That’s more like it!
KC Chairman makes a stand
Kennel Club Chairman Ronnie Irving has issued a strong statement on behalf of Crufts, the worlds most famous and popular dog show. The statement denies categorically that the future of the show is in any doubt following widespread media speculation after one of its sponsors withdrew last week.
The release came on Tuesday of this week and also underlined that whilst Pedigree have withdrawn their sponsorship, they still have plans to be at the show in 2009 with a stand.
'Crufts as a show has taken place successfully for over 100 years,’ said Mr Irving '‘and retains its popularity with dog breeders, visitors and TV viewers alike. Crufts is the biggest dog show in the world with regularly over 22,000 dogs entered. But it is only one of the hundreds of dog shows that take place every year in the UK. There are around 300,000 pedigree dog entries every year at the many large shows around this country. We at Crufts, like at any other event, are always sorry to lose any support but people should be aware that Pedigree as a brand has been changing its approach and its brand position for a number of years. This is evidenced by its change of style in its home country, the USA. It has also been progressively withdrawing from the very popular dog show scene here in the UK for nearly two years now. This latest news comes as no surprise to us.
‘That said, the 44 year relationship will continue in 2009 as Pedigree will still be having a presence at Crufts and will be working alongside us on other projects in the future.
‘ Crufts has many other supporters, hundreds of trade stands and thousands of people who look forward to this national and international celebration of dogs each year. Not only does Crufts cater for the best of pedigree dogs from all over the world, but in more recent years we have encompassed cross bred dogs and all levels of dog ownership and activities. Crufts 2009 will concentrate even more than ever on healthy, happy and well bred dogs. Make no mistake, this country has a very strong tradition for caring dog ownership and leads the way internationally in this sphere. The vast majority of the dogs at Crufts are, and always have been, happy, healthy and of good sound temperament.’
On the subject of breed standards, Mr Irving added, ‘There is a great deal of focus regarding the health of pedigree dogs. The vast majority of pedigree dog breeders in this country breed for health and temperament and it is insulting and inaccurate to suggest otherwise. This applies especially to those who support the 5000 dog shows a year that the Kennel Club licenses. The Kennel Club is and has been for years, working with breeders and many organisations to create an ongoing programme of health improvement. To suggest that we are on any sort of collision course with breed clubs and breeders is also very wide of the mark. I am pleased to report that already, all of the Pekingese breed clubs have met and unanimously agreed a way forward in full support of the revised breed standard that we announced a couple of weeks ago. They have also resolved to work in co-operation with the Kennel Club on further health screening programmes.
‘As the dedicated dog organisation with the widest remit of health and welfare for dogs in the UK, we will continue to work with others to implement our health and welfare strategy which has been accepted and applauded by veterinarians, breeders, exhibitors, sponsors, welfare groups and other individuals and organisations.
‘The Kennel Club has the strongest and soundest strategy for the future health and welfare of dogs. Our significant steps forward will be illustrated at Crufts 2009 and beyond.”
OUR DOGS has been aware of a growing feeling within the world of dogs that enough is enough in all of this and it was about time that the wishes and feelings of dog people were truly represented. Mr Irving’s’ remarks must come as a breath of fresh air after all the doom and gloom following the Pedigree Dogs programme aired by the BBC some weeks ago, and hopefully will now draw a line in the sand for those ‘pundits and experts’ who seem derive pleasure at keeping the whole thing spinning around. The majority of breeders and exhibitors just want to get on with things as evidenced by the Peke Clubs successful meeting at Midland Counties last Thursday.
As many people will already know from the OUR DOGS web site announcement last Friday, or from the national dailies over the weekend, Pedigree/Mars have pulled out of their long running sponsorship deal with the Kennel Club for Crufts 2009, although this does NOT necessarily mean an end to stands at the show. At this moment in time, Pedigree has confirmed to OUR DOGS that there will be a Pedigree stand at the show and that logistics were currently being considered.
Pedigree released a very short press release, lacking in any detail, and many national papers immediately jumped to the conclusion that the withdrawal was strategic following the so called revelations of the TV programme made by Jemima Harrison, which is now subject to an official complaint by the Kennel Club to Ofcom, the TV regulator. The statement seemed to fuel speculation.
