Archives for posts with tag: yukonquest

This ‘race’ uses the dogs as chattel slaves (Whitehorse Star, Feb 14, 2014). Abolish the Quest (Yukon News, Feb 14)

The Yukon Quest is built on the exploitation and killing of dogs, and is inhumane! Is this an “event” to be proud of? Of course not!

Being a ‘mediated’ world, the media continue to show preference to stories demonstrating human supremacy over animals by the exploitation and killing of non- humans.

At least the [Whitehorse] newspapers permit ongoing opinions/concerns with respect to non-humans and how they are treated/exploited.

Knowing what we know, how can anyone ethically support the Yukon Quest? Why do the Quest’s promoters turn a blind eye to these problems?

We cannot hide behind ignorance.

Are the Quest’s promoters in denial about the inherent cruelty in the dog mushing industry? Or do they simply not care? Would tourism in the Yukon suffer without the labour of the dogs?

I can’t seem to get anyone from the Tourism department nor the Quest office to answer these simple questions.

This race is all about people, not dogs. The dogs are chattel slaves: they are resources, property to be used for human entertainment, and can be killed and/or discarded when they are no longer useful.

When will we see an end to the spending of public money on this race? Stop the propaganda “mush!”

CBC North appears to have many resources at the ready to follow the Quest human race from start to finish.

And yet: why doesn’t the CBC follow the complete process required to build the perfect “dog team” (slavery, as I call it)?

Why don’t you, CBC, ask some tough questions for a change, instead of paying mindless tributes to the Yukon Quest every year?

It’s past time: the Yukon Quest needs to be abolished – shut down for good!

For the dogs!

Mike Grieco, 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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

‘The existing document is fine’
Richard Mostyn, Yukon News

The Yukon Quest International Association has apologized.

It recently barred somebody from its annual general meeting for inexplicable reasons.

Now, in light of the controversy, it is apparently examining its constitution.

While this sounds reassuring, it is unnecessary and could cause more problems than it solves.

First, some history.

The dog-and-people show, which receives more than $300,000 in government funding every year, recently lost its executive director and was also recruiting a few new directors. It asked people to attend its annual general meeting.

So we did.

Sports reporter Tom Patrick took the time to attend the meeting – to see what happened. He was met at the door by outgoing executive director Georgina Leslie, who denied him entry unless he forked over $42 for a membership.

The meetings are fully open to the public, she said. Anyone can attend after they pay.

It’s always been this way, she said.

Patrick refused. The meeting went on without us.

There are several problems here, not the least of which was the Yukon Quest’s assumption a pay-to-attend approach to its annual meetings was OK.

Imagine the precedent this sets – suddenly the affairs of any nonprofit society could become revenue generators – a means to make more cash to sustain the organization. You want to see the financials, or observe the election? It’s gonna cost you.

Or, much more likely, the fee becomes an easy way to prevent snoops from nosing around a wealthy organization’s affairs.

Also, the way this particular event played out speaks volumes about the Quest.

This is a Yukon society that receives substantial government support – that is, the public pays for a huge chunk of its annual operation. As such, any citizen interested in observing its procedural business should be welcome to do so.

But the modern Quest is not all that interested in locals.

Instead, its officials run it like a exclusive club, accepting the government cash as if it were simply a fee for international tourism marketing services rendered.

It shouldn’t be like this.

And, according to the Quest’s constitution, it isn’t.

In fact, it clearly states all meetings are open to all, except people who don’t behave.

But at its most recent annual general meeting, officials clearly didn’t want any onlookers.

A skittish executive decided, in an odd twist of logic, that a membership meeting meant nonmembers were to be excluded.

“The interpretation of our constitution was made to the best of our ability,” Quest president Al Doherty said in his letter of apology (see below).


But remember, this organization is responsible for managing a huge chunk of government money. We hope they punch above their weight when handling the cash.

In the end, the group was successful in blocking observers from their recent meeting. We’ll never really know what happened there, but the organization has pledged to make its minutes and results of the gathering available. That is an imperfect fix, but it’s the best that can be expected in the circumstances.

And the leadership will review the wording of its constitution to “prevent further confusion.”

We’re curious to see how this plays out.

Such a review could be used to ensure undesirables, such as reporters, were kept from future meetings, without question.

But we doubt that will happen. We’re an optimistic bunch.

Nevertheless, we urge the Quest to save itself some time and simply affirm its existing constitution, which, despite Leslie’s wonky interpretation, is very clear, simple and concise.

“All meetings of the membership shall be open to the public and no person shall be excluded, except for improper conduct.”

YQ09_dog_under_truckThe following letter was emailed to the Yukon Quest board, Mush With P.R.I.D.E., to Sled Dog Watchdog, and to Mrs. Margery Glickman, director of The Sled Dog Action Coalition:

To all friends of our best friends – the dogs…

—–Ursprüngliche Nachricht—–
Von: Gabriela Ramien
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2011 00:47


Betreff: Yukon Quest 2011

Dear members of Mush with Pride, here is a letter I sent to the Board of Direktors of the Yukon Quest. I hope, it will help to improve the dogcare. I would be happy, if you would also talk about it in your organisation and maybe discuss it with as many Organisations as possible.

Greetings from Germany

Gabriela Ramien

To the Board of Directors of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race 2011

Dear Sir or Madam,

For decades I have been keeping dogs in Germany, my home country. Ever since I watched a TV report about the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race, I was thrilled. A truly fascinating adventure! Man and beast compete as a team and give maximum performance while racing across the wilderness of the Yukon. Were Canada my home country, I would probably be following this sport myself.

