Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 28, 2017

Sled Dogs

Filed under: animal rights,Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 1:02 pm

On a free association basis, when you hear the words “dog abuse”, the first thing that comes to mind are pit bulls being trained to fight each other. Next would be Michael Vick’s conviction for both raising dogs for that purpose and killing those that were deemed inadequate to the task. “Sled Dogs”, which opens Friday, July 27th at the Cinema Village in New York and elsewhere later on, will leave you shocked at how the same sort of cruelty has been going on since 1964 in Alaska under the auspices of the Iditarod, a dog-sledding race that covers a thousand miles from its start in Seward in the south to the finish line in Nome in the northwest.

Not only are animals sickened onto death in this 1000 mile spectacle, they are culled from kennels devoted to training such dogs just as they were in Michael Vick’s kennel. If a dog in a sledding kennel was not equal to the task of pulling a sled, it would be terminated. Besides detailing the horrors associated with sled dog competition, “Sled Dogs” raises important questions about the relationship between humanity and animals. Are they simply property that an owner can dispose of at his discretion when they cannot fulfill his profit-making expectations?

The Canadian government ruled that they were indeed property in a landmark case that is examined in Fern Levitt’s powerful documentary.

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  1. Mr. Proyect,

    For two summers back in the mid-1950s, I worked for Stuart Mace at his lodge located in the ghost town of Ashcroft, 11 miles from Aspen. Mace was the first, or among the first Americans to popularize dog sled trips for tourists. Mace began his interest in husky breeding while attending the University of Colorado in 1940. When World War II was declared by the U.S., Mace was given a commission in the U.S. Army Air Force and shipped to Alaska where he became involved with attempting to rescue downed aircraft crews by dog sled when other means either failed or were not applicable.

    There were about 70 dogs penned up outside the lodge in just the same conditions as you describe. Visitors were kept well away from the dogs during tours due to the fact that huskies are too friendly, not the opposite. The dogs would want to jump up on visitors making them a threat to knock down the elderly or children. I saw little of the dogs since I took care of people at the lodge; another fellow took care of the dogs. Mace told me that while on Alaska duty he was able to identify the best breeds and husky strains in the region and bring them back to the U.S.

    Mace was widely known nationally. He was on the cover of both Life magazine and Redbook, as I recall. During the winter he took tourists on dog sled trips in the environs around Ashcroft. During the summer, hikers and trekkers would hire a husky as a pack animal to accompany them on their trips.

    Mace was an amazing man. He personnaly built the lodge and equipped it with a diesel engine to provide 24/7 electric power to the lodge…at that time there was no electricity in Ashcroft. There was only one year-round residence up Castle Creek and that was just 1/4 mile outside Aspen. The television series, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (and his dog King) was filmed just across the road among the three or four old buildings that comprised the ghost town of Ashcroft.

    I just thought you would find this info of some interest.


    Dave Morton — Longmont, Colorado

    Comment by Dave — July 28, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

  2. Look. On the one hand there are a lot of racers who have profound love for these amazing dogs which in my view are equal to people in value, but that’s just me. On the other hand they are on the whole viewed as commodities put down like Greyhounds when they don’t perform as expected. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the animal/human relationship.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 15, 2017 @ 1:34 am

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