Crufts will not be televised by the BBC

Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals
This is the text of a letter to the editor of The Guardian in response to their report about the BBC not broadcasting Crufts.  It could well have been submitted to all the nationals. of course but I thought The Guardian was the most likely to publish it although they never did.
Dear Sir,
As the publisher of the UK’s oldest specialist canine publication, Our Dogs, and Studies Coordinator of the leading pet welfare educational organisation, the Animal Care College, I hope I can make a contribution to the debate concerning your article reporting on the decision of the Kennel Club not to cooperate with the BBC following the broadcasters request that some breeds should be withdrawn from competition at Crufts on the grounds that they are ‘at risk’.
The BBC appear to be taking this stance on ‘evidence’ provided in the misleading and distorted programme they broadcast last August, Pedigree Dogs Exposed.  A small cabal of vets and charities colluded with the programme maker, Jemima Harrison, to make outrageous claims about the Kennel Club, pedigree dogs and dog breeders using techniques of which Goebbles himself would have been proud.   The rest of the media, understandably but erroneously, did not see fit to question the selective statistics, slanted video clips and carefully edited interviews – why let the facts get in the way of a good story – and the result has been an entirely unnecessary furore leading to the present impasse.

When this programme was aired I made a series of short talks for You Tube and placed the tests on my web log ( and, to try and lay out sensible and realistic approaches to the fundamental questions the programme posed – for there were important kernels of truth among the dross.  The original talk has had almost 15,000 viewings and, overwhelmingly, the comments made support and reflect the views I expressed.

However, we have to start from here.  The fuss has brought the world of dogs and dog ownership (and the Kennel Club too) to a Rubicon which, if crossed, could lead to a complete and damaging reassessment of the role of dogs in society.  It could effect not only the lives of the many millions of families and enthusiasts who enjoy the peerless companionship that dogs offer, but those who are actively involved in working with dogs professionally,from veterinary surgeons to groomers, those who are disabled who rely on dogs as working partners as well as the thousands of service military, police and security dogs and their handlers.

I accept that a small proportion of breeds suffer from genetic defects and that these are often the result of selective breeding, but your readers should be reassured that the vast majority of pedigree dogs in the UK are fit and healthy.  What is more, despite the programme’s assertions, the Kennel Club in Britain in association with the Animal Health Trust and others, is aware of those problems, has been working towards solving them for many years and has made more progress in eliminating a wider range of hereditary defects in dogs than any other country.  As an International judge of dogs dedicated to soundness both in my judging and in my educational role, I can confirm that the quality of pedigree dogs in the UK is, overall, higher than anywhere else the world.

What should the Kennel Club do?

Crufts, which is not just about pedigree dogs or show dogs, is a reflection of the relationship millions of people have with their pets and, like Ascot, Henley and Wimbledon, is part of the cultural fabric of this country and recognised world wide.  It must therefore absolutely deserves a place on the airwaves as a featured event rather than just another news story.  It would be tragic if Sky or another broadcaster was influenced by the controversy surrounding this particular issue and was therefore not prepared to consider featuring the event.  The Kennel Club must make every effort to ensure this coverage is maintained – not in its own interest but in the interests of dog owners both here and around the world, all of whom may be prevented from enjoying this spectacular and exciting occasion as a result of the BBC’s unfortunate and misguided attempt (supported by well meaning but short sighted lobby groups) to take what it probably believes is the moral high ground.

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