Planning for the 49th Iditarod Sled Dog Race has begun, and one of the nation’s most extreme animal rights activist groups is furious.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been on a mission to tarnish the reputation of the popular race for years, successfully lobbying major corporations to pull their sponsorships.

PETA takes credit for pressuring Alaska Airlines, Chrysler Dodge of Anchorage, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Jack Daniels, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Panasonic, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, State Farm, Wells Fargo and others in ending their support of the Last Great Race. Now they’re going after ExxonMobil.

“No dog would choose to run to their death in this Arctic nightmare, and Exxon would never sponsor an event in which humans are run to their deaths,” PETA said in a Sept. 18 statement. “Continuing to sponsor the Iditarod is a form of speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.”

An online petition demanding ExxonMobil pull its sponsorship from the race has garnered nearly 38,000 signatures, although it’s impossible to tell where the signer reside.

Despite extreme safety measures which include more than 10,000 veterinary exams prior to and during the race to ensure that dogs are healthy, PETA is not satisfied.

PETA fundamentally disagrees with all forms of pet ownership or even the use of animals to produce eggs, milk or butter.

The Iditarod website states that within 30 days of the race, each dog also receives an ECG evaluation to check for heart abnormalities and undergoes blood tests. Within 14 days of the race, another physical exam is performed on each dog by a licensed veterinarian, and all mushers are required to administer a dewormer to the dogs within 10 days of the race. Once the race begins, veterinarians provide wellness checks on the dogs throughout the contest. All mushers who enter the race must review and certify that their dog kennels meet the ITC Kennel Standards as established by MUSH with P.R.I.D.E.

For its part, PETA openly states that it opposes any human use of animals, including pet ownership, the eating of honey, goldfish living in bowls, horseback riding or the wearing of wool. According to its website, the organization fundamental holds that “animals are individuals – their own people.”

PETA activists routinely station themselves at the start and finish of the Iditarod to harass mushers and race organizers

As in past years, PETA activists gathered at last year’s Iditarod finish line to, in the words of President Ingrid Newkirk, remind “mushers and naïve spectators that this cruel event brings nothing but suffering for the dogs forced to compete in it.”

Iditarod officials have attempted to work with PETA to come to an understanding, but these discussions have amounted to nothing.

In addition to demonizing the Iditarod, PETA fundamentally disagrees with all forms of pet ownership or even the use of animals to produce eggs, milk or butter.

Newkirk claims Iditarod mushers deny dogs “nutritious food and veterinary care” and abuse dogs that are “made to pull sleds for tourists.”

“We can’t let this kind of cruelty stand,” she said before the start of the 2020 race. “This year’s Iditarod must be the last one that ever abuses dogs for entertainment.”

Iditarod officials have attempted to work with PETA to come to an understanding, but these discussions have amounted to nothing as PETA continues to claim that dogs are “non-human persons.”

Despite PETA’s protests, the 49th running of the popular race is set for March 2021. A statement on the Iditarod website says the upcoming race will include a multi-tiered COVID-19 mitigation plan that includes protocols for different scenarios, contingency drills and rapid responsiveness with the goal of zero community transmission.

“We can’t over plan, and we have already begun embedding hyper adaptivity into our operations to ensure that flexible and nimble best practices are ‘at the ready,’” said Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach. “These challenges and the Iditarod are synonymous.”

Building off its safely executed 2020 race that ran during the height of the global outbreak of  COVID-19, the Iditarod has also engaged an infectious disease epidemiologist with Emory University to advise on its race planning for 2021.

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Animal rights extremists howling as plans for 2021 Iditarod underway

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

1 Comment

  • Kris says:

    So they’re all concerned about death are they??? These are the same people who think it’s OK to murder a baby in the womb, or shortly after he/she is born! Many sponsored have reluctantly buckled under fear and intimidation. I’ve been a fan of Iditarod since 1980. The Susan Butcher/Rick Swenson era. Used to volunteer on the phone bank giving race updates to callers. Those were the good ol’ days!