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Irish SPCA’s Bizarre Fundraiser

I don't know of any SPCA that has a mission I'd give money to, and not because I don't care about animals, but because I believe I care more than they do. And that's not me being arrogant and self-righteous. It's a simple statement of fact that if I had an organization for animals, my interest in helping them would manifest in a mission that promoted veganism. And of course my fundraising events wouldn't include . . .

Dog Sledding in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Sledding over 200 kilometres from our base camp into the wilds of the most northern European country of Norway, this event proves the ultimate challenge for many participants.

With temperatures falling as low as -30C the bond between man and dog becomes essential, and the real essence of teamwork is truly tested in this hostile environment. Participants each have their own sled pulled by a team of 4-6 huskies, looking after each other and becoming a powerful unit by the end of the challenge.

This event, for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, centers on cruelty to animals. They'd go a long way to fulfilling their mission simply by not having this event!

What I don't want to hear about is how much huskies, or greyhounds, for that matter, love to run. Dogs love to run, that's true. But loving to run when you want to run, as far as you want to run, is a far cry from some man or woman tying you to other dogs and making you race in brutal conditions for up to 60km a day (here's the itinerary) in a place with 6-8 hours of daylight and an average temperature of -15C.

If you want to help huskies, and I assume the Irish SPCA does, adopt one from a shelter, give him a loving home and plenty of stimulation and opportunities to exercise. Using a dog for your own gain–or to raise money for other dogs–is bizarre conceptually. No matter where the race is held, or how long it is, there's simply no reason to use dogs for our own gain.

I clicked on a couple of links meant to send feedback, and they all ended up with me sending an e-mail to . I'm going to send a letter, though I'm pretty sure it won't be printed on the Letters Page.

I'm curious. I plan fundraisers a couple of times a year and it's not an activity that anyone takes lightly. There's a lot of thought that goes into choosing the right venue and theme–one that will appeal to the majority of stakeholders. I can certainly see that some people still think dog sledding is appealing; the comments that flow in when I post on the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest demonstrate that. But to think that a majority of the stakeholders of an animal welfare organization would find a dog sledding event appealing as a fundraiser?

I don't get it. And that will be the thrust of my letter. There are endless options for fundraising that don't include using animals. The Irish SPCA's choice is incongruous, at best.

Thanks to Terry for this story.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    The Society for the Promotion of Cruelty to Animals; or at least The Society for the Promotion of Exploitation of Animals.

    January 24, 2009
  2. Humane societies and SPCAs do not consist of animal lovers per se. These organizations consist of people who enjoy owning pets. See, for example, this little anecdote that ran in "Reader's Digest" a few years ago:

    I'm a vegan, and for the past six years, I've been employed at an animal shelter that houses both pets and farm animals. Most of the staff and volunteers here are either largely ignorant of veganism (our HR director always pauses before she says the word, then pronounces it "VAY-gun") or view it as some sort of irksome affectation. And the farm staff here are actually the least sympathetic to veganism. One former farm staffer now has two cows that he's raising for beef. Our head vet displays a photo of himself (in his younger days) riding a rodeo bull. A recent board member made her money by owning a steak house. And back in the 1960s, the president of our board was a prominent local furrier whose family still owns a large fur store in town.

    Besides myself, there are a handful of vegans who either work here or volunteer, and we have to raise hell just to get some vegan options served at our fund-raising events.

    It can all be a little discouraging, to say the least. If you can't even convince self-described animal lovers to consider veganism, then what hope is there to convert the average joe?

    January 24, 2009
  3. [Newspaper advertisement from Yukon News, Friday January 23, 2009]

    '1,000 Mile Hearts for Hospice'

    Please join Hospice Yukon and musher, Michelle Phillips for the screening of


    Becky Bristow's award winning, awe inspiring film of the 2004 Yukon Quest.

    Beginning at 7:00 PM, at the Visitor Information Centre, 100 Hanson Street
    Saturday, January 31, 2009. Admission by donation.

    On behalf of Hospice Yukon Society, Tagish dog musher Michelle Phillips
    will be carrying 100 handcrafted Feelie Hearts on the 2009 Yukon Quest International
    Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska.

    Feelie Hearts began with a grieving four year-old girl whose mother had died. She was given a small,
    stuffed fabric heart to carry with her, understanding the soft heart neatly tucked in her pocket was proof
    of her mother's existence and love for her.

    [Exploiting sled dogs for charity, this is akin to humane societies or SPCA's having live lobster/crab dinners to raise money – Terry Cumming]

    January 24, 2009
  4. 'This just in' – local Whitehorse outdoor newspaper opinion writer strikes back at advocacy on behalf of 'sled dogs'.

    Excerpt from 'Voice of the Outdoors' column, January 23rd, 2009 in Whitehorse Daily Star:

    'BC animal rights group wants to cancel the Yukon Quest'

    I have known for some months now that this BC animal rights group is spending money in written promotions to close down the Yukon Quest sled dog race. These animal rights groups have a lot of money to spend on propaganda, but I fail to find one conservation project here in the Yukon that would ensure habitat improvement for wildlife.

    Let's really examine the working of this group. Many of these grouops are part and parcel of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and follow their ways and means of attacking such things as the Quest, including hunting and fishing.

    A few weeks ago, I wrote of a release from the FBI showing that an animal rights group in the U.S. has been raiding mink ranches in the States and now in BC, smashing ranch pens and releasing thousands of mink in the wild that would be devastating to ground nesting birds as well as small animals. Its members also burned down a large warehouse and factory that stocked feed for the mink ranches.

