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A crisis of confidence?

The Kennel Club, Mayfair based, worth over £7m and just refurbished to the tune of £1.7million

The World of Dogs should be a microcosm of our society, yet we in dogs have little or no means of making representation to our governing body, we have no elected delegates, we are ruled by a self appointed minority, which is contrary to the constitution of our country and yet it is apathetically accepted by the silent majority. The name of that organisation is The Kennel Club.

Universal suffrage, the right of everyone to vote, was fully brought into being in Great Britain in 1928, some while later it was extended to the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, enshrines in it the right to vote and the right of representation. Article 21 (3) says:

‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures’.

(The Human Rights Act, 1998, incorporates the majority of the principles of the Universal Declaration, and assumes that this country’s institutions are wholly democratic)

That is how the central and local government of our country must operate, it also ethically applies to minor bodies within our democracy, such as The Kennel Club. Throughout the world, canine affairs are democratically governed, except here in the United Kingdom, where even canine societies are forbidden from joining any federation of associations, which is a ‘restrictive practice’ and a denial of the human right of ‘Freedom to Associate’, in addition to the democratic breach.

There is a decline in grass roots enthusiasm in our hobby, there are so many petty restrictions that a large number of canine societies have been disbanded, as their secretaries and committees have not wished to operate under the ‘jack boot’ of Clarges Street, that is the perception of the majority. The registration numbers of dogs in all groups have decreased for a second successive year, in 2001 by a total of 26,515, due no doubt to higher charges. Show entries at Crufts and elsewhere are on the downward curve, and the spiral of decline will continue due to the reducing number of dogs from which to breed. We have seen the first continental owned and based best in show winner, will this be the norm in coming years? If so what will be the result?

The entry fees at championship shows have escalated, but who is answerable to the fee paying customer, where are the accounts, where is money being squandered? Do these societies afford you membership of their societies? If they do not wish to fraternise with us do they deserve our support? If every society at which you exhibited your dogs welcomed your membership, then the entire world of dogs would be democratised in a matter of two or three years and enthusiasm would be regenerated. If they are undemocratic do they deserve your custom and loyalty? Our breed societies are another matter, they are democratically formed, or certainly they should be, we know there are exceptions. Remember that in the main it is the General Championship Show societies whose members comprise the K.C. General Committee. Those societies should welcome all exhibitors as members and those exhibitors could then exercise their vote locally, that would create a pyramid structure and there is the road to democracy - could it be The Kennel Club’s road to Damascus - albeit an enforced seeing of the ‘light’.

Currently the 750 members of The Kennel Club (it is understood there is soon to be a token increase) pay a mere £150 per annum membership, but other London Clubs with similar dining and accommodation facilities demand an annual membership of £2,000 to £10,000 in the west end. It is Joe Bloggs and Jack Russell who are subsidising the K.C. membership subscriptions. Let the 750 retain their London club and let those individuals pay for it themselves. However, canine matters should be decided by all who take part in the pastime.
Let us have a Kennel Club centrally based in the midlands, which operates for the good of those in dogdom in general, not for the benefit of a minority in particular.

This year’s BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lectures, of which there is a series of five, are on the subject of “A Question of Trust” - it could well be termed “A Question of Integrity”, an ingredient I was once told was the cornerstone of The Kennel Club, but such a stone must be set on the level. The introduction to the lecture invitation says:

“ We say we no longer trust our public services, institutions or the people who run them. (Does this apply to The Kennel Club, an undemocratic institution? - read on) The professionals we have to rely on - politicians, doctors, scientists, businessmen and many others - are treated with suspicion. Their word is doubted, their motives questioned.

Whether real or perceived, this crisis of trust has a debilitating impact on society and democracy. Can trust be restored by making people and institutions more accountable? Or do complex systems of accountability and control themselves damage trust..... This year’s Reith Lectures present the philosopher’s view of trust and deception, and ask whether and how trust can be restored in a modern democracy. “

National importance

The matter is considered of national importance, not merely of concern in the world of dogs. One of the lectures, on ‘A Question of Trust’, is to be given by Baroness O’Neill, the principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, appropriately at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, but the matter is an elementary one, not just for high flying Cambridge dons. I am not a high flyer, but I am a democrat and I received a lecture invitation from the BBC yesterday, which prompted me to write this missive. It will be remembered, amongst other things, that Merseyside is the place where Militant Tendency met its end and where extremism of any type is not welcome amongst the fair minded, who form the majority; I had the privilege of playing an independent part in those events.

The Kennel Club is a private member’s club, undemocratic in that it seeks to control others, do we in consequence treat it with suspicion? Should not their anti-democratic attitude and the feelings of canine grass roots majority be brought to the attention of the FCI? The democratic principle is a fundamental right and those controlling UK dogdom choose not to recognise it, this is a manifestation of an underlying lack of fairness, a necessary requirement for those who aspire to govern.

The Kennel Club and General Championship societies as a matter of urgency need democratising, (we must recognise that some general societies are fairly operated and accountable to their members, both the Birmingham National Championship Show and the Southern Counties Championship Show have published financial report, the former of course is now a limited liability company and that is another consideration) otherwise the question will be asked in the imminent future, do we have confidence in those individuals who currently operate canine affairs?

The answer presently is that there is a ‘Crisis of Confidence’ and this is being reflected in a variety of ways to the detriment of dogdom, which is presently in demise and in need of a fresh approach based on absolute integrity. The Kennel Club has been seriously criticised by Mr Justice Cook in the Colgan Case in the High Court action, which resulted in considerable costs being awarded against The Kennel Club, which is still to fully consider the ramifications of the Human Rights Act and there will undoubtedly be further criticism levelled at them, should there be future litigation. On those issues they should take legal advice, which they have obviously avoided to date.

Democracy is not a luxury, it is a fundamental necessity, but it must be correctly administered; we should all be united in the ultimate aim of total and genuine fairness in the canine world.

We all wish Dr Malcolm Willis success in his re-admittance as a member to The Kennel Club, for more can be done from within, than can be done from without - possibly.

The Reith Lectures 2002 can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 8 pm on each Wednesday, in April, 2002, - there is a whole world outside of ‘dogs’, where standards are set for all society.