The infighting needs to stop by Guest contributor: Stuart J Mallard
It is not an overstatement to say that this is a pivotal time for the world of pedigree show dogs or that we all have a role to play. In our world most people I meet and certainly those within my circle of friends support the Kennel Club. However, in many cases their support is hanging by a thread.
Entries are falling and newcomers to many breeds are non-existent. Not a very encouraging situation for the future. Economics does take its toll therefore this state of affairs cannot all be pinned onto the shoulders of our governing body. People have their own take on issues and mainly only care if they are directly affected.
Yet since 1967 I cannot recall a time when so much negative talk and disillusionment has permeated through our hobby. It is perceived by some that the KC has afforded them scant regard in its endeavours to appease the anti-dog brigade. For example, the high profile breed clubs and their members, and, there are many grass-roots dog folk who feel disillusioned and neglected.
The reality is that, certainly since I became involved in the dog game, where health issues have emerged and a scheme been available breeders have used it – not simply to satisfy the KC but to gain essential knowledge in order to plan responsible future breeding policy. All living creatures experience health conditions. My point is that no matter what schemes are put in place total perfection will seldom be achieved although, of course, that would be our ultimate goal. Are we honestly expecting newcomers to the show dog world to enter the ring with perfect puppies, bred by perfect breeders from perfect parents?
As a breeder part of the fascination for me was to try to breed out undesirable traits but, as so often happens, once achieved up pops another challenge. Scientific research gives us the information and tools to combat many ailments. Unsurprisingly it also discovers new ones. Health checking is essential; personally I don’t know any serious breeder who would argue otherwise. The fact that more health monitoring is being done is not a statement that dogs are unhealthier, rather that more health knowledge is available along with screening which helps to control or eliminate some conditions.
I and many more are totally against the KC high profile breeds list, the manner in which breeds were put on the list with little or no relevant data and without being told what was required of them in order to have their breed removed. That came almost three years later. This has created even more division, sent out the wrong message to the show dog community around the world and failed to pacify our adversaries. In order that ill-bred puppies do not affect data collected which influence statistics used against dedicated breeders, the KC will need to find a way to address and expose those who do not concern themselves with health checking. These are the faceless puppy farmers who have contributed considerably to today’s problems. A workable policy is required and it is required now.
Our governing body seems to have become entrenched in a time warp, failing to grasp that Dickensian or draconian governance will no longer achieve results in this modern era. The halcyon days of blind respect have long gone. We have a Big Brother scenario where observers are monitoring breeds and judges. Hopefully the information gained warrants the unsavoury flavour it leaves with many.
Every single one of us also has responsibilities to bear. I am a confessed technophobe but have been forced to accept its ‘value’ since being elected onto the steering committee of the Canine Alliance. I understand the frustration and ill feelings that exist; however, a cursory look on Facebook alarmed and shocked me. Every single one of us connected with the world of pedigree dogs, be it the KC, columnists or the grass roots, has to be accountable for what they say and how they express their opinions if meaningful change is going to be achieved.
We don’t want to be dictated to and we have no right to behave in the same manner. Those of us who care and wish to achieve progress need to put forward serious ideas and suggestions that can be debated, acted upon and got out of the way. We may not achieve perfection but an atmosphere where we can get alongside one another without all the negativity would be a good start. Often people don’t bother because they believe they are not being listened to. One positive message from all of this is that the tangible unrest is in the main caused by people who are genuinely concerned.
There can be no dispute that we need to have a strong KC that leads. Most of us realise that this means democracy, transparency, accountability and a membership which is opened up enabling grass-roots supporters the right to vote. It also needs to command respect.
A recent comment by one of the General Committee members appertaining to the show dog world beggars belief and is compounded by the fact that his ‘expertise’ has no direct connection with our show world. Yet he and others in his position vote on matters that directly affect us. Would it not be pertinent to split the General Committee so that they only vote on their own disciplines? This may even help speed up policy making and implementation, alleviating the perception that the KC is dragging its feet.
I have written these observations in an attempt to highlight some of the causes for ill feeling within our sport. The reason for my doing so is to illustrate that outside forces don’t need to cause misery and havoc to our world of show dogs; from where I stand we seem to be doing it for them. These issues are small fry if the RSPCA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or others get their way. Incidentally I notice PETA currently has in excess of three million members, some of whom are in very high places.
This is why it is vital that our KC listens to the grass-roots concerns and begin to heal some of the wounds, to move on and get all of us behind it. At some point different factions are going to have to find common ground so that we can form a united front to ward off those who have no regard for the world of show dogs and whose sole aim it is to accomplish its demise.
I have no doubt there are going to be very tough times ahead. The governing body will need radical reform before it can expect the backing of those it purports to support. This is the challenge and the bigger picture.
There can be no doubt that the KC is aware of the powerful outside forces or how difficult it is going to be to navigate the road ahead. However, it still does not or will not accept that it is out of touch with many of its breeders/exhibitors etc who are the largest part of the face of our sport. To reiterate, it is essential to have these people on board, a process that has to be started by the KC.
If the KC could accept that some of its policies have not delivered the desired effect or have not always been thought through to the best conclusion we may begin to get somewhere. Yes, the governing body has made mistakes – who has not? There are times when the best policy is simply to say, okay guys we got it wrong and will try to redress the issue. That approach might gain the KC much needed support and help unite us all involved in the world of pedigree dogs.
Is the KC in a position to tackle the anti-dog brigade? I doubt it. This is why infighting will have to cease, enabling us to work together in what will be a monumental task. There is no question that to fight these organisations is going to require great resolve and huge resources. The KC will need to invest in a meaningful PR machine which reaches and harnesses the general public.
Britain is a nation of dog lovers; at this moment in time the population are probably more aware of most that is negative, the sensationalised unrealistic media hype that we all know does not present the true picture. We, through the governing body, have to get our message out there to dog lovers – all the positive facts, for example the exceptional charitable work and donations given for scientific research by the KC. It needs to extol the virtues of its breeders/exhibitors. It has to demonstrate that it cares for these people and pedigree dogs, stands by and supports its judges and every other positive aspect of its work. This is why it is going to be so necessary to put our house in order and put differences aside. Come the day when our adversaries turn the screw the general dog loving public may be our biggest ally.
Splinter groups are a useful yardstick in indicating that all is not well. A positive step will be when the KC actually acknowledges this. There may be more splinter groups to come, who knows? So long as change for the better is achieved, does it matter who gets or claims the credit? Once we all begin to sing from the same hymn sheet we will be in a far stronger position to cope with what lies ahead. Those of us who believe we are unaffected by any of the current upheaval will need to understand that the anti-dog brigade will not be selective in their mission to annihilate the world of pedigree dogs. It will affect us all.
Am I an idealist? Yes!
convict 225, 31/07/2012
An interesting and well written article but Mr Mallard says nothing new here.
The problem the show scene consistently refuse to see is that they may no longer be in a position to call the shots. Mr Mallard urges the KC to see the bigger picture when he, himself, is stuck looking at dogs through the lens of today's show scene.
The challenges of the future require a different vision of pedigree dogs and a different idea of what showing should be about