At least [last], this year I could complete my dream and participate in the Yukon Quest as a volunteer at the vet-check and as a spectator. At this point, I would like to thank the officials and judges. They gave us a hearty welcome and made it possible for us to get deep insight and some extraordinary experiences. I witnessed the event from Whitehorse to Dawson and found it very well organized and characterized by a wonderful spirit. Right from the beginning I felt at home, as if I had found a family of like-minded people.

In the light of these wonderful memories, I find it difficult to address the issues that overshadowed this unparalleled experience. Actually, the significance of these issues is such that despite my initial enthusiasm, I look back at the event with very mixed feelings.

“Dogs first” is said to be the motto – but as is well-known, ethics tend to sink into oblivion as soon as money and / or ambition are part of the game. In this case, ethics means animal welfare.

I am not talking about overprotection or exaggerated animal welfare. On the contrary, in my opinion, well-trained animals can be asked to perform in accordance to their potential. A couple of decades in eventing, as well as my own medical education, have taught me to tell apart sense from nonsense. If we, who claim to be the pride of creation, use animals for our purposes, we are responsible for their welfare and health. In my opinion, this responsibility has to be taken more seriously.

First of all, I am far from denying anybodies good will, but there seems to be a lack of clear, unambiguous regulations ensuring health and welfare of the dogs rather than the interests of the mushers.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend a demonstration where the chief veterinarian explained the procedural methods during a vet-check. Impressed by the thoroughness of the procedure, I was pleased and relieved with respect to the veterinary surveillance of the dogs. Later on, however, the lack of consequences that followed the examinations during the race left me puzzled and made me doubt my perception. Unfortunately, my perception was proven right when I discussed the matter with veterinarians and judges. This changed my initial satisfaction into indignation.

Here are a few examples:

1. Already at the first vet check prior to the start of the race, one team was in a miserable condition. I asked, why these dogs were allowed to participate and was told that this approach would avoid trouble, as it would be easier to advise the musher at the checkpoints… the musher in question only made it to Carmacks… Do you think that it is conducive to the reputation of the Quest (let alone the dogs` health!), when dogs that are obviously not up to the task are allowed to compete??? Even an ordinary person like me could see that these dogs should not have crossed the starting line.

2. Apparently, some of the mushers did not know their dogs: they did not know their age, so a rough guess had to suffice. Some dogs were [micro-]chipped just before the race, which means that any dog in the world could run this demanding and difficult race without any proof of qualification! In my opinion, this makes excessive demands and exhaustion of the dogs a very likely event.

3. During the race, the dogs very often presented with diarrhea, which the chief veterinarian categorized as a “normal stress reaction”. This would include bloody diarrhea, which was also frequently seen. These conditions were treated with Metronidazole. In Dawson [City] the mushers were reminded to take the required amount of drugs with them if their dogs needed medication. On inquiry, a second veterinarian confirmed this to be common practice. Likewise, she said that the administration of antibiotics during the race was permitted in the case of “minor injuries” and was done routinely. Being a physician myself, I could not believe my ears…. Bloody diarrhea is not a “normal reaction to stress” but a sign of colitis, i.e. an inflammation of the gut, which is a serious illness. In case the application of such strong medication as Metronidazole is required, the animal is sick and it should be taken out of the race and needs rest and medical treatment. As I am a physician and not a veterinarian, I talked to some vets when I was back in Germany and asked whether my appraisal would actually apply to dogs. The veterinarians confirmed exactly this point and said that Metronidazole was subject to cases of severe diarrhea.

4. Initially, it seemed to me that doping tests were a reliable part of the rules. However, the tests are useless, if drugs like antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone, which are covered by the anti-doping regulation, are allowed in the first place. At first, I did not want to believe this but race-vets confirmed this upon request. This cannot be happening! An animal that needs this kind of medication is SICK and must not be exposed to the stresses and strains of athletic competitions, let alone such a tough one as the Yukon Quest.

5. All in all, I got the impression that there is a huge difference between the world of vet-checks and dog-welfare how the public perceives it and how it is in reality. In reality, it seems to be the job of the veterinarians to ensure that the dogs complete the race (with the help of doping, if needed) rather than to ensure that they are protected from excessive demand and permanent damage to health. I was told, that, during the last years, there actually have been vets on the team who performed their task mainly with animal welfare in mind. However, they have either been removed from the team of race-vets or have not been invited again…

6. In Dawson, the following conversation with a race-judge (!!!) evolved. He commented on the harsh conditions on the Alaska territory: “…it is going to be very cold, some of the dogs will sustain frostbitten penises – will have to be amputated.” According to my inquiries, it seems to be the preputium and/or the testes that are in danger of frostbite… bad enough, isn´t it? I replied that I had seen some mushers protecting their dogs with hides already before they arrived in Dawson and that I assumed that this would be obligatory when the conditions got harsher. Asking what kind of penalty the violation of this rule carried, I was told that this should be left to the mushers. Punishment or disqualification for lack of dog-caring would definitely not be an option, as the dog would be the musher’s property, after all. He could do with the dog whatever he wanted. And if he wanted to shoot the dog or cut his throat, then he could do that, too! At this point I abandoned the conversation and from then on avoided talks like these. This attitude towards living creatures certainly explains why horrible incidents like those in Vancouver can happen… Is this the Yukon way of animal-welfare?

I am looking forward to an early comment on these issues. In Germany, I am actively engaged in a couple of animal welfare organizations. Right now, I am exposed to a wealth of questions about my impressions of the Yukon Quest. I do hope very much that my observations give rise to improvements, as I would love to continue giving enthusiastic accounts of the Quest and dog sledding in general.

Again, I would like to express my gratitude for many wonderful impressions and experiences.

In the hope that much-needed improvement of animal-welfare will be implemented soon, I remain respectfully yours,

Gabriela Ramien,
Rosengarten, Feb. 28th 2011