Archives for posts with tag: whitehorse

Reflecting on dogs, humans and propaganda mush …. By Whitehorse Star on March 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Russ Knutson, who hosts the CBC Whitehorse Mid-Day Café show, aired an interview with ex-Quest musher Frank Turner and Whitehorse author John Firth on Feb. 1.

Both Turner and Firth were trying to defend the exploitation of dogs, i.e., as in the Yukon Quest.

Funny (and not so funny) when Mr. Knutson brought up the fact that people have criticized the Quest for being “tough on the dogs or cruel and those kinds of things because there has been a fair amount of that over the years, as one would expect.”

Firth replied, “Like anything, there’s going to be mushers out there that do what those people say they do and that’s just the nature of the beast ….”

Mr. Knutson: Instead of sounding thrilled that “it (the Yukon Quest) started as a good idea over whisky and beer in Alaska,” you should be aware that Firth, in his book Yukon Quest: the 1,000 Mile Dog Race through the Yukon and Alaska, has many examples of inhumane treatment of dogs used as sled dogs in past Quests.

And you wonder why “people have criticized it as tough on the dogs or cruel and those kinds of things,” Knutson?

Turner took on the issue of what “newcomers to the Yukon” might think of the exploiting of dogs (pardon me, using dogs in the Quest).

In fact, he said: “The Quest is, in its own way, part of what defines us, and I really encourage any new people that have recently moved to Whitehorse in the last little while to come out and take a look at this because I think you’ll find it very very worth while.” Propaganda mush!

Mr. Turner should remember that back in 2007, he brought up the fact on the CBC news that dogs are bred and killed/culled as part of the normal process of the mushing/racing industry, including the Quest. And thereafter went hush-hush.

Not everyone is so naive, Mr, Turner. This little tidbit of information does not look good on Turner, who continues to crow about the Quest, nor on the CBC, which can’t deny culling continues (and the Quest organization still doesn’t care that it does).

Remember: you can’t convince this animal rights advocate that using dogs for human desires is something to celebrate.

The Quest will be abolished some day – shut down for good. Then mushers can pull their own damn sleds if they love that so much.

Back to you, Russ Knutson: do you not consider breeding, chaining, injuring, using and killing dogs inhumane? How about exploitative?

Is the CBC there for the benefit of the public? Or is it a media outlet there to help animal use industries like mushing or trapping?

Speaking of trapping, Mr. Knutson: have you had a chance to interview the so-called Yukon conservation (?) officer who received a call in which a dog was caught in a snare?

One of many snares that were put in place by “conservation” officers in order to strangle wolves to death?

Give me a call, if you like, as I can share with you some details on this matter. This question has been publicly asked of you/CBC before.

And when the CBC, as I see it, is done cheerleading for the mushing industry, you may want to ask the new board of directors at the Humane Society Yukon what their position is regarding the use of dogs in the Yukon Quest and sled dog tour business. (Hint, hint.)

And then you can ask the so-called animal welfare officer of the Yukon what exactly the new and improved Animal Protection Act does for non-humans who are used, abused and killed for human desires.

The CBC needs to ask more tough questions.

That’s because I know many Yukon people (and tourists) care about animals. And they deserve to hear the whole story in order to form their own opinions about the welfare of animals.

And neither the media, nor the animal-use industries, should be the ones dictating what the public should or shouldn’t believe with respect to animals.

Mike Grieco

The CBC is in need of another ‘tune-up’ By Whitehorse Star on February 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

This letter was primarily motivated by a recent radio interview (Feb.1, 2013) conducted by CBC Whitehorse Mid-Day Café host Russ Knutson, in celebration of the Yukon Quest’s 30th anniversary.

Mr. Knutson had a jovial-sounding, half-hour pre-recorded session with ex-Quest musher Frank Turner and Whitehorse author/Quest evangelist John Firth.

It seems that on an annual basis, Mr. Knutson and some of his cohorts give generous airtime to people like Turner who have gained fame and fortune on the labours of their dogs, and in this case also to Mr. Firth.

In my opinion, he serves as a veritable propagandist for the Yukon Quest and for the dog mushing/racing industry.

In a manner I am quite used to seeing CBC employ, Knutson used a brief part of the interview to ask Turner and Firth for their opinions on Quest race opponents’ views (without getting into too many details) rather than directly asking the animal advocates themselves for their many specific concerns.

Apparently, the CBC believes this to be the best way to discount accusations of their failure to air both sides of the story.

I am also aware that “St. Francis of the Yukon” (Turner) served as the inspiration for the newly-elected president of the Humane Society Yukon (HSY; Dec. 21, 2012 Star story) after the man had heard the CBC interviewing Turner (about his wonderful ideas and suggestions for a more functional humane society?).

