Special Guest Editorial – Shelley Fralic
In our six years together, we have only had 4 “Special Guest” write an editorial for us. We have had many submissions but for one reason or another it wasn’t a good fit at the time. Today’s “Special Guest” I personally went after/begged/pleaded for because of her outstanding grasp of the “child safety issue’s” and our current human condition when it comes to setting our goals as a society and her perspective on how we are setting our priorities.
We are very lucky to have Shelley Fralic with us today. She is a fearless, courageous writer, with fans all across Canada. Of course we would never have been allowed to “borrow” Shelley with out the permission of and “Courtesy of the Vancouver Sun”, who graciously allowed us to re-print her material. With out further ado, I proudly present Shelley Fralic.
Opinion: Slaughtered sled dogs and human hypocrisy
Amid outrage and accusations about animal abuse, death of 21 babies draws hardly a whimper
By Shelley Fralic, Vancouver Sun February 4, 2011
There can be no argument that the recent actions of the Whistler sled dog company culling 100 of its dogs in what has been described as a gruesome shotgun execution were inhumane and abhorrent.
The dogs, victims of the declining fortunes of the company, were dispatched for economic reasons, say the company owners.
Nor can there be an argument that the fevered reaction that followed the news — the letters and emails and talk show callers, the newspaper headlines and videos and tweets and Facebook posts — could and should result in investigations and the institution of regulations such as kennel inspections for those who own and operate recreational dogsledding companies.
Why aren’t there any? Why didn’t the owner try to find adoptive homes? Wasn’t there a better way to put down the dogs? Good questions all.
But there also can be no argument that the subsequent fervour over the mass culling is typically human, and completely hypocritical.
We may not like the seemingly heartless manner in which the dogs were killed, but we’re clearly forgetting that it’s a system of attrition that has been utilized by farmers and homesteaders for years, an economic and efficient way to deal with sick dogs and crippled horses whose upkeep at some point far exceeds the value of their use.
But urbanites don’t get that, or choose to forget it, just as we choose to forget the supposedly humane treatment of the flesh we eat, the breakfast bacon and eggs and the restaurant steak, the processing of which may well meet governmental standards but is no walk in the park for the caged chicken or the slaughtered calf and pig.
We forget, too, the thousands of cats and dogs that are euthanized at sanctioned shelters every year in North America, all of them waiting to die because we humans used and abused them, or abandoned them, or failed to spay or neuter them, or let them run loose so they could get hit by a car.
These, we say, are our pets, the dogs and cats and canaries that keep us company in our homes, that provide companionship and unfettered devotion and thus are the animals we separate — in our consciousness and our rationale — from the ones we eat, and the ones we use for work.
If you have ever visited northern Canada, as I did in the fall of 2009 following the Olympic torch, you will know that the sled dog’s life is not a comfortable one, that his lot is that of an indentured worker, the way it’s been for centuries.
From Old Crow to Churchill, from Resolute to Inuvik, we saw dozens of dog camps all over our country’s cold north. We drove by hundreds of beautiful huskies chained to small wooden crates in the middle of nowhere, or clustered outside the stilted wooden houses of their owners, lunging and barking at everything that moved, their paws stained brown from hours of padding around in their own feces, their howls often the first warning signs of nearby polar bears.
We were told this is the way of the sled dog, that they are not pets, that they survive well in temperatures that can dip to -30 C and even colder in the chill of the wind, and that they exist for their usefulness only, not their beauty or their companionship. It’s accepted practice, and because it’s out of sight for most Canadians, it’s also out of mind.
So, yes, let’s use this unfortunate incident in Whistler to improve things for the animals we employ, but in doing so let’s also accept that we are a race that has always depended on animals for not only companionship, but sustenance and utility and safety.
The other hard truth is that there is something almost obscene about the reaction to this story, especially coming on the heels of some of the most disturbing news to have been released in this province in recent years: the report by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, who is the diligent canary in the coal mine for the many abused and neglected kids among us.
Turpel-Lafond has been sounding the alarm for years, but no one seems to be listening, because it never seems to get better for children at risk. Her latest report? Turpel-Lafond found that 21 children, between 2007 and 2009, died before the age of two in homes where the government’s child-welfare system was aware of the “tremendous challenges” facing those families, including domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues.
Twenty-one babies. Dead. For no good reason, except our lack of care and caring. Where is the public outpouring? The public memorials? The letters and tweets and Facebook posts and on-air callers and letters to the editor demanding justice, demanding heads roll, demanding changes to the system?
Dead dogs? That gruesome news was enough to make Premier Gordon Campbell launch an investigation, as he did Wednesday, a taxpayer-funded panel that will examine how and why 100 sled dogs came to meet such a grisly fate.
But babies? We just let them die, with nary a whimper.
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