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Shame on you BBC!


THE BBC last week confirmed that it will not be broadcasting Crufts in 2009, amidst that the decision was reached following ‘disputes’ with the Kennel Club after the programme makers suggested certain breeds be excluded from the competition. Its contract with the KC to air the programme in March was not set to end until 2010.

The disputed breeds were: Basset hound, Clumber spaniel, Dogue de Bordeaux, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Bloodhound, Shar pei, St Bernard, Chow chow, German shepherd, Bulldog, Rhodesian ridgeback and the Cavalier.

Although the announcement of the BBC’s withdrawal from Crufts last week came as no surprise, many people connected to the show or in the world of dogs at large have already started to express their disgust at the hypocritical stance taken by the so called ‘bastion’ of broadcasting. Readers and columnists alike have condemned the high handed attitude of the BBC and yet again the RSPCA’s spokesperson Marks Evans. Phrases like ‘sanctimonious hypocrites’ abound in letters to this paper and also on our web site and many other chat rooms on the internet.

The BBC story on their own web site reads as follows: ‘The BBC has confirmed that it will not broadcast the dog show, Crufts next year. The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, said the decision followed "disputes" over the inclusion of certain breeds of pedigree dog in the competition. The club complained to Ofcom after a BBC investigation earlier this year found dogs on show suffer from genetic diseases following years of inbreeding. The BBC said it remained "keen" on continuing discussions with the club. The corporation's contract to show the event was supposed to end in 2010. The show is still set to go ahead in March next year but the club said it could not comply with the BBC's request for particular breeds to be excluded from the show.

‘Kennel Club chairman Ronnie Irving said he "was very sorry" that BBC audiences would miss out on the "remarkable diversity" of the show. (see statement below)

‘The dispute is believed to centre around at least 12 breeds including the basset hound, the mastiff, and the German shepherd. The BBC was quoting the inclusion of the Rottie through its press office, but this is entirely erroneous and I asked them to withdraw all mention of the breed – they have enough problems without being defined as ‘at risk’!!’

The Kennel Club was featured in a BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which claimed many pedigree dogs suffered because owners bred them for looks.

The programme also identified the Rhodesian ridgeback and cavalier as having serious congenital issues. It showed spaniels with brains too big for their skulls and boxer dogs that suffered from epilepsy.

The Kennel Club subsequently complained that the show was unfairly edited and did not properly reflect its "deep commitment to the health and welfare of dogs". Ofcom is still investigating.

New rules

It is understood that the club was asked to ban "at-risk" breeds from entering only the main competitions includingbest in show, as well as the group categories. They could still enter fringe competitions where the BBC did not concentrate its coverage. Do you count breed judging as ‘fringe’ – I don’t think we do!

The club has announced it plans to issue new rules about how pedigree dogs should be bred and, in partnership with The Dogs Trust charity, has commissioned an independent review - the results of which are due to revealed in early 2009.

Its first set of new breeding standards was for Pekingese dogs, traditionally bred to have a flat face, which the club has admitted "can lead to breathing problems". Under the new health plan, the breed is required to have a defined muzzle.

The RSPCA and their spokesperson Mark Evans quickly followed: “The RSPCA believes the BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts reflects deep scientific and public concern about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease affecting pedigree dogs.

‘In the wake of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed the RSPCA decided not to attend Crufts 2009 in order to send a clear message that urgent action must be taken to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs. Several other leading animal welfare charities and show sponsors have since followed suit.

Mark Evans said: “The BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts clearly reflects serious scientific and public concern about pedigree dog welfare. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are vulnerable to pain, suffering and disease because they’re primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament as the main focus.

“Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favours. They allow and encourage both the breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals. This is morally unjustifiable and has to stop.”

The RSPCA says it wants to see the emphasis of dog shows shifted away from arbitrary appearance, so that health, welfare and temperament are considered first and foremost. The Society wants to help ensure that pedigree dogs have the best possible chance of being fit, healthy and happy and well suited to the lives they will lead as pets.

