All animal rights organizations are the enemies of all Alaskans.
Basically misinformed, they hate the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. They hate anyone connected to the race and they know nothing about the state's history, tradition and culture.
Once again, the know-nothings have popped out of the woodwork with their hysterical, anti-Iditarod rantings, trying to do as much random damage as possible to Alaska's image, to mushing and the Iditarod. Just in time for today's start of the 28th annual 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, of course.
And, as usual, some gullible suckers fall for the propaganda spread by these organizations without doing any of their own research, without gathering any of their own facts, without checking into what makes the Iditarod a truly special cultural event.
If you are an Iditarod fan, and if you are close enough to the race to get to know mushers well, to visit their dog yards, to appreciate their competitiveness and devotion to a throwback lifestyle, you know that most of the so-called information the Humane Society of the United States and its fellow travelers dispense is malarkey. Their real point is to raise money and membership for their clubs.
Members come off as a bunch of monkey-see, monkey-do robots. (The latest campaign by animal rights activists is to get monkeys declared to be human, isn't it?) The newsletter says the Iditarod is bad, so members believe it's bad. Half of those sheep (couldn't resist that) live in places like California or Florida. They have no idea what Alaska is like. They have no idea what the Alaska Bush is like. They have no idea what snow is like. All they know about snow is that before they fled from New England or Michigan or Colorado, they didn't like to drive in it. They have no idea that there is a long history of using Alaska sled dogs for transportation.
They claim to be dog lovers and yet they leave their dogs locked up in apartments 10 hours a day while they commute and work. Then they take them for a walk on a leash and let them piddle on the sidewalk in front of your house. When I lived in cities Outside, that's exactly how it went with everyone I knew who had a dog. Iditarod dogs get 50 times the love and attention of those pets.
I have never understood why animal rights groups pick on the Iditarod when there are a million times more dogs (and cats) neglected, abandoned and ultimately annihilated at pounds around the country. Misdirected energy.
It will be a shame if one of the nearly 1,300 dogs starting the Iditarod dies during the 2000 race, but despite the most sophisticated, on-the-spot veterinary care, it really wouldn't be that surprising. Chances are if 1,300 dogs hung out at home over the same time period, one would die for some unexpected reason. Why wouldn't that be true? Happens to people all the time. How often do we hear sad stories about a person jogging or simply out walking who keels over from a heart attack.
My favorite Lower 48 assault on the Iditarod comes from a nationally syndicated sports talk-show radio host (whom I generally agree with). He always rips the Iditarod, yet one of his favorite regular guests is a thoroughbred racing trainer. So he loves horse racing, but despises dog racing? No inconsistency there, huh?
A Lower 48 national sports columnist who has it in for the Iditarod, advertises that he took a vacation to Alaska, where he apparently talked to one 81-year-old man who hates sled dog racing.
A recent animal rights group tactic is to ridicule the Iditarod's school education program because it teaches that doing the Iditarod is a grand adventure which dogs love.
Duh. The Iditarod is a grand adventure and the dogs love running it.
Still another animal rights activist tactic is to target musher sponsors. A blizzard of messages critical of AmeriGas' sponsorship of Ramy Brooks created turmoil for the Healy musher on the eve of the race. The East Coast parent company of his Fairbanks sponsor ordered the Alaska affiliate to stop sponsoring Brooks. In a display of loyalty, and some courage, the Fairbanks branch office recognized that in Alaska mushers are heroes and role models, and stuck by Brooks.
I have always believed animal rights activists are misguided individuals with too much time on their hands, people who would better serve the country by working to support causes that help needy children or fight terrible diseases. But their next campaign will probably be trying to obtain the vote for parakeets instead.
Mushing helps make Alaska unique, helps link old-time Alaska and modern Alaska and helps Alaska maintain a special identity when in many ways it's in danger of becoming a clone of Lower 48 states. And the Iditarod, in particular, boosts the Alaskan economy.
All of these things are under attack from animal rights activists.
Any Alaskan who sides with the animal rights activists is not a real Alaskan at all, but a traitor to the common good and should move somewhere else.
* This column is the opinion of Daily News sports editor Lew Freedman. He can be reached at email@example.com