Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Minutes of Lies and Confusion

This morning, the Kennel Club came out with a 27-minute video entitled "Dogs -- A Healthy Future".

I do not have time this morning to go through all 27-minutes of the video, but it turns out I do not have to in order to make the essential point, which is that this is an in-house industrial self-promotion video which does NOT tell the true history of the Kennel Club, nor does it actually tell you what is wrong in the world of pedigree dogs, or the way forward in the world of dogs.

You can see the video yourself, here, but let me detail the first four minutes:  what is said, what is not said, what is an outright lie, and what small steps forward are actually being taken.

  1. Killing off working dogs.  The video starts off (at 0.38) with the narrator gushing about Poodles, Old English Sheep Dogs, and Border Terriers.  What is not said is these three breeds were once working dogs, but they do not work anymore. In fact, these are three perfect examples of what happens when you draw a dog into the Kennel Club and the dogs are either denatured or exaggerated to the point that they are useless in the field. Work a dog? The Kennel Club affords ZERO points for work, same as it affords ZERO points for health.  The result is what you see in the Kennel Club:  guns dogs that have never heard a shotgun, sheep dogs that have never seen a sheep, and terriers too big to go to ground on a fox.
  2. A nation of dog lovers?  The narrator says (at 0.42) that to visit a dog show is to see that Britain is a nation of dog lovers. You will notice, however, that the announcer does not advise visiting a Kennel Club-approved puppy farm to see the horrifying scenes there, nor do they advise visiting a local kill shelter, such as Battersea, where about a third of all healthy dogs are put down because no one wants them. A nation of dog lovers? Yes, there are a lot of dogs in Britain, but there is a lot of institutionalized cruelty as well, and the Kennel Club and its paid apologists have been part of that cruelty for 140 years, banging the gong for predictably diseased dogs bred in a closed registry system, saluting deformity and exaggeration at every turn, and always pushing back at those who say the nation can do better.
  3. One big, happy (entirely white) family.  Steve Dean, the new head of the Kennel Club, shows up to suggest (at 0.51) how friendly and fun everything is at a Kennel Club dog show.  This is the same Steve Dean who, when asked just ten days ago whether the Kennel Club would welcome as members everyone in the world of pedigree dogs, answered: ”It is not open to everybody as this carries risks: if you do not filter the applicants then any group of people can join and thus effectively change the entire organisation.” Right. Watch the film and see if there is anyone in it who would not look perfect in an Aryan Nations film.  Britain is a very diverse place, but the Kennel Club is not very diverse, and they do not see any problem with that, as their own self-promotion film makes clear.  A non-white face in a 27-minute Kennel Club film?  What an odd idea!  And yet the tin-ears at the Kennel Club seem shocked that anyone would note that while the world went from Bassets to Auschwitz in 50 years, the Kennel Club never left that stage, saluting closed gene pools at the front end while winking at sterilization and gas chambers at the back end, all the while keeping a firm eye on coat color and social class -- of people and dogs alike.
  4. Looking after canine welfare?  The narrator claims (at 1.00) that the Kennel Club has been looking after the welfare of pedigree dogs for almost 150 years. This is a naked lie. In fact the single greatest threat to the welfare of pedigree dogs has been the Kennel Club itself. The reason for this is that the Kennel Club has:
    ... a) Generally closed breed registries with less than 50 dogs;
    ... b) Required all dogs be bred within closed gene pools;
    ... c) Routinely saluted morphological exaggeration, and;
    . . d) Afforded zero points to health in the show ring.