Ignore the facts

Many breeders are furious that he accuses many of breeding ‘deformed and disabled dogs’. One well known Bulldog breeder recently told OUR DOGS, that their Bulldogs ‘ can go for miles when out walking’. Another said, ‘ hundreds and thousands of people are vulnerable to pain, suffering and disease, never mind dogs...it’s a very glib statement for him to keep making”.

Many people have also raised the question of the double and triple standards on display from the RSPCA and the BBC. Why, for example, does the BBC still show the Grand National when racehorses are known to die when falling in such events? Where does the RSPCA stand on that and why are they not indulging themselves in a campaign to ban horse racing or eventing when people have also died. There is serious controversy in many major sports, drug taking has been rife in athletics, but does the BBC take a stand on that and not show the Olympics. No it doesn’t. Dubious betting practices have surrounded a snooker tournament only this week, and many times before, and who is televising it? The BBC’s own telephone votes have been a shambles; take the Strictly Come Dancing voting fiasco on Saturday and previously a dancer who would fall into a category that Mark Evans would not be happy with in terms of his ability to move!

The BBC only took action against presenters Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand after many thousands of people made complaints to the cor-poration yet all of a sudden, having covered Crufts for so many years, it acts in such a pious manner against dog breeders.

Why is it that people in the UK who have loved having the opportunity to see Crufts on television have now been robbed of the experience following a very biased programme which took two years to trawl up some very dubious ‘evidence’ to support the opinions of a producer called Jemima Harrison, who nobody had even heard of prior to last August?

Well known vet Marc Abraham told OUR DOGS: ‘I was gutted when I heard the news that the BBC, our country-and-beyond’s primary public information service had dropped Crufts.

‘But not just for the Kennel Club, for they’ve proved that they’re a strong bunch who will continue to bounce back from all this recent negativity and name-calling. I was gutted for all those dogs in rescue shelters whose odds of being re-homed in the spring have just been slashed from about 2/1 to 1000/1; the equivalent of a small second-hand car garage having their three-minute advert in that break before they announce the X-factor winner removed, and ironically depriving exactly the same number of excited viewers in the cruel process.

‘We all know that Crufts is more than a dog show. It’s a celebration of dog-ownership, highlighting all the positive aspects of canine companionship to a massive targeted audience of potential dog owners worldwide.

‘Credit crunch means our shelters are overflowing - it can only get much worse now. And if the BBC’s main reason is animal cruelty then I look forward to next year’s Grand National being dropped too; or better still according to BBC’s new censorship rules (excluding certain breeds, Brand/Ross), how about only allowing those horses to race who definitely won’t fall? Shame.’

Camaraderie

Doyen of the Crufts presenters Peter Purves clearly felt very sad at the decision made by the BBC, Peter told OUR DOGS: "After 31 consecutive years presenting and commentating at Crufts for the BBC, it is a huge disappointment that they could not resolve their differences with the KC. I will miss the wonderful camaraderie with Frank, Wayne and Jessica, three of the most professional and dedicated broadcasters I have ever worked with, and the entire BBC team who have always been so supportive.

‘I will get to Crufts in any case, but there is now a big hole in my life - I have enjoyed that job as much as any I have done since leaving Blue Peter in 1978. It is a truly sad moment, and I am also sorry that the public at large will not see the usual excellent coverage of the world's greatest dog show in 2009."

Many thinking people have already realised that the BBC and all the charities who pulled out have scored a dramatic own goal in that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to show all the positive steps that have been taken over many years by the Kennel Club. The charities have already polarised their supporters and created a huge divide which will not help their fund raising activities and with no TV coverage they will not have their own work recognised. They will all now have to work even harder to promote their cause. The BBC have now opened the door for commercial companies who are ever eager for good material to fill their 24/ 7 schedules.