A typical piece appeared in The Guardian which linked the Pedigree announcement and the programme by saying: In August a BBC documentary alleged that unhealthy and sometimes inbred dogs were winning best in breed competitions at the show. Last month the RSPCA said it would boycott Crufts because, it claimed, the competition's judging criteria encouraged the breeding of "deformed and disabled" dogs. The BBC has appointed a scientific panel to assess the evidence in the documentary. If it backs the film the BBC is to stop broadcasting the event, after more than 40 years. The Kennel Club, which was infuriated by what it claims was a "biased and selective" documentary, is reported to have offered the rights to the show to rival broadcasters ITV and Sky.
However, the official Pedigree line from a Mars spokesperson as of last Friday was as follows:
‘After careful consideration, Pedigree has decided to withdraw its sponsorship of Crufts. The Pedigree brand has evolved and we are prioritising initiatives that support the broadest possible community of dog owners such as our successful programme to help homeless dogs - The Pedigree Adoption Drive and our online service for breeders – pedigreedirect.co.uk. We look forward to working with The Kennel Club on other projects in the future.’
As many already know, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust was the conduit to distribute the funds raised by the Pedigree Adoption Drive – the programme to help homeless dogs. Pedigree also worked with the KC on national agility heats with the final at Crufts and clearly recognise that Crufts is a hugely important event in the show calendar. Like all global companies Pedigree’s budgets will be under constant scrutiny and adjustment and they would assess brand partnership opportunities on a case-by-case basis. It is apparent that future collaboration with the Kennel Club is still an option if it was the right fit for the brand. This withdrawal of course now means the end to all sponsorship of shows in the UK.
For many years now, Pedigrees Waltham Centre has been deeply involved in research and OUR DOGS understands that Mars Veterinary, continues to work to further scientific knowledge related to pets with a view to improving their health and welfare. Part of this research has involved understanding more about the genetic make-up of dogs and has been carried out in collaboration with a number of different partners.
Just like the states
It has been quite clear to many that Pedigree has been gearing this way for a number of years as Ronnie Irving has stated. Ask anyone who previously had open or breed shows, or other events supported by Pedigree; bit by bit they all seemed to go by the wayside. More importantly anyone who attended the prestigious Westminster Show in New York would have seen the emphasis change from Top Breeders Recommend It, to ‘It's a dog thing’....a complete move away from the pedigree side, even though they retained their attendance at the show. OUR DOGS had witnessed the change and over time had these changes confirmed by Pedigree staff in the States....so on that basis, a shift in brand direction should have come as no surprise.
Ironically, Pedigree had a large presence at the recent European Show in Budapest, suggesting that not all dog shows are being ditched; they are also the principal sponsor of Belgium’s largest show Kortrijk, on November 15th and 16th.
The problem with this announcement on Friday was that it was ambiguous in that it failed to make clear that Pedigree and all the sister companies, Royal Canin, James Wellbeloved and Greenies were all still significant stand holders at the show in 2009. So really, Pedigree have not pulled out of Crufts in the way that the mass media portrayed over the weekend, although it must have made a change for the ‘Fleet Street’ hacks from writing about the economic climate!
Regrettably the timing also did not help in that despite all the good work being carried out by the Kennel Club on health issues, there is still fallout from the so called ‘expose’ carried out by the BBC programme, much of which is still fresh in people’s minds. Whether Pedigree or their PR people realised that would be the case or not, is a matter of conjecture, but clearly people are making up their own minds as to whether the programme had an influence on Pedigrees decision...although their statements seem to indicate that was not the case.
Clearly the Crufts brand remains so important that yards of column inches were devoted to the story in all leading papers and web sites; it has been given an unprecedented level of coverage and suggests that come next March interest will be as high as ever, and the crowds will still be flocking in to the NEC to share with, and enjoy all that's best in dogs and dog ownership.
One way or the other Crufts show will go ahead with or without the support of Pedigree, as it did for many years previously. Whether any frills or fripperies go by the way side remains to be seen and of course there must be a contractual situation still to be sorted out, although neither the KC nor Pedigree were in a position to discuss this when OUR DOGS asked for further information.
There can be no doubt that this development will also gain the attention of Pedigrees rivals, and that even in this age of economic concern, the chance to become top dog at Crufts after years of playing second in line will be hard to resist.