Pretty comfy situation for any dog musher or animal trapper to be able to call up the CBC (or vice-versa) and be given free rein to spout their garbage.

And then I see on CBC Northbeat’s coverage of the HSY election, Frank Turner, “front row centre.” (I was surprised he wasn’t elected as president, such is his local renown.)

I need to point out to the new HSY board, in case they are unaware, some of my knowledge of the relationship between the HSY and the mushing community.

About a year or so after the Mae Bachur shelter was opened, I learned as a new volunteer that a certain unnamed Quest musher had dropped off a couple of unsuccessful sled dogs.

Their names were Franklin and Preacher.

Staff and some other volunteers were upset because, it was conveyed to me, there was an “unwritten rule” from its inception that the shelter was not to be a convenient dumping ground for dog mushers, yet somehow two dogs got into the system.

The dogs, with various behaviour/socialization issues, spent a relatively long time at the shelter before being adopted by a local couple who mushed recreationally, and who took in other hard-to-adopt dogs.

At that time, I had not yet developed any strong views against the Yukon Quest or the mushing industry.

A few years later (around 2004/2005), alarms went off again after some staff, volunteers and HSY members/donors were up in arms over word of some new leased land behind the shelter being developed for/having a proposed use as, a yard for “outside dogs”.

This was again interpreted as being a place for mushers to ditch unwanted/surplus dogs.

This project seemed to have been mothballed by the HSY board after the outcry.

I then took a more active role advocating for sled dogs (“slave dogs”, as I now refer to them).

I was puzzled as to why the HSY has never, to my knowledge, spoken up against the Quest, what with its annual occurrence of dog suffering on a mass scale, and often, over three decades, dog deaths.

As a volunteer at Mae Bachur, I was told by some staff and other volunteers about general sled dog neglect by some owners, and even reports of gunshots from the vicinity of remote dog yards, with a limited capacity or lack of will for the HSY to conduct rescues.

Having said that, I am aware of a 2007 Yukon News story which mentions Frank Turner having been previously involved in the rescue of 17 dogs left to starve near Fish Lake.

I am not aware of the HSY having been notified about this, or if so, having had any role in asking Turner for help.

The only public rescue involving the HSY happened last February, in the rescue of 10 dogs from a Haines Junction-area musher.

Neverthless, it seems to me that the HSY has avoided public involvement in the “sled dog” fray, and has left that battle to one or two private citizens, acting without any public backing nor encouragement from the HSY.

Russ Knutson, were he to choose to act as a responsible and ethical journalist would, could have asked Turner and Firth about the actual official body count of Quest race dogs over 30 years – not something the Quest or its big supporters (the Quest would have shut down years ago without huge injections of cash from Tourism Yukon) want publicized.

Turner himself, prior to the 2007 Quest, brought up the culling issue to CBC (!).

That year’s race marshal stated in response that it was not the Quest’s business or concern what mushers did in their own dog yards. (Perhaps the CBC should delete this news story from its website.)

Not another peep out of Turner about culling, and the Quest, to this date, does not have a policy.

Turner also acted as a consultant to the B.C. government’s Sled Dog Task Force (the Whistler sled dog slaughter).

The highlight of that body’s public snow-job was, to me, the illustrated method of the correct way to shoot a dog!

Anybody who has read Firth’s book Yukon Quest: the 1,000 mile dog race through the Yukon and Alaska should be shocked by the numerous references to dog suffering, and callous disregard by Quest mushers toward their dogs:

• “All our dogs have got the same damn name – you dumb sonofabitch” (Alaska musher Jon Gleason); and

• even a reference to the disillusionment and withdrawal of services by a race veterinarian because, to the Quest organization, “dog care” appears to be mere window dressing.

One could be led to think that the infliction of animal suffering and risk of death are the big attraction to hardcore Quest fans.

Another dog was killed this year for people’s entertainment. (How many dogs will be culled to make room for more canine “athletes”?

We’ve had another shameful display of yellow journalism by the publicly funded CBC.

(Some friendly advice to Yukoners: turn off the CBC; they are making you stupid.)

Another year of the Quest being promoted to Yukon school children, with the blessing of government and the Yukon education system.

Some $2.3 million of Yukon government money has been given to the Quest since 1999. That’s money that should have been used to benefit (not exploit) those who can’t speak for themselves (Yukon animals), or all the unfortunate people in Yukon who suffer without help.

In closing, amongst the 2013 Quest hoopla on the CBC, I was somewhat heartened to hear a quick news snippet about more Whitehorse people speaking up for the dogs and hope that should the Quest still be around in 2015, there will be a sizeable contingent of people at the race start protesting to shut down this barbaric race for good.

Terry Cumming