While new Iditaord CEO Rob Urbach is talking about The Last Great Race trying to make peace with the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the 60-year-old Seavey on Saturday went to war.
In a lengthy Facebook post, he called the organization “bat sh*t (sic) crazy,” accused it of engaging in “corporate espionage,” and suggested, though did not say, Iditarod shouldn’t be talking to the such an organization.
“If the Iditarod Trail Committee is serious about dealing with them, then I have a tale to tell,” he wrote.
Seavey is not the only dog musher to question Iditarod’s attempt to make peace with PETA, an anti-trapping, anti-hunting, anti-fishing organization. Trapping, hunting and fishing are traditional Alaska activities engaged in for sustenance.
Seavey’s post appeared to hit a chord in the 49th state where PETA members are few, even if it did contain a hint of a veiled threat against a former employee.
“Well, I know who he is, and I know where he is,” Seavey wrote. “He’s a liar, and his boss, PETA is dishonest. He lives out of country now, but until about a year ago, at age 37, his address was the same as his parents, here in the U.S.”
Seavey said he wasn’t going to name the former handler though requests for him to do so were popping up among the many supportive comments and links on Seavey’s web page.
PETA started it
Seavey’s post stems from a story that appeared on the PETA webpage Thursday titled “What I Saw as a PETA Observer at Iditarod Champions’ Dog Yards.” The story focuses mainly on the kennel of one-time Iditarod champ John Baker of Kotzebue and spouse Katherine Keith.
But Seavey gets a mention about halfway through. The criticisms of Seavey’s kennel by the PETA operative were rather bland compared to those earlier levied against Baker and Keith. The most significant were that “there were dogs who needed veterinary care and didn’t get it,” and that the training for the grueling, 1,000-mile Iditarod was, well, grueling.
“One dog was reportedly dragged to death,” the story added but there was no suggestion of eye-witness evidence of that reported death. The story also contained several factually inaccurate statements, the most significant being that “a lot of dogs die on the trail.”
One dog died on the trail in 2019. One dog died the year before. Twenty-seventeen was a particularly bad year with four deaths on the trail, but the only death in 2016 involved a dog killed in a motor-vehicle collision on the trail.
Before that came a string of years with no dog deaths. Dogs sometimes die while running Iditarod, but there are not “a lot dying.”
PETA also charged Seavey’s dogs “were all frighteningly skinny” by the end of the race. Seavey defended himself against that observation by observing that “like a triathlete, dogs are hungry after their big race.”
The PETA shot at Iditarod on Thursday and the Seavey counter-punch on Saturday makes it appear unlikely the two entities will be able to find common ground.