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The Iditarod Loses a Primary Sponsor for 2021

Sled dogs running the 2015 Iditarod race near the start in Fairbanks, Alaska

The Iditarod (a 1,000-mile grueling race in Alaska) will be held on March 6, 2021. This controversial race has been going on for decades. In the past, sled dogs were vital for survival in the vast Alaskan wilderness until the invention of the “iron dog” or snowmobile. In an effort to keep this part of their culture and the historical events surrounding the Iditarod Trail—the “Great Race of Mercy” that took place in 1925 to deliver serum to Nome battling an outbreak of diphtheria—alive, the Iditarod Trail Race was born in the early 1970s.

But with the revival of sled dogs came significant pain and even death for the dogs bred into this life. The 1925 race was necessary for Nome’s survival and used many teams of sled dogs in a relay race to navigate 674-miles. (The longest length that one team traveled was 91-miles.) The founder of The Iditarod Trail Race, Joe Redington, enjoyed pushing himself to his limit, and this drive propelled him to create the length that the race is today. Would this extreme race be so popular without winnings of $50,000? When animals are involved and used competitively for monetary gain, it is a catalyst for breeding indifference to their sentience and accepting inhumane practices.

The Iditarod website states, “…the Iditarod is, and always will be, an advocate for dogs.” Is pushing dogs to run one hundred miles a day in extreme weather conditions, until they are exhausted, being an advocate? Another article on the website states that “…sled dogs aren’t forced to run; they LOVE to run!” This blanket statement belies the actual lives of sled dogs. They are subjected to conditions promoting frostbite, gastric ulcers, respiratory illnesses, orthopedic injuries (one study revealed 50% of sled dogs were dropped from a race for this injury), and hypothermia. Sled dogs are viewed as “working” dogs and live most of their lives on chains. Laws to protect them from animal cruelty don’t exist, and many animal welfare advocates and organizations are trying to change that. 

Despite the cruelty surrounding the Iditarod, it continues to thrive through sponsors, participants, and attendees. Since 1978, ExxonMobil has been a devoted supporter of the Iditarod. Surprisingly, and thankfully, ExxonMobil has discontinued its support this year, citing “economic reasons.” Hopefully, they will choose to discontinue their support next year, forcing Alaskans and other supporters of the Iditarod to look for alternate ways to celebrate sled dogs and its Iditarod Trail without causing harm to these amazing, sentient beings.

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3 responses to “The Iditarod Loses a Primary Sponsor for 2021”

  1. Larry L. Miller says:

    Please, God, help us be rid of this cruel event.

  2. Kaitlyn Brinklow says:

    Those poor dogs😔

  3. shelly may says:

    Thank you all whom have stopped supporting the Iditarod! It is unfortunate the Iditarod was not reinvented this year! The dogs could have be replaced with willing human endurance athletes, cross-country skiers, or even snowmobilers, who have a choice in whether to participate or not. Animals should not be ours to exploit. If the race is truly, for the love of the sport , then why not get rid of the $475,000+ in prize money and present medals to the winners? I wonder how many teams would show up! More than 220 dogs were pulled off the trail in the 2020 race because of exhaustion, illness, injury, vomit aspiration and other causes. Personally I do not think God approves of this “race”. It’s time to make some changes please stop supporting this event.

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