    The result, today, is that breed after breed on the Kennel Club's roster is a genetic and structural wreck.  Canine insurance companies now charge higher premiums for Kennel Club dogs which are deemed to be less healthy than cross-breeds or mutts.  Can there be any more powerful indictment of what 150 years of Kennel Club stewardship has meant for pedigree dogs?
  5. The ethos of the Kennel Club is health? Steve Dean, the new head of the Kennel Club, is seen sprawling on the grass (at 1:10) while dressed in black pants, blazer jacket, tie, and penny loafers (mind the dog poop Mr. Dean!).  He tells us that "the whole ethos of the Kennel Club is the health and welfare of dogs, and that includes "all dogs, pedigree dogs, cross-bred dogs, mongrels."  This is, of course, complete nonsense.  To refresh, the Kennel Club is an organization that is focused on registering purebred dogs, it is an organization that is pushing people to buy only purebred dogs from registered breeders, and it affords ZERO points to the health of any dog in the show ring. This is an organization that registers thousands of puppy farm dogs a year, and which does nothing to promote adoption from shelters. In short, Steve Dean's statements here are as tortured and contrived as his squat in the grass.
  6. The Kennel Club runs Crufts, the most famous dog show in the world. Following the showing of Pedigree Dogs Exposed in 2008, the Kennel Club lost all of its major corporate sponsors for Crufts. Scrambling for any major sponsor, the Kennel Club accepted sponsorship from a discount furniture chain which required it to change Cruft's logo to include a sofa.  No, I am not making this up! Now, Crufts has lost that discount furniture store sponsor, and other major sponsors have yet to come forward. And why would they, when Crufts and the Kennel Club are more likely to be associated with canine misery and defect than quality?!
  7. The Kennel Club registers all dogs.  The narrator claims (at 1.32) that the Kennel Club registers "all dogs" but in fact that is a dramatic overstatement. The Kennel Club is focused on registering purebred dogs, and only those dogs whose owners want them registered, and will pay a fee. In fact, most dogs in the UK are not registered with the Kennel Club.
  8. The Kennel Club regulates 708 breed clubs. The narrator goes on to note (at 1.32) that the Kennel Club "regulates the 708 breed clubs." Are we to take it that this means the Kennel Club is in charge and can make the breed clubs do what it wants when that needs to be done?  Does this mean that if there is a problem with pedigree dog health, it's not the fault of the breed clubs, but the Kennel Club's hierarchy itself?  Is the Kennel Club finally going to stop hiding behind the skirts of breed club matrons and (supposed) legal impotence?  Time will tell!
  9. The Kennel Club helps to stamp out puppy farmers?  The narrator claims (at 1.45) that the Kennel Club works to stamp out puppy farms, but this is a lie. The Kennel Club has actively recruited puppy farmers and registered their product since the beginning, and it continues to do so to this day. The objection of the Kennel Club is not to puppy farms -- but to anyone that might be breeding a cross-bred (and therefore unregistered) "Cocker-Poo" or "Dorgi, as well as to anyone who might be breeding pedigree dogs that are not registered by the Kennel Club.
  10. The Kennel Club registers a quarter of a million puppies a year.  Steve Dean tells us (at 2.22) that the Kennel Club registers a quarter of a million puppies a year. Amazingly, however, the Kennel Club puts its brand on these dogs even as the organization manages to slip out from under all consumer regulation. How does that work? The Kennel Club licenses breeders, its creates and sanctifies breed standards, and it says it regulates all the breed clubs and is dedicated to canine health, and yet the Kennel Club accepts NO responsibility for defective, diseased and deformed dogs, and it offers NO guarantee about the health of any dog or puppy carrying its brand. Amazing! How is that possible? If a car company put its logo on a car, could it claim it had nothing do with the defective brakes that came from its supplier? How then, does the Kennel Club not fall within similar regulatory oversight since, according to its own statements, it controls all facets of pedigree dog breeding under its own registry?
  11. The Kennel Club is trying to 'control the loss of genetic diversity in dogs?'  We are told (at 2.40) that the Kennel Club is trying to "control the loss of genetic diversity in dogs." Really? What does that mean? Not what you think! In the Kennel Club, "controlling the loss of genetic diversity" means that you keep breeds separate and in a closed breeding pool. In fact, the entire rationale for the Kennel Club is not to promote genetic diversity, but to trap dog breeds in genetic bottles cut off from the rest of the canine gene pool. When the Kennel Club talks about "controlling the loss of genetic diversity" what they really mean is putting more dogs in more breed bottles!
  12. The Kennel Club is working to eliminate inherited diseases?  When the Kennel Club says it is "working to eliminate inherited disease," is does not mean that the Kennel Club is opening up its roles in order to increase genetic diversity and reduce the level of inbreeding.  It does not mean that the club is banning brachycephalic breeds with faces so pushed in they cannot breathe. It does not mean they are banning super tiny dogs whose brains cannot fit in their skulls, and it does not mean they are banning giant breeds that die of heart failure only a few years after they stop growing. What the Kennel Club means when it says it is "working to eliminate inherited diseases" is that it is looking for new health care tests so that already-too-small breed pools can be pared down even more. And even here, the solutions talked about are often complete nonsense. How do you get rid of mitral heart valve disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels when 85% of the dogs will die with that affliction? It cannot be done!  How do you get rid of brachycephalic breathing disorders and whelping problems in the English Bulldog when the breed standard requires smashed faces and huge heads?
  13. The Kennel Club is working to tighten regulations at dog shows?  We are told the Kennel Club is "working" to tighten regulations at dog shows. Really? Again, what does that mean?  All Kennel Club shows operate under the dictatorship of the Kennel Club. It is the Kennel Club that creates and legitimizes breed standards, which trains and writes the rules for dog show judges, and which sanctions and promotes the dog shows themselves. Every regulatory aspect of a dog show is under the Kennel Club's control, so there is no "working" to regulate a dog show; either the Kennel Club does it, or it allows the dysfunction, disease, deformity and defect that is on parade. In fact, the Kennel Club has winked at defect, deformity and disease at dog shows for more than 140 years.
  14. We must unite to fight "inherited diseases." Having just told us that the Kennel Club has complete control over pedigree dogs, and that it has always put canine health front and center, the announcer tells us (at 2.45) that the world of pedigree dogs must unite to fight inherited diseases. What?! There are widespread health problems in the world of pedigree dogs?  How did that happen if the Kennel Club has complete power and has been putting breed health first for nearly 150 years? Suddenly, the entire narrative comes crashing down, and it comes crashing down for a very good reason:  almost everything we have heard up to now has been a lie.
  15. "They're a working breed... or they came from a working breed." In the Kennel Club's self-promotion video, we are shown some dachshunds, and an owner tells us (at 3:20) that "They're a working breed... or they came from a working breed."  Right.  Came from a working breed.  The Kennel Club dachshund is not a working breed now. A working dachshund is called a "teckel" to differentiate it from the non-working joke paraded around on a string lead at a Kennel Club dog show. We are told "we do have a back problem" with dachshunds, but we are not told what that problem is.  Here's a hint:  it involves paralysis of the back legs, and the dog is either put down or put into a wheeled rack where it spends the rest of its life scooting around the living room. This small "problem" is fobbed off as being in "some lines" and is said to be a "conformation" problem. Not said is that the odd structure of the dachshund is in no way related to the work it does underground. Working terriers are found all over Britain, Europe, Canada, and the United States, and none have the stretched back or the history of spinal injury and rear leg paralysis we see with the dachshund.
  16. The Kennel Club has always taken the lead in inherited diseases. We are told (at 3.45) that "the Kennel Club has always taken the lead in addressing the problem of inherited diseases."  Heads up! A small word game is being played here. You see, the Kennel Club has always taken the lead in CREATING the closed gene pools that make inherited diseases so common in the world of dogs. And, to be clear, the Kennel Club continues to salute those closed registry gene pools. By saluting closed gene pools, and encouraging further reductions within them, the Kennel Club keeps the wheels of inherited disease spinning forward at an ever-increasing rate. The history is clear here, and the Kennel Club's own publication tells it. Back in 1897, when the issue of inherited disease sprang up in the world of the Scottish Deerhound, the response of the Kennel Club was not to rush in to outcross to improve breed health, but to rush in to close the registry to preserve breed purity. So YES, the Kennel Club has "always taken the lead in inherited diseases," but not in eliminating them, but in fostering them!
  17. The Kennel Club's weak stance on hips.  The announcer tells us (at 3.44) of the Kennel Club's scheme to get rid of hip dysplasia, which they tell us has been in place since 1965.  Not said, is that the scheme has not worked, and it has not worked because the Kennel Club does not require breeders who want to register Kennel Club puppies to follow it!  Dysplasia in Kennel Club dogs has not gotten better.
  18. Sequencing of the canine genome. The announcer prattles on  about the sequencing of the canine genome in 2004 (at 4.16), but fails to mention the obvious, which is that we do not need to sequence genomes to know how to breed healthier dogs. We know how to breed healthier dogs NOW, and it is not a closely held secret: 
    a) Get rid of breeds that are selected for defect and extreme exaggeration, and;
    b) Allow breeds to "fall upward" to type so that dogs are bred for real function rather than for a scrap of paper proclaiming breed purity. 

