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Americans vote for dog shows

As reported in last week’s issue of OUR DOGS, the controversial animal rights group PETA based in the USA is trying to stop the screening of the hugely popular Westminster Dog Show on American television.

The story has developed since then in that following a poll taken by the Los Angeles Times, 96% of people who voted thought dog shows were fun to watch and dog breeders promoted responsible pet ownership. PETA had called for the US networks to stop televising Westminster Dog Show, citing the BBC film as evidence of unacceptable deformity and disease in pedigree dogs.

Ironically, the makers of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the BBC documentary film that led to the BBC withdrawing from televising Crufts Dog Show in the UK, are furious with PETA for jumping on the film’s bandwagon although many insiders have suspected this was an accident waiting to happen. Many people within the world of dogs have asked why Jemima Harrison should be the arbiter of good or bad dog breeding and have suggested that she has brought such ‘misrepresentation’ on her own head. “What does she expect? ” said one concerned reader.


Passionate Productions stated that Pedigree Dogs Exposed was the result of two years’ careful research. In their view, the film highlighted serious health and welfare concerns in pedigree dogs that many experts agree need to be addressed urgently. However, the filmmakers have no connection to PETA and are ideologically opposed to PETA’s aims.

“I am horrified that PETA is using the film to further its own, warped agenda,” said Jemima Harrison, of Passionate Productions, which made the film for the BBC. “Our film is about animal welfare, not animal rights. PETA’s animal welfare record is appalling. It kills 97 per cent of the dogs that come to its shelters and admits its ultimate aim is to rid the world of what it calls the “domestic enslavement” of dogs as either pets or working dogs.

“In stark contrast, and the reason we made the film, is that we believe pedigree dogs are of tremendous value to society and that something needs to be done to arrest the damage caused by decades of inbreeding and selection for ‘beauty’. The film is a passionate call for urgent reform to save them before it is too late. To do that, there needs to be urgent reform of breeding practices and dog shows.

“PETA is a bunch of crackpots who do not care about anything but publicity and making money. They have not bothered to contact us - and, indeed, if they did we would make it very clear we do not want their support. It devalues and marginalises a film that raises a serious issue that needs to be addressed, and quickly.”

The LA Times featured a number of comments from PETA, an organisation rumoured to have also affected the thinking of companies such as the Mars Corporation which has over the years switched its focus from pedigree dogs in the States, to rescue centres. That focus has now followed the same pattern here in the UK.

In the States, PETA said of the TV broadcasts “...USA Network can take a stand against the cruel treatment of animals simply by denying air time to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show," said PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch.

The Los Angeles Times then conducted a poll on January 7, 2009 as to whether USA Network should televise the Westminster Dog Show. The poll was such that it blocked multiple voting by the same E-mail and requested comments. The results were:

Yes -- Breeding dogs for the show ring is unethical and shouldn't be supported 4% (521 votes)
No -- Dog breeders promote responsible pet ownership and dog shows are fun to watch 96% (13949 votes)
Don't know 1% (51 votes) Total Votes: 14521

The poll results speak for themselves. The thousands of comments supporting purebred dogs, breeders, dog shows and the airing of Westminster provide strong support for Westminster and the fancy.

The normal TV broadcast and excellent extensive coverage of Westminster show will be going ahead as normal.

OUR DOGS spoke to David Frei Director of Communications of Westminster Kennel Club in New York. He told us that, ‘ it’s business as usual at Westminster 2009 and we look forward to seeing everyone there’

OUR DOGS comments: It seems amazing that organisations like the Kennel Club and Westminster KC are under attack. They are the very organisations that have championed the message of responsible dog ownership for years.

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