News item: Driving while talking or texting on hand-held electronic devices was made illegal in British Columbia in February 2010 after the practice killed more than 100 people in 2009. Enough drivers ignored the ban for their own selfish reasons to kill more than 50 people in 2010, police announced in February 2011.
News item: After the SPCA was called twice and, apparently, could offer no help, 100 sled dogs acquired for an adventure-tourism scheme gone sour were slaughtered in Whistler, B.C. The killing became public when the person who had to dispatch the dogs applied for worker’s compensation because of posttraumatic stress.
These items appeared about a day apart, and we all know which one a conscientious member of our society would consider more tragic and more sickening. The murder of more than half a hundred human beings by automobile and cellphone, however, did not raise a discernible ripple of reaction or comment other than complaints about the unfairness of a promised police crackdown.
No one suggested that the continued loss of life obviously justifies steeply raising the penalty for distracted driving from the current $167 fine, which has turned out to be risibly inadequate. Many British Columbians consider it a slightly inconvenient licensing fee for continuing to talk on their phone while driving, a behavior long known to be more dangerous than driving while drunk.
(Our provincial premier, Gordon Campbell, blew over the eight in Hawaii a while back, and I could not get really angry about it because I have driven tipsy myself, without hurting anyone, when I was young and very stupid. But if Campbell had been in New York and been cited for attempting to drive with a phone stuck in his ear, I would have had to deem him far too dumb to govern.)
The death of the dogs, however, raised a howl on the airwaves and in the letters-to-the-editor pages that was still at an astoundingly strident pitch after several days. The relatively kind just wanted to see the sorry man who did his job as humanely as he knew how sent to prison for a long, long time. The rest proudly demonstrated how “humane” they are by taking relish in imagining and proposing sadistic punishments short of the slow, agonizing death that is too good for the likes of a man deeply troubled because of having performed an ugly task.
The story is outraging dog lovers throughout the world. Premier Campbell has promised a high-level investigation. (Into what? Or do we have to make sure there is no international, highly organized, dog-killing conspiracy involved?) It is a wonder to see dogs cause millions of people to become rabid without anyone having been bitten.
In hindsight, there might have been one way to handle the excess-dog problem differently. On the premise that sled dogs are still of some use in Canada’s northern territories, the owner could have been ordered to have them transported there at enough trouble and expense to generate a lot of large bills that would never be paid after his bankruptcy.
There would be no recouping of any expenses from the recipients of the transported dogs. The Inuit and Dene have largely transferred the work of dogs over to gasoline-powered sleds. They still do have teams, but they are not suffering a dog shortage at last report.
The people of the North, though, do have a time-honoured way of dealing with an excess of sled dogs, dating back thousands of years. They slit their throats and let the remaining dogs eat them. Problem solved, and it would have been done far enough away from British Columbia’s sensitive urbanites that no high-level government investigation would be necessary.
Plan B might have been to have the SPCA supervise a slaughter almost exactly like the one that took place, thus adding incrementally to the thousands of dogs put down every year in B.C., almost entirely due to the irresponsibility of the same dog lovers who want to torture a person who simply took care of a small part of the large, inhumane mess they have helped to create.
We are still left with the conundrum that no voice of reason has arisen from among our politicians nor our media commentators pointing out that human life is valuable too, perhaps even more dear to us than a half-feral husky or even a cute puppy.
Maybe what we have to do is to feed the remains of victims of distracted-driving accidents to sled dogs, just so that people might be able to focus their umbrage more appropriately.
This commentary originally appeared on fabfifth.com, a blog by Georgia Straight contributor Verne McDonald.