Will we get rid of all canine health problem by simply doing those two things alone? 

No, of course, not.  It would, however, be a simple, quick and immediate step forward.  

Remember:  right now Kennel Club dogs are NOT as healthy as cross breeds and mutts.  

That fact alone stands as an indictment of the Kennel Club's way of doing business.

Is this to say there is nothing good going on? 

No, that would not be true. 

The Kennel Club has suddenly discovered Coefficients of Inbreeding (COI), something that has been around since 1922, and it is providing a computer program to make it easier for breeders to calculate those equations.

The Kennel Club has banned very close incest breeding (sire to daughter, dam to son) which is the kind of thing that has been banned in humans since the days of the Old Testament.

The Kennel Club has named 14 breeds of particular concern -- a real step in the right direction, and one for which they should get some applause, despite the still-timid way that they are going about operationalizing it.

So YES, there are some good things happening, and YES, let's recognize that the Kennel Club is under some duress to "build forward" out of the wreckage of its past, even as it keeps the cash box full.

That said, let's be clear that NOT ONE of these recent changes occurred because of the Kennel Club's own initiative. 

Every single one of these recent changes has occurred because of the exposure and shame heaped on the Kennel Club by the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

The Kennel Club did not see the light until they felt the heat, and it has taken several concerted years of heat to get the modest change we see here. 

That's the real story, but it's the story the Kennel Club attempts to sweep under the rug with four minutes of bold-faced lies at the front end of this self-promotional film.

Sorry, but the era of lies and disinformation is over. Someone please tell Steve Dean and Caroline Kisko.

Now, do you want to see pictures from the Richmond dog show (the one featured in the film) taken by someone who was not a paid apologist for the Kennel Club?  Good news then!  Those are up over at Jemima Harrison's blog.  Yes, her pictures are more powerful than my text.   See for yourself!


Debra said...

Recently had an idiot tell me about a friend who is breeding *mini* border collies. Now there is no such thing. The person is breeding runts for lap dogs and such a thing in a border collie is an abomination. Border collies should be bred for workability and disposition, not for size or show ring. GAH!

Dave said...

Pat, you rip about an acre of hide off!
"The Colonel"