We have it bad but are we alone?
For anyone involved in animal welfare matters, the scale of suffering that animals endure can be mightily upsetting. Looking at UK puppy farming alone, the number of dogs that are exploited, abused, neglected and worse is unimaginable. I live with just two of them, who only just survived, and for me, pondering on their past leads me into a state of misery, let alone if I allow myself to think about all the many thousands they left behind. Upset doesn’t cut it for what I feel in those dark moments. So I really don’t ponder. I get active, I network, research and talk to others around the world – oh, the marvels of social media in a world that often seems far from marvellous.
The puppy business is a thriving global concern. It has a simple, universally attractive business model: one based on keeping down costs (e.g. care, food, comfort, company) while selling the product (aka puppies) quickly. It fits well into a society which often puts convenience over quality and sees puppies like all other quick-buy consumer goods. Having hard-to-shift stock is not good, so prices might be cheap. But not always, not if a particularly desirable product is identified – think Chihuahuas, oodles and poos of all sorts, Frenchies, pugs, etc, etc right now.
By the way, I dislike talking about dogs in terms of trade and commerce – I wrote the words above with my fingers crossed, sending a deep apology into the ether to dogs around the world – but this is the reality for what drives much of puppy breeding today. Commerce.
International commerce to be precise. There’s big, easy money to be made from puppies today and it’s never been easier for dealers, traders and farmers to plough a rich furrow and make a killing. Literally in some cases. Addressing the international nature of the puppy breeding business is vital if the industry is to be brought to an end. One that’s supported both tacitly and explicitly by governments around the world, even if their electorates don’t know it, or choose not to believe it.
From all the research I do, I’m convinced that once the first government does what campaigners are demanding and brings in tough, uncompromising legislation that bans the factory farming of dogs there will eventually be a domino effect on governments in other countries.
If we look at Europe alone, there have been many news stories recently in the UK illustrating national problems on a shocking scale, compounded by imports of puppies from terrible breeding places, whether from Ireland, or Eastern Europe. This miserable cycle of mass confinement, breeding, transporting and selling of puppies is going on daily in most countries in Europe.
I’ve long followed and supported the work of the Australian campaign group Oscar’s Law whose founder Debra Tranter has been campaigning for two decades to end puppy farming. Talking regularly with her, shows me what a massive task we all face, in whatever country we are located. In Australia, while it’s heartening to see individual states starting to address the issues, thousands of dogs are flown around the country to be sold miles away from where they are bred. The problem moves around. It’s only by taking a federal approach that things will get better.
While campaigners rightly focus on local problems – they’re massive enough in themselves – I’m a strong advocate for joining our voices globally. Social media is a great asset to activists everywhere as it makes it a lot harder for the worldwide industry to hide its seedy secrets. From the US, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, most European countries, all these governments are enabling an industry to thrive; one which many ordinary people, voters, consider abhorrent. We have to join and raise our voices and make ourselves heard amongst the legislators.
But more than this, we have to redouble efforts to get those who are providing the market to be aware of what they’re complicit in. It’s the puppy buying public in all these countries that’s keeping business booming. As campaigners we need to be more strident in how we get the message across. Using all and every media we can to reach into not only the hearts, but the purchasing minds of the masses who are buying.
This is why I’ve been excited for months about the release of the American film, Dog By Dog which saw its first public screenings this past week. It’s why I’ve been delighted that Pup Aid founder, Marc Abraham shared my enthusiasm for it, got on board and will help to bring it to a UK audience in future. I’ve seen the complete film and while it’s US specific in certain aspects, the similarities between what goes on in the US puppy mill industry and what’s happening in Australia, South Africa, Canada, the UK and beyond are inescapable.
Educating people, showing them through all possible outlets that puppy farming exists on a huge scale is vital for pressure on governments to build to a point where it cannot be ignored. It’s starting, and films like Dog By Dog are contributing greatly. In a recent interview Executive Producer, Chris Ksoll, nails the problem facing all of us, in whatever country we are:
“It all comes down to money. Large-scale dog breeders do not have the political muscle to influence state and federal politicians” She goes on to say that in the US “the AKC and large agriculture corporations are funding the opposition to any meaningful legislation or enforcement of laws to protect these breeding dogs”. Her commitment in getting the film made and out there, will hopefully add some much needed muscle to campaigners.
Similar malignant forces to those in the US, exist in every country that’s mass breeding dogs. Names and agencies might be different, national variations exist, but the essential issue is the exact same: money talks with an all-powerful, all-controlling, bullying voice.
Karen Doonan, co-producer on Dog By Dog has always had the insight that by bringing the global nature of the industry to the forefront this is the way that meaningful change will happen. During the research for my new book due out in September, Saving One More, we batted around many of these issues in our numerous communications. In a recent online discussion she wrote…
“Seeing as I live in the United States, question is, why would I even care about the campaign in the UK? It doesn’t affect me personally right? WRONG! The business of factory farming of dogs -domesticated, sentient beings, living within our families – means they’re being exploited all over the world for greed. Despite cultural and socioeconomic differences, to name just a few, this industry touches us all equally. Whether you call them puppy mills in the US, puppy farms in the UK or puppy factories in Australia, it all boils down to one common factor: money. We need one government to stand up and say enough is enough and to encourage their neighbours to join suit”.
Dog By Dog is out now in the public domain and I look forward to watching its impact ripple into the dark and grimy corners it needs to in order for real change to happen. Australia will join this swelling international force for change that’s being dramatically helped by the use of effective documentaries when the Oscar’s Law backed film, Dogs is made and released (the short trailer is powerful stuff and worth watching). People watch films, it’s a powerful medium that puppy farmers and politicians will find hard to hide from.
I, like others, recognise that if just one country can do the right thing, bring in progressive legislation that outlaws the kind of puppy breeding practices that are condemning millions of dogs worldwide to lives beyond our darkest imaginings of misery, then the domino effect will be set in motion and a sense of decency and respect will return to how we treat our most faithful companions.