Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BBC Considers Cutting Crufts Coverage

At Crufts.

The Times of London reports that the BBC, which has had exclusive broadcasting rights to broadcast the Crufts dog show for more than 40 years, is reviewing its coverage in light of a programme (Pedigree Dogs Exposed!) that it had commissioned on canine health which shows that the Kennel Club's program of closed registries and beauty-show conformation standards has resulted in a high incidence of inherited genetic disease which have left many pedigree dog in misery.

The Times reports that that "the BBC fears it will not be able to defend its coverage of Crufts after the showing."

Three quarters of Britain’s seven million dogs are pedigree and it is estimated that veterinary bills now amount to £10 million a week to cover what the documentary makers, backed up by evidence from the RSPCA and others, claim are increasing cases of ill health.

The programme showed a prize-winning Cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition that occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.
Veterinary neurologist Clare Rusbridge says in the film: “The cavalier’s brain is like a size 10 foot shoved into a size 6 shoe – it doesn’t fit.”

It also showed boxers suffering from epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs who were unable to mate or give birth unassisted.

Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London, told the BBC: “People are carrying out breeding which would be first of all entirely illegal in humans and secondly is absolutely insane from the point of view of the health of the animals. In some breeds they are paying a terrible, terrible price in genetic disease.”

Selective, or line breeding, is commonplace among pedigree dogs and the Kennel Club has registered dogs bred from brother-to-sister and mother-to-son matings.
The RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser, Mark Evans, told the BBC: “The show world is about an obsession, about beauty, and there is a ridiculous concept that that is how we should judge dogs.

“It takes no account of temperament or fitness for purpose potentially as a pet animal, and that to me makes no sense at all. It is a parade of mutants; a freakish beauty pageant.”

Dog owners wait to compete at Crufts.


YesBiscuit! said...

I am impressed with how much controversy this program has already caused - and it hasn't even aired yet! Some people are already condemning it as junk science and biased journalism but considering no one has actually seen it yet, I guess we'll have to wait. I wish it was going to be on in the US.

PBurns said...

The Kennel Club is scared of science, and it's scared of video tape, and it' scared of its own history which is based on the eugenics theories of Francis Galton (see the search engine on this blog for more on that).

The Kennel Club does not want the degree of genetic illness documented, nor does it want anyone to look at their "cure" for the problem, which is whittling down an already too-narrow genetic base even more.

Ronnie Irving, the head of The Kennel Club, says he does not want scientists telling him about dogs! So you see, he has conceded that it is true science that is on the opposite side of the tiller. Which I suppose he pretty much has to. After all, this is science that has been peer-reviewerd in journals like *Genetics", even if it has not beem "peer reviewed" by anonymous backyard breeders on canine list-servs. Give Ronnie Irving his due: he is at least man enough to admit that Kennel Club breeders are opposed to science. Which is fine. They can do what they want. But let's not let them pee on our leg and tell us it's raining, eh?

And of course the Kennel Club does not want science to tell us anything! What has science ever gotten us? No, it's best to stick with the Kennel Club's romantic histories and the bloated egos of rosette chasers. Please ignore the statistics. Who needs to talk about sick dogs (much less see them!) when we still have so many puppies to sell?

On the upside, we are learning from our British friends about how to get this thing changed. What we now know is that the BBC's patronage of Crufts is a serious money-maker for The Kennel Club. No doubt television is also a serious money-maker for The American Kennel Club. Clearly, if we want to change the way things are done in the world of dogs, then television is a big pressure point that needs to be pushed.

Perhaps the low-cost place to start is by taking a Kennel Club dog show video and adding a new announcer track to it: "Here comes the German Shepherd, noted for hip dysplasia exacerbated by a changing standard that has embraced grotesquely sloping rear hindquarters. Studies show this is a dog that is likely to die far younger, and cost far more in veterinary bills, than a mongrel. . . . And here comes the Bernese Mountain dog. Under that beautiful gentle exterior is a cancer bomb on four legs. An ice cube actually has a better chance in Hell that owners of these dogs do of avoiding the high cost of canine cancer treatment which only rarely work. ... And here comes the Yorie, a dog with serious teeth problems as their mouths are too small to fit what God intended. In addition, the Yorkie suffers from ... " And it would go on and on, in that beautiful "never a care in the world" voice that we hear at from dog show announcers. But instead of romance, for once we would be hearing the truth.


Pai said...

A complete rehaul of the system can only help the breeds we love. Health needs to be just as important as conformation -- for too long it's been all about conforming to an insane visual standard, and not realistic goals for healthy animals. I think it's not too late to save/protect many current breeds from falling into oblivion, if people just get real about it.

Chinese Cresteds (despite the popularity of holding them up as examples of 'freaks') are among the healthiest toy breed out there, aside from having very little hair. They were only just created in the '50s, from crossing several toy breeds with hairless dogs. Their gene pools aren't completely destroyed yet. But that will change quickly under the way things are now, and I hate to think of it. I would think anyone else who loves a particular breed would be willing to do what it takes to save them.

I can't understand why so many 'Dog Fanciers' would rather the animals they profess to love should suffer and die rather than let them be 'tainted' by outcrossed genes that will SAVE them. People baffle me.

Anonymous said...

The BBC Pedigree Dogs Exposed is up on YouTube for those that couldn't view it last night.