Stone: Drug and animal abuse
November 26, 2013
Today we are going to talk about dope and dogs: marijuana and Krabloonik sled dogs.
Let's be clear, I am not suggesting any direct connection between the two.
I do not advocate letting sled dogs smoke marijuana. For either medical or recreational purposes.
Nonetheless, both the dogs and the dope are hot topics of local debate.
Dog lovers are up in arms about the alleged (and I only use that weasel word "alleged" because the rules require it) wretched treatment of the dogs at Krabloonik.
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Meanwhile, some midvalley residents are up in arms about a proposal to build a pair of large greenhouses to grow marijuana on Lower River Road in Snowmass Canyon.
And, in both cases, people's positions seem to pivot based on their perception of the items involved: dope and dogs.
Let's start with dogs.
Are the Krabloonik dogs the beloved, sentient, sensitive — and often pampered — creatures we love as pets?
Or are they just livestock? Working animals.
Believe me, folks. There's a difference.
I remember Stewart Mace, the founder of Toklat, the dogsled operation that eventually became Krabloonik, telling how he trained his sled dogs to work in rescue operations for downed pilots in Arctic conditions.
They attached the dogs to parachutes and threw them out of airplanes. Stewart's description made it clear that the dogs really hated that experience.
But, he said, the next time around the dogs always got back on the plane when they were commanded to, because, "They were working dogs. They did what they were told."
Cruelty? Maybe. Certainly Stewart loved his dogs. But they were, in a sense, livestock. Working animals.
Don't get me wrong. I'm as mush-brained a dog lover as anyone you're ever likely to meet.
But think for a moment about the kind of treatment that most of us tacitly accept for the livestock we eat. Consider the pigs that become pork.
By many accounts, pigs are roughly the mental and emotional equals of dogs. But because we consider them livestock, we tolerate shockingly cruel treatment of those animals at factory farms.
I won't go into the details of that cruelty here, but if you have any doubt, Google "pig abuse." (Don't do it on a full stomach.)
We don't just tolerate that abuse, we endorse it every time we order pork that was not raised in a humane manner. And that includes almost all the pork from almost every commercial source.
Do you know where your bacon came from? Maybe you should ask.
The point is, many of us draw a very clear line between dogs and pigs. Maybe because dogs are cuddly; maybe because the image of the loyal family pig fetching the master his newspaper every morning doesn't resonate. (Especially if the master is eating a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs.)
The dogs at Krabloonik are apparently treated with the kind of casual cruelty that we inflict on farm animals.
If Dan MacEachen is guilty of the allegations that have been made, I imagine he'll be put out of business. And I will heartily agree with that result.
But there are a lot of pigs (and other non-cuddly animals) out there who would dearly love some of the same consideration.
Pets or livestock. How do we draw the line?
Now, from farming animals, let's switch over to farming weeds.
Or, rather, weed.
The current brouhaha exploded because a local would-be Weed King wants to put up roughly 20,000 square feet of greenhouses on a ranch in Snowmass Canyon.
He needs government permission to do it and — well, you know what happens when someone needs government permission to do something in this valley.
Now just as most of us have a knee-jerk reaction in favor of dogs, many of us — well, some of us; well, me anyway — have a knee-jerk reaction in favor of anything to do with legal marijuana.
And a substantial number of people have an equally knee-jerk reaction of violent opposition on the same topic.
So right off the bat, you would expect to see some clear battle lines.
But interestingly enough, virtually all of the neighbors are opposed to the project — including some who (as I personally know for a fact) have no ideological, legal or ethical opposition to marijuana use.
Their position might be classified as OMBPOK, but NIMBY. (That's On My Back Porch OK, but Not In My Back Yard.)
The legal distinction that many are trying to make — and it is delightful to see people making a legal distinction in a battle over a substance that remains felonious under federal law — draws a line between marijuana as a "product" and marijuana as a "crop."
It is similar to the line we draw between pigs and dogs.
Marijuana as a "crop" has a cuddly, down-on-the-farm feeling — and fits right into the agricultural ethos and zoning of the riverside ranch land.
But marijuana as a "product" reeks of cold commerce and ought to be banished — if not to south-of-the-border drug-lord territory, then at least to a commercially zoned wasteland.
The would-be grower, of course, argues the "crop" side of the issue. He's growing plants. In dirt. All very agricultural.
I do suspect there's a certain financial commercial "product" aspect to the argument that he isn't mentioning.
After all, for a lot of years, illegal marijuana has been raised entirely indoors, under grow-lights. Nothing agricultural about that — and no need for acres of open ranch land.
Of course, 20,000 square feet of growing space is a whole lot pricier in a commercial zone district. Call it a crop, put it on a farm and the property's a lot cheaper.
Bottom line: Drug abuse or animal abuse. It all seems to be a matter of how you look at it.
How about a serious point to wrap up:
We have to draw the line somewhere on animal abuse. Personally, I crush spiders ruthlessly. But all sentient beings — and, damn it, I think that even includes chickens — deserve some kind of decent life.
And that's true whether we're going to eat them or call them our best friends.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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