17 WHO GUARDS THE GUARDIAN
WHO GUARDS THE GUARDIAN?
In several KC reports in the first decade of the 21st century, all critics of pedigree dog breeding were collectively termed 'anti-pedigree dog'. I am a stern critic of some aspects of pedigree dog breeding but find this new label hard to wear. For the last thirty years or so, alarmed by the unsoundness of many breeds of purebred dog, both genetically and anatomically, I have, with others, campaigned for more responsible breeders and for better systems to monitor the irresponsible ones. I have also repeatedly expressed concern for the loss of true type in many of our long-established native breeds. I don't believe you can do this without having considerable affection for the breeds concerned. What I am very anti is the failure of those in authority to act when they have the resources to do so.
Before becoming all things dog the KC hierarchy would be better advised by studying the reports of judges, approved by them, at Crufts in recent years. The KC boasts that here you find the best of the very best; what did their appointed judges report? Here are worrying judgements from Crufts 2014: English Setters - "The breed has changed in both type and conformation since I first began in the breed 40 years ago and I was disappointed to find several incorrect bites and straight shoulders, especially in the younger classes..." Whippets - "I was however very concerned by the heaviness of bone, and size and substance of some of the exhibits. This is not correct for a Whippet." As a recent Sussex Spaniels' Crufts judge put it: "How do some exhibits get past judges?" If Crufts is reckoned to be the place to find excellence, the judges seem to have difficulty in doing so, as these critiques demonstrate: Crufts 2005, Flatcoats - "...bad mouths and poor construction were only too evident..." Crufts 2006, Labrador dogs - "I was appalled at what some people had qualified..." In other words, there were dogs at Crufts without quality. After the 2007 show, judges in five gundog breeds reported poor movement. No doubt such exhibits are to be bred from and their faults passed on. Before expanding their activities, the KC must improve their existing regime.
It is lazy thinking to argue that sportsmen know where to get a good gundog, so what's the problem. Our famous gundog breeds deserve the loyal support of knowledgeable dogmen and should not be abandoned to show ring incompetents. Of course there are really good British gundog breeders, quite capable of producing outstanding dogs. But what about the mainstream system for perpetuating the gundog breeds, our native gundog breeds especially? I saw better Flatcoats in Finland a few years ago than those at the Bath show. But their breeding system and judging method is so superior to ours; it clearly produces better dogs. And so we muddle on, with the KC boasting about 'the best of the very best' being on parade at Crufts, despite what their own judges are saying. Perhaps every gundog breed needs to mirror the work of the Working Clumber people, the satisfaction of seeing a working anatomy restored in so many breeds would surely delight the heart of any true gundog devotee. True type arose from function.
Those show ring judges who write honest informed hard-hitting critiques after their appointment can contribute a great deal to a breed's development. But in doing so, are they becoming, in the KC's eyes 'anti-pedigree dog'; surely not. The harm is done, not by their words but by no action being taken to benefit from them. Who oversees each breed? Is it the Breed Clubs? Is it the Breed Council? Is it the KC? Breed Clubs generally carry out the wishes of their members; that's not always to the benefit of the breed. Breed Councils have no executive power; shouldn't they?
There is just no format for the improvement of a breed, no mechanism for taking on board constructive criticism and then acting for the benefit of the dogs. If any body seeks power, it must be prepared to assume responsibility. The critics of the pedigree dog industry may in the end prove to be its best friend.
Duty of Care