Editorial: But what about human victims?

After the Olympic Games last year, up to 100 sled dogs were slaughtered by a company in Whistler because it decided that it owned more dogs than it could use.

The dogs were shot and stabbed to death, then buried in a mass grave. The person who did the killing has admitted his role in the slaughter and asked for compensation from WorkSafe B.C. for the post-traumatic stress that he says he suffered as a result.

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This would seem to be a cut-and-dried case — yet the SPCA and the provincial government are spending up to $225,000 on a two-week investigation that they hope will unearth the gory details and gather evidence that could be used in court.

A team of anthropologists, veterinarians and forensic experts has been digging at the grave site near Whistler, with a progress report expected this weekend. The remains of the sled dogs will be taken off-site for necropsies.

The team will be looking at evidence gathered from the bodies, including tissue samples and bone fragments, as well as physical evidence such as shell casings. This is the most complex investigation the SPCA has ever undertaken in B.C.

What it finds might support animal cruelty charges under the Criminal Code. It might even result in higher standards for animal welfare throughout Canada.

The exhumation — being done by forensic experts who worked on the murder investigation at Robert Pickton’s pig farm as well as mass graves in Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq — should raise questions about our priorities.

Animal welfare is important. We have an obligation to ensure that animals are protected from abuse, and have too often failed in that responsibility.

But can this costly investigation really be justified? We already know much about what happened and the person who did the killing is not denying it.

What else could be done with the $225,000?

We could put the money toward a search for the women who have gone missing along Highway 16 in the central Interior — or use it to boost rewards for information.

We could give it to the neediest communities in the province, to use in schools and day cares. We could even allocate the money to animal care facilities to ensure they can continue to serve us or use it to develop higher standards for the transport of livestock to slaughterhouses. Conditions are now grim; more than 7,000 animals die in transport in Canada every day.

It’s not just a question of the money being spent. Former premier Gordon Campbell ordered an inquiry days after the slaughter of the dogs became public, headed by MLA Terry Lake, a veterinarian from Kamloops.

That was the right thing to do; the killings raised questions about the way the sled-dog industry, among others, treats animals when they are no longer of economic value.

But it was striking that the Liberal government refused for years to hold an inquiry into the scores of women from Vancouver missing and murdered.

The politicians appear to believe that dogs matter more to us than people.

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