507A Letter to Telegraph re-Crufts 2008

by   David Hancock

At Crufts time, and with the shameless connivance of the BBC, the public is at the receiving end of totally uncritical publicity for the pedigree dog industry, six hours of it. Any criticism of pedigree dog breeding is pooh-poohed, played down, dismissed as unworthy. No dissenting voice is given air; the presenters of the TV coverage of Crufts, strangely regarded as experts, all slavishly justify their fees. KC spokespersons sit in BBC radio programmes too, casually dismissing quite legitimate and honestly-intentioned critics of the excesses permitted in pedigree dog breeding. [One such spokesperson brazenly discusses compassionate dog-care when her own father was punished by the KC, her employer, for ill-treating a puppy in a show ring.] Every year, pedigree dog breeders appear in the courts for ill-treating dogs in their care; are they beyond criticism'?

The Kennel Club seems to be setting itself up as 'the Voice of Dogs' , with no mandate or the equipment to do so. In BBC radio studios during Crufts, their spokesperson will defend the club's opposition to European legislation which seeks to stop harmful exaggerations in pedigree dogs. So the 20 other countries which have all signed up are all mistaken, are they'? Their veterinary experts must be dismissed, like any criticism of Crufts. The fact that most breeds named in this legislation are British causes no national shame just continued blind opposition. For the KC to claim that minor alterations to the word-picture for each breed will suffice is ludicrous; the problems arose because of the wording of breed standards.

But humility doesn't come easily to the KC; they are now trying to lead in amending Dangerous Dog legislation, despite the fact that the discredited Act was framed on advice provided by them. It was breed-specific because they advised that it should be. There is such danger in a Piccadilly-based private club like the KC getting involved with bodies opposing the DDA. They are associating what is essentially a show-dog organisation with action by the state to curb criminal activity, the use of dogs for fighting. Wholly admirable organisations like Justice For Dogs and the Fury Fighting Fund know the undesirable elements infilitrating the anti-DDA field for nefarious reasons. The KC staff lack this inside knowledge and one day could be seriously embarrassed by becoming involved. They got it wrong last time and they are sitting at the same table. The pedigree dog world will not thank them when their club is stained. Why try to be something you aren't'? There are limits to the scope of every organisation.

Is it wise for the KC to pose as the national body representing all dogs'? In doing so they become unwitting apologists for every canine excess exposed in the public domain. What mandate do they have to adopt this role? What experience do their staff possess which enables them to speak for several million mongrels'? What track record in dog welfare have they gained recently to justify their being consulted in the drafting of dog-welfare legislation? Do the thousands of pedigree dog breeders who fund the KC each year actually want their fees spent on the far wider mandate which the KC has now assumed? Were they ever asked?

 During the 2007 show's TV coverage, the panel of experts managed to describe a mountain dog with noticeably flat feet and straight stifles as 'impressive', a gun dog with the dreaded Hackney front action as 'an excellent working type', a sporting terrier exhibit with no forward extension as 'a great mover' and praised a long back in one earthdog breed and a short back in another, as desirable, for the same function. Do these so- called experts ever read the critiques of the Crufts judges, which contain hard-hitting comments on the poor quality of some exhibits? Saccharine sycophancy contributes little to the improvement of dogs. Did the studio experts really not see the short-tailed Shelties, the cow-hocked Cavaliers, the shelly Siberian Huskies, the Fox Terriers with upright shoulders, the Chows with ultra-straight stifles, the appallingly unsound Mastiffs and the short-muzzled Bullmastiffs defying their own breed standard? Is Crufts of any benefit to dogs at all?


Quotes from Crufts Judqes : 2007 Show


Airedales: "Movement is poor and in some cases appalling."

Basset Griffon Vendeen Grand: "There was a total absence of drive or forceful movement, this is not acceptable..."

Dobermann bitches: "Rear movement was generally a disaster."

Norwich Terriers: "I was so disappointed and depressed at the overall appearance, quality and performance of many dogs."

Shih Tzus: "Construction and movement have lost out to fantastic coats...it seems to be all flash and dash..."

Bullmastiff: "My main concern was mouths, which in some instances were dreadful."

Sealyham Terriers: "I was however just a little disappointed with the general standard of the Sealyhams..."

Irish Wolfhound: "Unfortunately the movement of the hounds coming towards and (particularly) going away, was poor in a large proportion of the entry."

Salukis: "I wondered where the breed is heading.. ."

BSD (Tervuerens): "Sadly I feel that, apart from a handful of exceptional dogs and bitches, this variety is in the doldrums."

Rottweilers: "We are definitely losing head type."

Swedish Vallhunds: "Poor fronts and weak hocks and lack of hind angulation could be seen in many classes."

English Setters: "Many have poor feet, often flat and splayed."

Rough Collies: "My main disappointment was the number of really pretty bitches who, standing, looked fabulous, but failed on the move."

Miniature Schnauzers: "...the worst fault, and easily rectified, was the total lack of fitness and muscletone on so many of the exhibits.. ."

Manchester Terriers: "Movement, however, was not good..."

Old English Sheepdogs: "It is five and a half years since I last judged the breed and sadly there has been no significant improvements."

Bearded Collie: "I found quite a few in the lower classes in poor body and muscular condition.. ."