My love affair with LUSH Cosmetics began in Victoria BC when my friend, Angela, introduced me to the downtown store. I love the shampoo, the bubble bath, the massage bars… it was difficult to not drop $50 or more when I headed in to stock up.
One of the things I particularly like about LUSH is their ethically-sourced ingredients, their vegan options (even though I’m not a vegan, I like knowing there are options for people who would rather have animal-free products), and their commitment to less packaging and waste reduction. They also take stances on things like animal testing and fair trade ingredients.
This is why I’m so sorry I am not going to be buying from them again in the foreseeable future. Today I read an article in the Vancouver Sun stating that LUSH is partnering with the Vancouver Humane Society to ban dog sled racing and dog sled tours in BC.
On the surface, banning commercial operations and sports that have been involved in the abuse of dogs seems like a good thing, right? I mean, I’m against the puppy mill industry, which is certainly a commercial operation using dogs for profit. I’m against any big business that uses animals for profit with no care for their welfare and quality of life. I’m certainly against dog fighting which could be loosely categorized as a “sport”.
The dark side of sled dog racing is like the dark side of the North American greyhound racing industry: thousands of dogs mass bred for speed and endurance. Thousands of these are cast aside to languish on a tether or in a tiny crate and inhumanely killed when it’s clear that their usefulness is over. In some operations, medical care is nonexistent and socialization involves the fifteen seconds when their food is dumped in their bowl.
So why am I against the banning of sled dog racing and sled dog tours?
There are several reasons.
Number one: these activities are not inhumane. People can be inhumane to their sled dogs in pursuing these activities, but racing sled dogs or using them to pull people in sleds on a backcountry tour is not inhumane. In fact, some of these animals live for pulling and are never so happy as when galloping flat out with a sled attached to them.
Number two: It is possible to operate a kennel of dogs and make sure every dog is treated well, given proper medical care and properly socialized. It requires a lot of money and a lot of time and there’s no such thing as sick days or overtime, at least not for the person responsible for feeding and exercising the dogs. However it can and is done well by people who have made it a focal point of their lives.
Number three: It is possible to enact legislation that punishes people who abuse animals. Our society just hasn’t gotten to the point where people acknowledge that the freedom to have an animal does not extend to the freedom to abuse and neglect it. Slowly – maddeningly slowly – the populace of Canada has come to realize that there must be a punishment for the mistreatment of animals. While we are hampered by the prevailing attitude that the freedom of an animal abuser is worth more than the welfare of the animals they abuse, we are ambling towards more recognition that animal abuse is a societal ill, not an individual aberration.
Number four: I cannot get behind a ban of something that is not inhumane under the guise of preventing something that is inhumane.
I firmly believe that espousing bans on activities because some people associated with them are mistreating animals does not solve the essential problem of individual people mistreating animals.
There is nothing wrong with dog sled racing or tours. There is something wrong with people who put their profits ahead of their dogs’ lives. If you want to run a business that depends on animals, I believe that the law should clearly tell you that if you can’t stomach putting your animals first, you’re in the wrong line of business.
It is possible to change the law. It is possible to change people’s expectations. It is possible to educate people about humane animal treatment and expect them to treat their animals well.
What impedes the progress of making people responsible for their actions is to focus on the symptom that is easiest to identify. It’s easy to ban pit bulls when they’re identified as being highly involved in dog bites and attacks. It’s easy to ban dog sled racing or tours when people are aware that there’s a large number of animals being neglected and abused. What is not easy is to hold people responsible for the choices that they make and the care of the animals they chose to bring into their lives.
What message are you sending when you say “Ban this practice because some people involved are being irresponsible towards the animals they involve in it.”? You’re not punishing people who abuse sled dogs; you’re punishing people who own sled dogs.
Does LUSH really think that they’re sending a message to the people who abuse sled dogs in the name of profit?
They’re telling them “We want to remove your livelihood so that you will not find it profitable to own these animals and will therefore not have them in your keeping to abuse/neglect.”
In and of itself, this message is laudable and something to work towards. I think that people who abuse their animals should have their livelihoods taken away, since they obviously should not be in that line of work.
The problem is that LUSH is also sending this message to the people who care deeply about their dogs, who strive to make their dogs’ lives better, who rescue sled dogs and who care about making their sports and business better environments for sled dogs in general.
It is not a victory when you punish innocent people along with the guilty.
I can’t support a company who doesn’t take the time to identify what’s really wrong and who’s really responsible, yet will support legislation that will paint all sled dog racers/tour operators with the same label of “abusive scumbag”.