Laughing at us….
I’ve been struggling to write this blog post for quite a while as I’ve been battling to sort out the many conflicts I have going round in my head and how best to explain the half muddle of my thoughts. But, I’ve been urged to get some ideas down by a friend in an effort to clarify my thinking.
When it comes to puppy breeding, there are many different groups and organisations putting great efforts into ending the bad breeding practices that sadly characterise what is a lucrative, commercial industry. Some of the individuals have been doing this work for a very long time; the work is hard, emotionally demanding and largely unrecognised by the majority of the public. Here lies one of those pesky muddling thoughts that creep into my thinking – public recognition. Is it needed in order for people to remain motivated to carry on doing what they do? For some individuals it almost certainly is, for without it, they can easily feel disheartened, or overlooked, disgruntled campaigners are found in every field. For others, they don’t wish their efforts to be widely acknowledged, they shy away from publicity and they keep doing what they do. Everyone is different and everyone has, or purports to have the ending of puppy farming and bad breeding as their priority.
It shouldn’t be about individuals, or particular organisations or bodies. Everyone’s efforts, large, small, private, public, are valuable and needed. So I feel disappointed when I come across the in-fighting and griping that goes on at times and amongst some who together, could make a huge impact on bringing about the end of puppy farming.And that’s the point. The dogs aren’t going to care who has brought about the ending of the miserable puppy farming business, and neither will I
Last week, Crufts was all over social media and TV, I loved seeing much of it, and felt rather uncomfortable with parts of it too. It is another of those things that stirs confusion in my thoughts. I enjoyed the rescue stories, the platform Crufts gives to so many worthy rescue organisations is terrific, the “Friends for Life” stories were all deeply moving. I loved to see the miniature schnauzers and thankfully, the breed is not one that has suffered health problems due to the breed standards that competitors at Crufts must meet. Unlike some of the other breeds. And here is another of those awkward thoughts I can’t quite sort out: a fair assumption is that everyone at Crufts loves dogs, but when a breed standard means a dog experiences health problems, how can this be overlooked by those dog lovers? I don’t have any easy answers to my questions but I am doing my best to understand, not necessarily agree with, as many different perspectives and viewpoints from people who know better than me. Then, I hope that I can understand it without being blinded by any half-cocked prejudice I may be afflicted by.
During the TV coverage I followed the official RSPCA twitter feed which provided, how shall I say, an alternative commentary on some of the finalists in each group. It would be hard for me to argue that some of what they said wasn’t valid: health concerns do continue to be on show in some breeds being applauded because they met the KC breed standard, the very standard that causes those health concerns. But as is the way with tweets of only 140 characters, nuanced the RSPCA commentary was not. It was clear that the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, who run Crufts, although both purporting to put dog welfare first, aren’t speaking the same language on dog welfare.
When it comes to puppy farming, there was a bit of a mention on the TV coverage of Crufts – not enough for my liking but a whole programme wouldn’t be enough for me. I can talk all day on the topic but know Crufts nor its viewers would appreciate this. At the time, the twitter feed for the RSPCA flagged its own efforts at combating bad breeders and puppy farmers including its Puppy Contract. This is endorsed by an impressive list of organisations and welfare bodies:
- The Advisory Council was established to provide independent and informed expert advice on the welfare issues of dog breeding. Its remit embraces all types of dogs and its focus includes problems arising from negligent large or small scale breeding as well as issues arising from inbreeding and selection for extremes of conformation.
- The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is the national representative body for the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom.
- The Companion Animal Welfare Council is a national expert body that
offersindependent advice on companion animal (pet) welfare to Governments and other organisations.
- Dogs Trust is the UK’s leading dog welfare charity. Dogs Trust has a non-destruction policy, and will never put a healthy dog to sleep.
- PDSA, provides free veterinary care to the sick and injured pets of people in need and promotes responsible pet ownership. The charity operates through a UK-wide network of 50 PetAid hospitals and nearly 380 PetAid practices. Last year, PDSA PetAid hospitals provided more than 2.3 million free treatments and sold more than 360,000 preventive treatments, such as vaccinations.
- The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare works internationally to improve animals’ lives by promoting and supporting developments in the science that underpins advances in animal welfare.
So my reasonable assumption has to be that it must be worthwhile if all these respected bodies endorse it; and of course we would expect nothing less from the RSPCA than a valuable effort in this area.
But, and it is a growing, nagging BUT for me, the RSPCA is frequently criticised by others involved in the campaign against puppy farming for not doing enough. Indeed in the course of writing my book, I did lots of research into their role, their actions and the efforts they make to combat this growing problem. None of my research made it into the book. I was initially astounded by some of the criticisms levelled by many people; I don’t instinctively wish to criticise anyone working for the welfare of animals and battling away to end puppy farming. But many of the criticisms I continue to come across do stand up to scrutiny and my disappointment with the RSPCA in this particular area won’t shift. I feel frustrated that not enough is done by an organisation that the public expect to be acting robustly in this field.
My conclusions as they currently are, and they are far from permanent I am sure, as I continue to wrestle with the mass of information, research, reports and reading that I am ploughing through so I can clear my thinking, is that too many issues here are polarised. Too many people who do have the same aim, which is after all, a straightforward one – the ending of bad breeding and puppy farming – don’t work together, for I am sure many reasons that they can all individually justify. But whilst it may be justifiable to some, all this leads to, is that the puppy farmers and unscrupulous, laugh at the opposition. Whilst the campaigners and the caring argue amongst themselves, refuse to talk to one another, or work cooperatively, the breeders continue to inflict their brand of misery on the dogs, to make their money out of this business. They conquer by division.
The dogs don’t care who does what, they just need those who can bring about changes, to do so.
That is what I will continue to play my part in bringing about. I am essentially an optimist and will do my best to promote what I can and resist being pointlessly negative about the things I loathe, or have reservations about. I will ignore any factionalism and sniping, I will keep my eye on the end goal – the end of puppy farming. The dogs need this.