The feeling at grass roots level at the LKA last weekend was to go ahead without all these fair weather friends and have a great Crufts without them all. There are millions of dog lovers in this country who realise that the vast majority of dog breeders are caring people who love their dogs. The question many are asking is how will all of this stop the unscrupulous back street breeders who are at the root of puppy farming which we have all recognised for years. It would seem the wrong people are being targeted.


PASSIONATE PRODUCTIONS, makers of the BBC film Pedigree Dogs Exposed were asked for their reaction to the news of the BBC pull out, but at the time of going to press OUR DOGS had not received a reply. The web site of the company currently promotes their film as follows:

“A shocking exposé of one of the greatest animal welfare scandals of our time. Two years in the making, Pedigree Dogs Exposed lifts the lid on the extent of health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs, caused by decades of inbreeding and breeding primarily for "beauty" rather than health and function. Supported by strong testimony from top experts, the film argues that, without radical reform, many of our best-loved breeds face extinction.”

Copies of the film are being sold by Passionate Productions on DVD.


Kennel Club statement

The Kennel Club confirmed that it and the BBC will be unable to continue working together in 2009 for the broadcast of the world's greatest celebration of dogs, Crufts , which in previous years has attracted over 14 million viewers in the UK and additional audiences worldwide. This position was reached after the Kennel Club regrettably had to refuse to comply with the unreasonable demands insisted on by the BBC, to exclude certain breeds of dog from the group competition at the show. These demands took no account of the measures the Kennel Club has in place to improve the health of pedigree dogs, or of the fact that judges will be trained to help ensure that all dogs being awarded prizes at Crufts will be healthy representatives of their breed.

More than ever, Crufts 2009 will set the standard for all future Kennel Club licensed dog shows and the Kennel Club will be running a comprehensive education programme for judges to ensure that only the healthiest dogs are rewarded in the show ring at Crufts 2009 and beyond.
Ronnie Irving, Kennel Club Chairman, said ”I am very sorry that BBC audiences around the world will not be able to join us in celebrating all dogs in 2009 and to see the remarkable diversity of dogs and activities on show at Crufts; ranging from the show classes to agility displays, the Friends for Life competition and the unsung heroes who take part in breed rescue.

”However, we have been forced to reject the insupportable conditions imposed by the BBC, who have told us they will only televise the show in 2009 if certain breeds are excluded from participating. We are unable to agree to these demands, as it would compromise both contractual obligations and our general responsibility to dog exhibitors and our audience and we believe it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to exclude any recognised breed from Crufts.
“We are obviously disappointed and confused with this outcome as we hoped the broadcast would have supported our focus on health and welfare issues, given advice about caring for and training dogs and showcased the charitable work that we support. This TV exposure would have benefited all dogs and given viewers a well-rounded picture of what the new Crufts in 2009 is all about.”

In October 2008 the Kennel Club announced a clear strategy to show how it is further focusing its activities on the health and welfare of all dogs. It announced mandatory compliance with its strict code of ethics for all breed clubs registered with the Kennel Club.

Earlier this month, it completed its review for each of the 209 pedigree dog breeds in the UK and announced revised standards that will have far-reaching benefits for the health and welfare of dogs. These new breed standards and health plans will benefit from the extensive research that has been funded by the Kennel Club in conjunction with renowned veterinary research centres over a number of years. The overall aim is that all pedigree dogs should be fit for function and that breeders and judges should not reward dogs with obvious conditions or exaggerations, which would be detrimental in any way to their health.

Ronnie Irving added, “Crufts is the world's best platform to talk to dog owners about how we can work together to ensure their dogs' health and well being and veterinary and scientific experts will be on hand to explain how research has developed over the last 10 years which can help us to resolve genetic issues generally.

“Dogs and their owners worldwide, look forward to Crufts every year and I can promise all dog lovers, anywhere in the world, that the show will go on. I ask all those that care about dogs and animal welfare to support us and to flock to the show to make it the biggest and best ever.
“Crufts 2009 in particular, will focus on thanking the unsung heroes of the dog world, such as breed rescue volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that unwanted and abandoned dogs find a good home.”

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