The unhelpful rise of slactivism

By: Lee Connor

19/04/2017

The unhelpful rise of slactivism

Phew! Well, last month’s article (and Dog World blog post) certainly provoked a reaction from both sides of the brachycephalic debate. Obviously a vociferous element of the veterinary profession didn’t react too well to the criticism aimed at them which was understandable however what wasn’t expected was the level to which some of that reaction (from such esteemed professionals) stooped.

One vet, Dr Judy Puddifoot, in reference to my article put this up on Facebook on March 17.

“We all took an oath to protect animal welfare. People yelled, ‘why aren’t vets speaking up for the brachycephalics?’ And yet when we do we get lambasted for it by unqualified lay people who think they know better! #DogWorldD*ckhead.”

Sadly the catchy hashtag didn’t trend; it didn’t get time because as soon as ‘the Pedigree’s friend’ Jemima Harrison put it up on the CRUFFA site even CRUFFA members were voicing the opinion that with such personal attacks, you have lost the argument, and in what is rapidly becoming a common theme on this site, the comment was subsequently deleted and Dr Puddifoot locked down her Facebook account.

More reasonable arguments came from the likes of vet Pete Wedderburn who took issue with my description of the small number of vets who openly vocalise their dislike of the pedigree as ‘militant’.

For some rather patronising reason he decided to post the definition of militant, ‘favouring confrontational methods in support of a political or social cause.’ Given some of the vet reactions this just reaffirmed its correct usage in the piece!

He then went on to say, “I don’t know any vets who dislike these dogs, they just want to stop the absurdity of the high percentage that need surgical help in order to function normally. If practical measures were put in place to start to address the issues raised by CRUFFA, then the organisation (and all the vets that support it) would go away. Until then, the numbers of caring vets who want to help these animals is only going to increase.”

This post is symptomatic of the parallel universe some of these people seem to be inhabiting. I find it quite unbelievable that Mr Wedderburn hasn’t read posts from some of his colleagues describing people’s pets in completely disparaging and distressing ways. Posts such as this reply from a vet to a pet owner who liked to buy French Bulldog calendars from Pets at Home: “As a brachycephalic owner you want to look at pictures of your deformed dogs?” Once again, this post/thread was later deleted.

Does that not sound like ‘dislike’ Mr Wedderburn?

Mr Wedderburn makes the claim that if practical measures were put in place CRUFFA and the vociferous minority would go away. Really? Once again maybe you should pay more attention to what some of your colleagues post, like this vet who tweeted on February 10: “I’m sick of hearing you can’t ban a breed when they have only existed for a few decades. Breeds that suffer should go.”

How about this quote from a vet in a recent Times article: “Every person who breeds a Bulldog, Pug, Peke, Mastiff, Dachshund… has caused some degree of suffering by selecting for an unnatural deformity. They should be prosecuted and the breeds banned.” Or this extract from a subsequently deleted vet blog: “For me Crufts remains not the number one dog show in the world but a place where humans softly abuse animals in their care.”

Does that not betray a certain level of dislike Mr Wedderburn? There doesn’t seem to be much room for compromise in this vet’s mind does there? Apparently they want an all-out total ban. And you know what, I actually applaud their honest approach. They aren’t ‘sugar coating’ anything; they are telling it as they see it and how they want things to be.

 

Breed rescues

Also, in a time when the ‘don’t breed, get a dog from rescue’ message is hammered home ad nauseam I do find it strange that in the deluge of vet-penned pieces not one has given any publicity to the outstanding work done by the likes of Pug Welfare/French Bulldog Rescue/French Bulldog Saviours. Aren’t discarded brood bitches/failed studs and unsold pups worthy of finding a loving home? Isn’t the selfless work of people who truly love these breeds worthy of wider public knowledge and appreciation?

Again and again in headlines I see the same wording, ‘In veterinary practices we are seeing more and more brachycephalic breeds and the complex health and welfare problems that many of them face’.

Due to the staggeringly fast growth of popularity in the French Bulldog and Pug breeds this is undoubtedly true, however the profession actually know where the problems lie and exactly where they have come from. The British Veterinary Association’s own Voice of the Veterinary profession Survey 2016 (which surveyed over a 1,000 vets across the UK) revealed that one in three vets have seen puppies they believed had been illegally imported from overseas in the last year. It revealed that suspicions had been raised for several reasons including foreign microchips, the pup’s age not matching the age given in the passport, and pups suffering from parvo and kennel cough.

And the most common breeds suspected by vets of being illegally imported were – drum roll please – French Bulldogs and Pugs! This same problem has been flagged up again and again by vets and those picking up the pieces in our breed rescues yet still we hear of case after case of those cruelly importing sick puppies into this country, still our ports remain porous and still we see the same ludicrously light sentences handed out to the tiny minority that get caught… and I’m yet to see a petition handed in by our ‘celebrity’ vets about this calamity or it even being mentioned in the many press articles written by high-profile vets. No mention of this crisis can be found in the BVA letter to the Times for example.  

The BVA also wrote about the importance of data, it says, ‘Data can be extremely powerful to help make change and it is vital that vets are part of this. Any KC registered animal that has undergone conformation altering surgery or a caesarean should be reported to the KC. This data can help inform evidence based changes…’

That’s all well and good, but what exactly happens to the data generated by the vast majority of unregistered stock? Where will all those thousands of illegally imported dog’s data going to go? Will these unregistered/illegally imported dog’s statistics eventually be added to the breeds overall health data to be used against the breed and the KC? The whole thing is now a complete mess and this shambles could have been easily avoided if the concerned voice of the lay person (those who in many cases have dedicated a lifetime to these breeds) had been listened to five, six, seven years ago.

The whole thing is now a complete mess and this shambles could have been easily avoided if the concerned voice of the lay person (those who in many cases have dedicated a lifetime to these breeds) had been listened to five, six, seven years ago.

And it is interesting how certain elements of the profession sits on the sidelines wagging a disapproving finger at the Kennel Club and its breeders without acknowledging its own participation in the creation of these breeds. After all, we’ve had decades of routine caesareans with hardly a murmur of protest. Scientists – using Darwinian-inspired logic – say regular use of caesareans are having an impact on our own species’ evolution. More and more mothers are now having procedures to deliver a baby due to narrow pelvis size. Historically these genes would not have progressed as both mother and child would have died in labour. Of course we are all thankful for their intervention but one can argue a similar thing has happened in these breeds. Once again it was an ordinary lay person, Mr C L Bannister, of the renowned Thatchway Bulldogs back in 1996, who literally begged judges and breeders to step in and help his beloved breed, to halt the rise of caesareans and over exaggeration.

 

United front

Petulant stamping of feet, thumbing of noses and signing of letters/petitions are easy and won’t achieve anything but polarisation. What could achieve something and what could really usher in a golden age of pedigree dog breeding is for the profession and the KC to work even closer together and for both sides to agree to a fair but rigid timeline and date for when changes have to have taken place. We all have to work together towards getting these breeds to give birth naturally, for longer muzzle length and for stenotic nostrils to be a big ‘no-no’ in the show ring. But for this to happen we need to see a public acknowledgement that the unprecedented influx of thousands of illegally imported and puppy farmed dogs have had a disastrous impact on these breeds and we need to stand together sending out a united message that this vile trade needs stamping out once and for all. We also need to see an end to the inflammatory offensive pieces (that are often completely devoid of verifiable facts/data). Yes, these may be fantastic as acting as ‘click bait’ and adding to the mounting media requests one’s agent has to deal with but it isn’t going to help the suffering of dogs and that surely is the number one priority here…isn’t it? 


 

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