Verne McDonald: Sled dog slaughter overshadows carnage caused by distracted B.C. drivers

Where is the outrage over deaths resulting from selfish, foolish texters?

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      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, a blog by Georgia Straight contributor Verne McDonald.




      Feb 4, 2011 at 2:26pm

      Well said. I stand by Bob Fawcett 100% and wish him a well recovery. The man has been through soo much.

      kera mchugh

      Feb 4, 2011 at 2:37pm

      are there stats on accidents caused by people who drive with their dog in their LAP??? THAT should be bloody banned... from both perspectives - humane treatment of animals and public safety.

      I feel sad for the sled dogs - their destiny was not theirs to choose, but i feel equally sad for the person charged with the task of dispatching them. My understanding is that other options were tried first and this was a last resort. The stress & pain it must have caused to get to that decision, i'm sure, was not easy for anyone involved. (and if it was, well, then they should be rendered the same treatment).

      The fact that we humans have decided we're above every other living thing on the planet is the big problem here. That some of us have determined we are more important than others insomuch as we can ignore the rules put in place for everyone's safety is so incredibly egotistic it makes me ashamed to be human sometimes.

      Definitely there are some rules that were poorly thought out and need to be changed, and some that should be abolished altogether, but driving a car while you're not looking at the damn road? oh, please. We should even NEED a rule for that!!

      petr aardvark

      Feb 4, 2011 at 2:40pm

      you know, I love dogs too. But the outrage over this and hardly any real discussion of the millions of farm animals that are not treated humanely is telling.


      Feb 4, 2011 at 3:21pm

      These things are not related in the slightest, and you should not detract from the slaughter of animals to draw attention to idiot drivers. You are a poor journalist if you cannot make your anti-distracted drivers point stand on its own.

      imbecile watcher

      Feb 4, 2011 at 3:38pm

      There are so many things wrong with this grouping of words that I refuse to even call it an opinion.


      Feb 4, 2011 at 3:47pm

      i keep seeing this story and each time i think 'they're dogs.' Our governments license the destruction of nature everyday. These animals aren't even wild. They only exist because we made them.

      John Allan

      Feb 4, 2011 at 4:13pm

      I feel very bad about this whole ugly mess. The man who did the killing will live with this horror for the rest of his days. Many years ago as a farm kid I was assigned the task of putting down an old family dog that was doing poorly. I was about twelve and my stepdad figured I should do the task. I tried to get out of it but I was told if I wanted to be a man then I had to prove it. I am now sixty seven and I still remember that day like yesterday . I also disliked my stepdad more the older I became. How could anyone make a kid do that?. If anyone has ever had to shoot a dog they will know what I mean. I feel bad for the dogs but I feel worse for the dog killer..


      Feb 4, 2011 at 4:49pm

      What? Of course we should be outraged by cellphone texting and driving. Of course we should slap huge fines on people if caught and take away their licenses. But this is about what could happen to any human so we don't. Becuase that could be us. We did this for a long time about alcohol (and still do) becuase as Verne admits he too drove over the limit (but that was apparently okay - which I do not understand at all! This is never okay). As for the sled dogs these dogs are bred specially for the purpose of human entertianment so an excess should not be put to death - it is unconscionable to treat animals like this in the 21st century. What the Inuit did was far more in tandem with small numbers of people and nature. This article has some truths but in essence it is disjointed and confusing and this kind of discussion does not help either issue much.


      Feb 5, 2011 at 1:58am

      I have now read stories attempting to compare this weeks story of sled dogs to the killing of babies, the treatment of farm animals & now to top it off - texting while driving.

      May I ask why the uproar over texting when people are being murdered in Darfur? Or whales being killed in the Southern Ocean by Japan? You must choose!

      glen p robbins

      Feb 6, 2011 at 9:38am

      Although the outcomes of both the accident rate caused apparently by cell phones and text messaging and the slaughter of the dogs are both tragic (loss of life) - they are very different.

      Death from automobile accidents is a constant sad statistic. How many are caused by inattention from changing radio stations or music, or talking - arguing and now by text message need to be taken in context from those that are exclusively speeding, drunk driving etc?

      Taking steps from direction to slaughter 100 dogs as a group kill is sociopathic - referring to it as a cull is equally so. The fact that no one through the process could see clearly to create other possibilities - suggests that there is something wrong with each of the people who were aware of what was going on.

      We have become conditioned to selfish driving because of the stressors put upon us to use our vehicles so much to get things done and to create economy so that people in suits can sit around tables, talk and generally have the life of Riley - new laws aren't immediately accepted in practice.

      The death of the dogs in one massive kill is simply symptomatic of that part of our society that is very sick and without conscience.