Will we be conservative to the end?
How do you see things? How often are your eyebrows to be found rocketing towards the hairline as something is listened to on the radio? Has it been longer than 48 hours since you blinked over something read in the newspaper? Are you fast coming to the conclusion that seemingly a fair bulk of the population don’t view things quite how you do?
Welcome to established Dogdom or maybe that should be Togdom as both describe a group of people with basically the same view and beliefs on life. The Tog group, unlike the Dog group though, aren’t afraid to mobilise and stand up for what they want as can be seen by the recent awarding of their hero, the sainted Sir Tel, with the accolade of Icon of the Past Forty Years. Put onto his pedestal without a doubt due to the power of his Togs.
Whilst many of us happily have a standing membership of both camps and indeed may have cast a vote in the recent Radio 2 poll are we really totally truly happy with our lot or just soldiering on hoping next year will be better and maybe things will be more in tune with our way of thinking? Is it age, cynicism, dissatisfaction or just plain boredom? Have you considered that it might be something not really talked about or thought about these days? Something that isn’t mentioned in polite company anymore? You might actually be described by a term that nowadays is not easy to define. You could be a conservative living in a New Labour age.
Notice the ‘c’ of conservative is small as "Call Me Dave" and his move to the Right, Left and back into the Centre party currently seems to have little to do with a set of reasons and beliefs that predate his Hug A Thug idea by over 200 years. Conservatism is the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to gradually develop rather than to go all out for abrupt change and have we, the dog people, by adopting a hobby and sport that has always embraced that philosophy become by long term association followers, possibly not realised, of that particular school of thought? Is this why so many of us individuals and most certainly the Kennel Club, itself a very, very conservative organisation, been left a bit behind in the general way of things?
Conservatism though, both big and little ‘c’, brings a paradox with it. It acknowledges the inclination that politics should not matter very much and that people as a whole are best left to their own devices. Conservatism leanings have us to be suspicious of the State, with a belief that it is best, if possible, to stand on our own two feet. At its heart is the teaching of individual freedom, tradition, service, responsibility and humility. Just stop a minute and think what things like that used to mean. The tradition of your breed; the decisions of stud dogs; the responsibility to make sure it carries on; the years of loosing money, time and sleep; is laid there at your feet or visible outside in the kennel runs. At the very one and same time all true conservatives understand that institutions count for more than any one individual however talented or brilliant but individuals can, and do, make a difference so should be encouraged so even though you may not belong to the breed club you probably have your dog’s Kennel Club registration papers in the file under the bed and read what they send out and what they do.
The big problem at the moment is that the hobby’s innate conservatism is being ruthlessly exploited and it isn’t for the great good of the dog. This paper recently ran a column that said how seriously the Kennel Club is now taken by the Government. Which Government are we speaking about? It is now policy that all Government Departments have to follow a process that requires them to consult with stakeholders on new proposals and then have to write a report summarising the consultation. A recent report said that seventy five percent of respondees agreed with the new approach. On the face of things everybody was happy. The Department had done was what required and everybody had chance to reply and be listened to. The twenty five percent who did not agree bowed to the majority but were pleased they at least had had a voice. Good and fair conclusion until things was looked at more closely; the seventy five percent were basically people who could be classified as regulators and twenty five percent were people who would have been regulated. The proposal had been tweaked to get the desired result which is not a conservative belief at all as anybody who is, by inclination, conservative believes in fair play so as it doesn’t occur to many it hasn’t been realised.
The ideal of conservatism has helped us become practical and decent. It fosters a quiet scepticism which has always saved us from some of the more radical ideas and thoughts that have swept through other sports but it is currently leaving the pedigree dog game rather isolated. Whether individual or Kennel Club we are all desperately trying to adapt but at the moment everybody and everything seems to be running quiet rings around us and it doesn’t seem to have been noticed by the bulk of dog people who are all quite aware that something is going wrong but don’t quite know what it is or to what degree it is happening.
At the moment there is seemingly a real limit to what can be changed because if the conservative beliefs that all stockmen, whether canine, bovine or equine, hold are abandoned we are running the risk of ruining the work of our forefathers but if we are legislated out of existence that work is ended anyway so we must adjust; but how and by whom?
All pedigree dogs have is each other and the Kennel Club so that must be where the change starts. Each and every breeder and breed club has to take a deep breath and ask, as a beginning, Clarges Street to start introducing compulsory health testing. They will have problems with it because they, like us, are conservative and know, as we do, that dog people know best and things like that should be at "discretion" but it has to be faced that those days are now gone.
If the Kennel Club and its members are still wrapped in the Gentleman’s Club mantle of old and can’t see that certain things have, not are, altering they should maybe consider standing aside and letting a new organisation rise that acknowledges the greatness of our history and hobby but is more in tune with the modern way of thinking and realises that the autonomy all dog people and clubs enjoy isn’t quite the blessing it once was.