Dear Iditarod Participants and Supporters
An Animal Rights Article from


Stephanie Ernst,
March 2009

Hi there. Let's chat. I'm guessing that you fall into one of three categories--(1) you're fully aware of the cruelties involved in the Iditarod and other sled dog races but, ultimately, just don't give a damn because they're "just dogs," and you value your entertainment and profit more than you care about the dogs (my hope--and indeed, belief--is that you're the minority); (2) you feel affectionately toward dogs, and you're vaguely aware that there are cruelty and exploitation issues, but you try not to think about it or allow yourself to be convinced that the races are mostly "humane" and problems are rare; or (3) you love dogs, but you've sincerely never stopped to consider the implications of the races or sincerely just didn't know all that goes into them, and you're prepared to learn and change your mind.

The anger and scorn in this message is mostly reserved for the first group (though I'll admit that a bit of the anger and frustration is directed at the second group too).

Remember that post about Victor the other day? You know, the healthy six-year-old dog who died for the sake of your entertainment and "tradition"? His death is on you, as are all the senseless deaths and injuries from the previous races, as will be the additional deaths and injuries in this race and future ones. Own that.

And hope (and pray, I suppose, if you're the type) that five-year-old Nigel is found safe because his death will be on you too. I was ready to wring some necks in the last couple days as I watched many Iditarod fans (in various comments, Twitter updates, posts, and articles), in the discussions of the musher who wrecked her sled, focus almost solely on the "sad" fact that she had to drop out of the race, as I watched them go on and on about how terrible it was that she wasn't going to be able to finish, after all that work and money she put into this. I wanted to wring necks as they fell all over themselves sympathizing with a human who is perfectly fine and uninjured, while barely giving passing mentions to her dog Nigel--who has been missing in the brutal, bitter Alaskan wilderness since Monday's accident, who was out there not by choice and who hasn't been seen since Tuesday morning.

And you know what? If I were Nigel (right), maybe I'd have run away too. Maybe if you spent most of your life chained up outside, and then once you were given a chance to run, you were forced to run longer and harder than you otherwise would have, tied to others and dragging a burdensome sled in dangerous, painful conditions--and then during all that, you were suddenly thrown about in a wreck, you'd run away too.

See the Sled Dog Action Coalition. See also for the people who "honour the tradition and sport of mushing."

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