A dog sledding trip that changed a man’s life

Dale Cabuquin
By Dale Cabuquin December 8, 2023 12:14

A dog sledding trip that changed a man’s life

By Dale Cabuquin

It was just a trip for entertainment. Little did he know, it would change his life.  

Michael McDowell went on a dog sledding trip in Ottawa in 2016 – something he now calls an animal exploitative industry. While watching the show, he wondered what these dogs had been doing and how they were treated. 

He was captivated by a brown and black dog who was chained up for entertainment to an extent of nine years.  

The dog’s name is Bubba. He is a mixed breed of Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard, Australian Cattle Dog, Catahoula Leopard dog and Great Dane.  

Since then, McDowell has become a vegan and animal liberation activist. 

Veganism is based on empathy 

McDowell went on to adopt Bubba. Three months after adopting the dog, he ventured into a vegan diet.  

Michael McDowell holds chained up Bubba. Photo courtesy of Michael McDowell.

“I started learning about what’s happening to animals,” McDowell said. “Veganism really pertains to animals, so it’s a strong emotional connection to my dog.” 

Veganism is the practice of not consuming animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy and honey as well as not using products that have been tested on animals.   

In a survey conducted by Statista published in August, there are 850,000 vegans in Canada with the majority residing in British Columbia.

In a similar survey, milk consumption recorded in 2022 hit a low of 58.2 liters per capita, that is equivalent to three buckets of milk. 

 It is a decrease of 10 liters or 2.64 gallons of milk per capita since 2015. The increase of vegans in Canada is said to be the reason behind the decline of milk consumption according to Statista.  

McDowell watched some footage of animals being slaughtered online and felt a sense of empathy. 

“When I think about a thought of us being tortured or killed or how I wouldn’t want it to happen for Bubba, I wouldn’t do it to other animals,” McDowell said.  

He has been a vegan for six years. He is also an Animal Liberation Activist. In 2019, he went to an animal liberation conference in Toronto. 

“It had a lot of different groups there and it opened up my eyes,” McDowell said. 

He also used to go to Ribfest and eventually, he protested against it. In 2019 he went to a Ribfest at the Riverfront Festival Plaza wearing a black cap with “vegan” written on it while holding a stencil saying “Live Vegan.” 

The history of veganism is traced back to the 1800s and in 1849, William Horsell published Kitchen Philosophy for Vegetarians, the first vegetarian cookery book. 

Michael McDowell holds a poster protesting against animal agriculture. Photo courtesy of Michael McDowell.

“I used to support Ribfest but then I didn’t think how my choices affected others and the world around me,” McDowell said. “I never thought I’d be a vegan or become a passionate Animal Liberation Activist.”  

According to McDowell, all he wanted to do was inform people and care about other forms of life. 

“This isn’t about me forcing anything onto you,” McDowell said. “I can’t force anyone to go Vegan. I used to live a different lifestyle and that lifestyle forced my views upon the innocent. I’m not here to speak for non-human animals, I’m here to amplify their voices.”  

McDowell – an integral part of Windsor’s Sweet Life of Vegan.  

Meaghan Marton-Westlake, the 2017 Outstanding Canadian Award winner for her charitable works to youth and children, is the founder of the Sweet Life of Vegan potlucks in Windsor.  

Having a similar lifestyle, Westlake and McDowell became friends in 2017. Both of them volunteered every Sunday in an animal sanctuary at Charlotte’s Freedom Farm.  

According to Westlake, he was one of the reasons why the group was established.  

“I remember asking him if I should start monthly potlucks before it even began and he was very encouraging,” Westlake said. “Ever since the beginning Michael barely missed an event. He always showed up eager to meet new people, make connections and spread the message of Veganism and animal rights.”  

McDowell said over 100 people have gone to the monthly potlucks from previous years. The event has gathered Vegans and non-Vegans to share food and recipe.  

According to Westlake, the potluck has been an opportunity to welcome a community and share Vegan morals and ethics.  

This year, Westlake got married and moved to Alberta. She said McDowell was the first person she tapped to take over the hosting role of the potlucks. 

To date, The Sweet Life of Vegan Potlucks has 199 members on Facebook.  

“He was the one I would trust with the community I had built over the last five years in Windsor and I’m really happy he agreed to take on the task,” Westlake said. “He is a very passionate person with a big heart. He deeply cares about animals and the environment. He is a great friend who is always up for a deep discussion or sharing advice.”  

Dale Cabuquin
By Dale Cabuquin December 8, 2023 12:14

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