    This, according to the FBI, was a million-dollar fire. This particular group is on the wanted list of the FBI, which includes a sizable reward for its members capture. Meanwhile, PETA's most recent marketing campaign is to now call fish "sea kittens"; Some may laugh, but it is no joke. Some adults are actually telling small, innocent children that fish are "sea kittens".

    When the Canwest News Service interviewed Ashley Byrne, PETA's campaign co-ordinator, she commented, "A lot of people don't realize that fish are capable of feeling pain; that they developed relationships with each other and even show affection by gently rubbing against each other."

    Admittedly, I have seen a northern pike ease up beside a small whitefish – only the pike ATE the whitefish. It is not a laughing matter, as the promotion of "Bambi", the cute little deer, has done more harm to wild deer and wildlife that any possible good. BAMBI DOES NOT EXIST.

    It is a figment of the imagination and a make-believe fallacy by the misinformed who are attempting to pass it on to young, innocent children, plain and simple. For an adult to pass on lies to small children is the most harmful thing they could do to the welfare and future of wildlife in Canada or the world. If any fish, hunting or outdoors group does not think this group has power, inroads into the politics and the money to accomplish its means and ends, they are badly misinformed, as well as being misled.

    I have a list of their accomplishments. If you are a business owner in the Yukon and reading this, I would encourage you to call the Yukon Quest office in in Whitehorse at (867)668-4711 and offer your sponsorship.

    Show this BC anti-Quest group that this is THE YUKON, not BC.

    Remember, the anti-Yukon Quest of BC, as well as some undisclosed sources in the Yukon, will be going to any means to halt this tradition of the north.

    Let's do our part to help the Quest.

    Murray J. Martin

    Note: the Whitehorse Daily Star is an official 'media sponsor' of the Yukon Quest.

    Thank you to to the wonderful people at Animal Advocates Society of British Columbia [ ] and to Mary Martin for your continued support for this important cause. The Yukon Quest is indeed a YUKON DISGRACE.

    Please take the time to tell major race sponsor, Tourism Yukon, that you will THINK TWICE before visiting a territory that celebrates cruelty to one of man's best friends.

    Minister of Tourism and Culture, Elaine Taylor:

    Minister responsible Yukon Lotteries and Yukon Community Development Fund (also public sources of Yukon Quest money): email

    Dr. James Kenyon bio:

    Jim Kenyon was first elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the general election of November 4, 2002. He was re-elected in the general election of October 10, 2006. Dr. Kenyon was first sworn into cabinet on November 30, 2002 and re-appointed to cabinet on October 28, 2006.

    In 2006, Dr. Kenyon was elected as President of the Pacific North West Economic Region (PNWER), a sub-national regional partnership created by statute in 1991 by Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

    Before being elected to the Legislative Assembly Dr. Kenyon practiced as a veterinary surgeon in Whitehorse for 12 years. He first came to the Yukon in 1988, and for the next three years divided his time between the Yukon and Toronto where he worked as the Assistant Vice-president, Research, of the Toronto General Hospital. Prior to 1988, he served as a Director in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto and as a consultant to institutions such as the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and the Royal Ontario Museum, among others. His primary interest was experimental surgery.

    Dr. Kenyon has been involved in a variety of community-based activities such as the Yukon Kennel Club and the Yukon Quest, and has worked with dogs in many other races including the Iditarod and the Copper Basin 300. Dr. Kenyon is active in the Rendezvous Rotary Club and also served eight years as an Auxiliary Member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


    Email Minister of Education, Patrick Rouble (Yukon Quest race is promoted to Yukon school children with the blessing of this minister):

    Patrick Rouble BIO:

    Patrick Rouble was first elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the general election of November 4, 2002. He was re-elected in the general election of October 10, 2006. Mr. Rouble was sworn into cabinet on October 28, 2006.

    Mr. Rouble was born in Renfrew, Ontario and was raised in Nepean, Ontario. He attended St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. He recently completed his Masters degree in Business Administration at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

    Mr. Rouble has owned and operated two small businesses, taught business planning courses and has worked in the construction, mining and tourism industries.

    Mr. Rouble moved to the Yukon in 1992 and has since become involved with a number of community organizations. The list of organizations includes the Marsh Lake Community Club, Yukon Special Olympics, Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Yukon International Storytelling Festival. Prior to his election to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Rouble was involved in local government, as a director of the Marsh Lake advisory council.


    January 24, 2009
  5. Roger #

    AP story is picked up in Ireland:


    January 25, 2009
  6. Escobar Driver #

    For two well reasoned and well written rebuttals to the 'racing sled dogs is cruel', please read the following articles.

    I'd suggest that anyone who thinks these dogs don't love what they do go and watch the start of the Iditarod. Most long distance mushers also open their kennels to the public so you should visit and talk with these folks.

    January 26, 2009
  7. Escobar Driver,
    There is no such thing as a well-reasoned rebuttal to the argument that dog sledding is cruel. And perhaps the start of the Iditarod is an exciting moment, but I'd bet that the 1,000th mile, for the dogs, isn't that exciting. And as for a kennels, check out and the many instances of flagrant, disgraceful cruelty at I don't need to speak with anyone who uses dogs for their own profit. Their actions speak for themselves. What they do, by definition, is a series of rights violations and if they really cared about dogs they would stop. Period.

    January 26, 2009
  8. We stopped donating the local BC SPCA after they sponsored a live crab boil (it was cancelled after protests) to help shelter animals, and after we found out that not only were they serving dairy, eggs, and meat at all of their events, they weren't even attempting to stick to the "BC SPCA-certified humane" animal products that they spent so much time promoting.

    (This was a while ago; we were vegan but not yet sure about whether it was okay to promote "humane" animal products.)

    February 3, 2009

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