Ban dog sledding now.
That's the message that Lush Cosmetics is putting out to British Columbia before the completion of an investigation into the deaths of up to 100 dogs in Whistler in April 2010, and just a few weeks before a provincial task force looking into the dog sled industry is expected to deliver a report.
The Vancouver-based natural soap company, which has a location in Whistler Village, recently put out a news release stating that it is "leading the effort" to ban dog sledding and tours.
"We couldn't sit back and do nothing," Lush's New York-based spokeswoman Brandi Halls said in an interview. "We felt very passionately about doing something on this issue. We had some customers coming into our locations asking us what we're going to do about this. We had staff approaching head office, saying can we take a stand on this."
The campaign works like this: Lush Cosmetics has partnered with the Vancouver Humane Society and asked the public to sign postcards to Ben Stewart, B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture, cards that demand an "all out ban on dog sled races and tours throughout B.C."
Lush shops are thus becoming "campaign centres" to raise awareness of the "devastating impacts that the dog sledding industry has on the animals' welfare." The company has also created a limited edition PAWS soap that sells for $5.95 with all proceeds going to the humane society's efforts to stop dog sledding.
Halls said Lush Cosmetics hasn't sent the postcards to the minister yet but they have been delivered to outlets in B.C. and customers have responded positively.
"We have a really passionate customer that shops at Lush so they're really, really happy we're taking a stand on this," she said. "Even outside B.C., we have customers coming in and thanking us for taking a stand on this, asking if we can sell the limited edition product out of that store, how they can help the cause."
The company's campaign to stop all dog sledding activities didn't sit well with Allan Crawford, owner of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures (CSA), which subcontracts dog sled tours through Trapper's Run, a company with a kennel in the Callaghan Valley.
That kennel, described by Crawford as "doggie heaven," allows dogs to run free whereas at other facilities, the animals will be chained up at all times. The company maintains a small pack and when dogs become too tired to work anymore, they continue to live at the kennel.
"I would be happy to take the owner of Lush out there to see our kennels," he said. "Come see how we run our tours and I'm sure that they would know a lot more about the industry, like the customers do."
Jamie Hargrave, the owner of Trapper's Run, was more pointed in her criticism.
"It's ridiculous," she said of the campaign. "People are ignorant and have no idea what they're talking about."
Hargrave went into Lush Cosmetics in Whistler Village recently and said when she asked questions of a customer sales representative; the rep "giggled" at her and said, "We want to save all the dogs."
"What I'm trying to tell people now is that these dogs are in a natural state," Hargrave said. "They're in a pack. They all have a purpose; they all love what they do. They play a lot, they all run off leash. It's like humans, you can associate that with humans but they're not humans."
The anti-dog sled campaign isn't the first time that Lush Cosmetics has tried to exhibit a social consciousness. In 2010, the company partook in a campaign lambasting the oil sands, a major industrial project in northern Alberta.
The campaign, dubbed "Canada's Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth," called on Canadians to demand that federal and provincial governments stop "subsidizing this toxic fuel" and invest in renewable energy.
Halls said that campaign just reached into its stores in London, England, and will hit the rest of Europe in June.