asked the Quest about allowing ulcer-ridden dogs and dogs injured prior to the race, to compete after an article about the pre-race vet check. Many dogs are affected with diarrhea caused by viruses and still are forced to race. I have heard and read about one female dog in the 2006 race who had a frozen urethra along the trail [the musher eventually noticed she was not urinating] and this year heard of several dogs who had frostbitten penises [reported in Yukon News and by a freelance reporter to CBC].

    What does it contribute to society to support a race in which these dogs "who love to run" do so for up to and over a hundred miles a day, in extreme temperatures while pulling a heavy load and oftentimes mushers are getting their beauty sleep while the dogs are on automatic pilot? That is what our society supports and treasures here in the Yukon and also in Alaska.

    The person who will hereafter remain un-named can say whatever he wants about me personally, but I am not the one who is responsible for killing and injuring dogs on a year round basis, or supporting those individuals and organizations like the Yukon Quest who do.

    Terry Cumming
    [Over and out]

    Here is some more food for thought, a thoughtful message from Iditarod musher John Suter which he distributed widely this year in response to Ramy Brooks dog beating incident in the 2007 Iditarod. He also posted it somewhere on this blog in response to one of Mary's dog mushing blogs. Good for you for being one of the few who is not afraid to speak up, Mr. Suter. I realize how difficult this must have been for you to (so eloquently) do so.

    Juneau Empire
    'Iditarod just as guilty for incident'
    June 4, 2007 Letter to editor

    The Iditarod's board of directors has given one of its mushers a two-year ban for spanking his dogs multiple times. The board should have given itself a two-year ban as well because they are just as guilty of the violation.

    The board did not take the direct action of spanking the dog team, but it set up the conditions for the event to occur. The board did this by refusing to throttle back the race's speed by not putting in the badly needed equal-run, equal-rest recommendations.

    There is enormous pressure for these mushers to perform the best they can. The results of this are that to be competitive mushers now run their dog teams day and night, around the clock. The musher who gives his or her dog teams equal run, equal rest are behind the front of the pack. Most of them cannot afford to keep racing for more than a few years.

    This musher did not do anything differently than all the other top mushers. What happened is this musher got caught. With equal run, equal rest, rested dogs will be able to keep running, and rested mushers' brains will not be stuck on stupid.

    John Suter
    Four-time Iditarod finisher
    Chugiak, AK

    October 27, 2007
  10. Please be sure to check out the 'Daily Watchdog page' [at one of my other favourite animal web sites besides Mary's] where a little discussion about this has been going on – Animal Advocates Society of BC

    The following poem was published in a regular opinion column in the Yukon News on October 17, by Mr. Doug Bell (aka Hugh Conner – Yukoner), retired publisher of the Yukon News in Whitehorse. Mr. Bell is apparently offended by the two vocal animal rights people (myself included, who regularly speak up for animals in the Yukon). Many Yukoners need to hunt, fish, trap, and mush dogs or they are 'not happy campers'. It should be noted that Mr. Bell, when he was a newspaper publisher, apparently never had any of his reporters do their due diligence in investigating animal cruelty affecting sled dogs, including the Yukon Quest dogs who have suffered and died in the 25 years the disgraceful race has been staged. Is it any wonder why I am very embarrassed to live in the (otherwise very beautiful) Yukon Territory?

    The New Law of the Yukon

    This is the new law of the Yukon and Cheechakos have made it plain.
    Send me your foolish and feeble, send me your weak and insane.

    Weak are the pampered and serviced, insane for the need to reform
    The pioneer people who built me, force them to comply with the norm.

    Swift as a panther in triumph the newcomers pounce on their prey!
    Helpless the pioneers cower to their misguided and bullying way.

    No smoking, no mushing, no fishing, no driving, no fun and no say
    About what is acceptable action or lifestyle or freedom today.

    No respect for those who have suffered to build them this home in the North,
    My doors have been opened to people proclaiming my laws have no worth!

    These newcomers claim we are evil, mindless and cruel and mean
    For protecting our claim as a people not ruled by the Southern regime.

    No eating of meat, no forestry, no seeking of Klondike Gold,
    The thought police are coming for us to force us to do as we’re told!

    My heart is broken to pieces as the newcomers squabble and fight,
    They pave over my golden hist’ry with social correctness and spite.

    My Sourdoughs’ struggles have ended as they are now harried and gray,
    Too tired to battle these morons who feel that they know the right way.

    It is said that we won’t go to meetings, but we are busy attending our works,
    ‘Cause what is the point of opinion when your home is invaded by jerks?

    Hugh Conner (with apologies to Robert Service.)

    October 27, 2007
  11. >>Murray… did you and your partner not receive free or subsidized luxury Alaskan cruise(s) in return for you, as someone who makes a living in the Yukon tourism industry, giving talks/presentations to cruise ship passengers? How much Yukon Quest and Iditarod dog mushing propaganda did you spread to the passengers on the trip(s)?<<

    I don't make a living in the Yukon tourism industry, I make a living by running Web sites. But yes Terry, we have done several of those cruise speaking contracts in Alaska and in the Caribbean (where we talk about Alaska crusing), and mushing (the State Sport of Alaska) is talked about a lot. Tens of thousands of people from those ships spend $4-500 apiece to go on the "ultimate Alaskja excursion", which entails taking a helicoipter to a glacier where a musher's camp is set up, and then taking a 15-20 minute ride on a sled across the glacier. That's an excursion trhat gets more popular every year, and there are now oiperators doing in in Skagway, Juneau and Seward.

    October 28, 2007
  12. >>Murray, what is your response to 2007 Quest race marshal Mike McCowan's statement during this year's Quest that the dog culling policies and practices of Quest mushers were not the Quest organization's business<<

    Culling is done throughout the world, in many, many aspects of life. Did you know that people also cull people? One of the methods is called "abortion". Perhaps you've heard of it – it's a way of getting rid of would-be-people who aren't going to be convenient in some way. Since mushers culling dogs makes you embarrassed to live in the Yukon, can I assume that people culling people makes you embarrassed to live?

    October 28, 2007
  13. Murray – I think you should take the advice "if you find yourself in a hole, STOP DIGGING!" It is actually painful to watch you squirm. You have defended chaining dogs, stated that sled dogs gladly give up their lives for some scumbag who gambles with their lives, and now you also defend culling. Furthermore, you spread a vicious lie about me harrassing dogs when I took the photos. I have a picture of my friend Mike Grieco, gently petting some Quest dogs at the pre-race.

    I would say you can now put up a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner. Go spread your propaganda at your ExploitNorth website, because you have worn out your visit here. Have a nice life, and thanks for helping out our cause.

    October 29, 2007
  14. Even women who resort to abortion would tend to argue that not having the pregnancy at all is a far better situation. Besides, the existence of 'worse' does not make 'bad' into 'good'.

    October 29, 2007
  15. I love watching you morons squirm and post more nonsense. Get your heads out of that warm dark place….

    October 29, 2007
  16. Murray,

    This discussion, at this site, is officially over. I have read the abusive rants on your site as well, and I'm crystal clear about the mentality of the person/people I'm dealing with–ON BOTH SIDES.

    Your crew with your "AR nutters" and other such phrases of brilliance have cornered the market on "nonsense," and I suggest you take up meditation, veganism and nonviolence to replace your current program.

    You will be deleted hereafter (and I should have deleted your last comment, but it says more about you than I ever could).

    October 29, 2007
  17. Mike Grieco #

    **PEACE & HEALTH To All LIFE**

    October 30, 2007

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