In the run-up to Crufts, a genuinely excellent piece has appeared in Dog World, the publication of the boiled-in-the-oil show-dog set in Great Britain. Read the whole thing, but here's a quick sample:
I know the dog world got very upset by the media accusation of its practising eugenics – but why? Eugenics is ‘the science of improving the population by controlled breeding for desirable genetic characteristics’. In its dictionary form, there is nothing wrong with that idea, despite all its ghastly historical connotations. Indeed, is it not exactly what pedigree dog breeders have been trying to do for hundreds of years – improve individual dog breeds? Of course, the problem does not lie in the act itself but in the interpretation of a desirable genetic characteristic and what improves it. Even historically it was ever thus.
The real problem is that one man’s ‘superb brachycephalic skull’ is another man’s ‘dog who looks as if he walked into a barn door – if he could walk that is because he does seem a little short of breath.’Surely what is happening at the moment is a matter of confusion over priorities and that all important focus. For example, one person choosing a stud dog might think that they would be improving the breed by shortening their bitch’s brachycephalic skull still further to produce extreme breed type. Wow – this one will knock their socks off in the rings!
On the other hand, someone else might say that the only improvement would be achieved by lengthening that same skull so that the nasal passages were less obstructed and the dogs could breathe more easily. Its choice of emphasis is why the Kennel Club and its breed Standards have come in for such a pounding in the press. If breed ‘A’ has such a short skull that it can’t breathe, then it must be the KC’s fault because it publishes the breed Standard that highlights such a skull as desirable. The KC chooses the emphasis and so it must bear the brunt of the criticism when the majority disapprove of the results.....
.... Almost all the pedigree dogs we breed end up in pet homes so, regardless of our desires for the tiny minority who are destined for the show ring, surely we need to respect and respond to the desires of society as a whole? If we continue to set ourselves apart from society’s sensibilities then we run the very real risk of acquiring pariah status which is a dangerous place to be in what is plainly a very judgemental, modern world.
All that has happened since last August begs certain important philosophical questions which must be addressed by each one of us individually and collectively as a hobby, awkward and difficult though they are. >> To read the rest.
Now here's the voice of reason, and the first step down the road to discourse!
Check your values? Yes!
Accept responsibility for publishing breed standards that select for defect? Yes!
Recognize that most dogs, even dogs bred by top show exhibitors, are pets? Yes!
Vow to learn the real history of dogs and the real history of the Kennel Club? Yes!
How could any of this be controversial?
Hat's off to Jessica Holm, the author! Well said, well thought, well done.