Iditarod dog race loses ExxonMobil after animal rights pressure

Sled dogs, photo: Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash
Sled dogs, photo: Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash

The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska lost one of its biggest corporate sponsors, the energy giant ExxonMobil. Animal rights activists have condemned the dog race as inhumane.

“After careful review of sponsorships in light of current economic conditions, we’ve decided to conclude our sponsorship of the Iditarod following the 2021 race,” Ashley Alemayehu, an ExxonMobil spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) celebrated the decision. “No reputable company wants to associate with a race that forces dogs to run until they collapse,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said, calling on other sponsors to quit “this spectacle of suffering”.

At the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a musher (the driver) starts with 14 dogs and needs to finish the race in 8-15 days with at least five dogs. The race begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. 

In response to ExxonMobil’s decision, PETA said it will cancel an anti-ExxonMobil ad and protest campaign set to start next week.

Animal rights activists have criticized the Iditarod mushers for pushing the dogs too hard in racing and training, and for subjecting its canine contestants to dangerous conditions.

Five dogs died during or immediately after 2017’s race. In March 2019, the five-year-old dog Oshi died during a race.

In recent years, Alaska Airlines and Wells Fargo have also dropped as sponsors of the race.

The race starts in Anchorage on March 6.

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