It’s the Politics Of The Here And Now
Emotions run high when it comes to campaigning against puppy farming and the breeding and sale of puppies. Many who devote their lives to ending an industry that’s soaked in suffering do so with passion and full-on commitment. When the extent of suffering that’s inherent in the puppy trade is really understood, it’s impossible to only sort-of-care about the issue. And with caring comes emotion, and as we know, emotions cloud judgement. But for campaigning to be effective, it’s facts that need to be pushed above the emotions and be assessed with clear heads and open minds. Logic and reason are what legislators pay attention to, yelling achieves nothing meaningful.
When the UK Government announced in February their plans to tighten up the laws on the breeding and sale of puppies it was clear that they’d decided what was always on the cards – to introduce a broader licensing system. Arguments in support of this have been put forward by the RSPCA and other big animal welfare organisations, I wrote last year on how consensus among them was a positive step.
The government are now moving ahead with their proposals and drawing up details of how the new licensing system will work and be enforced, getting input from the RSPCA and other charities. I hope what results is an effective system. It won’t be perfect I know that. For one thing the government haven’t accepted the recommendation from many that everyone breeding a litter should come under a licensing regime. Loopholes will exist and be exploited. But, we must hope the organisations are savvy enough to identify and tell the government about as many as possible and the government listens and closes them off.
While government plans are being worked on to achieve an improved and enforceable system for the breeding and sale of puppies, heated debates continue on social media about how best to control the trade and help end the suffering of dogs. Those who see the banning of third party sales as the best way forward are angry at the decision of the government to go down the route of licensing. Although right now that anger is not directed at the legislators and decision-makers but at the animal welfare organisations which see the issues differently.
I understand anger when it comes to this subject – I’m frequently angry at the harm done to dogs by those profiteering from the puppy trade – but I also want to understand the reasoning of the organisations. It takes some effort to read everything and most people won’t read past a headline, or snappy tweet – it’s the bane of today’s information age. Headlines are deceptive, written to grab attention, not put across the mundane fact that it’s politicians who make decisions and who should catch the flak for those that are unpopular.
I urge anyone who is engaged in this topic to at least read this from the Blue Cross and this from the Dogs Trust, put out yesterday to explain why they don’t see a ban on third party sales as the best way forward at the time being. I may not agree with every argument but I do agree on much.
I also make a plea to avoid falling into the toxic If You’re Not With Us, You’re Against Us Trap and make your own decisions on what you agree or disagree with and respect any differences you find yourself faced with. And, just in case anyone doubts where I stand, I certainly do want a ban on all puppies being sold away from their mothers and have never wavered from that. But, as that will require a whole change in infrastructure and miraculous change of political will, for now I’m following the words of the American activist Rebecca Solnit,
… the only certainty is doing what feels right at the right time and in the right place – a politics that doesn’t wait but acts in the moment, not to create something in the future but to build in the present, it’s the politics of the here and now.
It’s worth noting that a ban on puppies being sold in traditional retail outlets, shops as we know them, could be brought in by every local council tomorrow without any need for further legislation. The power already lies with local councils to stop puppies being sold in shops in their areas. Exerting pressure at the local level is a strategy that’s perhaps not being given enough attention in the national narrative.
Finally, emotions are contagious. Every psychologist will tell you that when we’re around people who begin to start yelling, or panicking, it’s highly likely we’ll join in. But, I find it’s usually best to step back and look at what’s really happening and try and understand it. Heated blame throwing is never helpful, especially when it lands in the laps of the wrong people.