|The Ponsonby Poodle - by Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples, 1897|
- standing on a white glove...a garment of special ceremonial
significance in freemasonry
A quote in Dog World last month from Kennel Club chairman , Steve Dean, made me sit up.
It was in an article in which the Kennel Club was witheringly rude about the new standard for breeders recently announced by the Dog Advisory Council. And in it Professor Dean said:
"We have a close relationship with DEFRA and we have made our views felt. They are well aware of the concern and will be even more aware shortly, as we have made sure we have raised issues with them. Be assured that the KC is very firmly allied to these people.”(You can read the whole thing here - an article in which the KC is also gobsmackingly rude about DAC Chairman, Professor Sheila Crispin - a discourtesy that seemed particularly ill-advised given the current focus on dog-breeding in the UK. )
DEFRA, for our overseas readers, is the Government's Depart for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (under which umbrella dog breeding falls).
The KC has always had friends in high places. When we were researching Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we used the Freedom of Information Act to request correspondence and minutes of meetings between DEFRA and the Kennel Club and it revealed a pretty cosy relationship between the two organisations (one exchange included DEFRA running a press release by the Kennel Club for approval). This is not that unreasonable of course - but I believe it is at least partly responsible for so little being done on the dog-breeding issue prior to Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
Of course, since PDE, the climate has changed and new people have come in at DEFRA, so I was a bit surprised by the quote from Professor Dean - particularly in the light of a current Government select committee hearing evidence regarding dog breeding in the UK.
During the past few weeks, this committee has heard evidence from quite a few "stakeholders", including:
• Professor Sir Patrick Bateson (who chaired probably the most important of the three independent reports into dog breeding that followed Pedigree Dogs Exposed)
• Professor Sheila Crispin, who chairs the Dog Advisory Council that was set up follow the Bateson report
• the British Veterinary Association
• the British Small Animal Veterinary Association
These four, when asked, said they thought the Dog Advisory Council - currently funded on a wing and a prayer and with no teeth given its purely-advisory capacity - should be made a regulatory body. Indeed, I argued the same in the follow up to Pedigree Dogs Exposed that aired earlier this year.
All also believe that there is a strong case for introducing secondary legislation under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act to protect dogs (and other companion animals) from being bred in a way that is injurous to them (as, indeed, farm animals are protected under the current farm animal welfare legislation). This, it is felt, would send out a very strong message to breeders (of all dogs) as well as give owners and welfare bodies recourse to the law in cases where clear negligence can be proven.
Overall, the general concensus amongst the above - all experts that have been on the case since Pedigree Dogs Exposed (and at least to a degree beforehand) - is that the UK is in need of a properly funded "Dogs Body" to oversee the welfare issues surrounding dog-breeding (all dog-breeding, not just pedigree/KC-registered dogs.
There are some dangers in this. There is, undoubtedly, the risk of an overbearing authority getting it hopelessly wrong. But get it right, and it has the potential to bring about real change not just the problem of conformation breeding and genetic disease highlighted in PDE, but puppy farming, dangerous dogs, stray dogs and worries regarding dog ownership such as the record level of pet obesity. These are all issues that currently cost the UK Government and others a great deal of money - and its citiizens (two-legged and four) much heartache.
Two years ago, in response to the continuing lobbying from individuals and welfare bodies regarding dog-breeding post-PDE, the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that it would and could not take any action until it had proper advice from the Dog Advisory Council (that DEFRA both endorsed and helped set-up).
Well, DEFRA now has that advice and so it must be at least considering a regulatory body and/or secondary legislation, yes?
Last week, the select committee called Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at DEFRA, to ask for his views. And, to the obvious bafflement of the committee given the compelling testimony they had heard from Bateson, Crispin and the vets, Lord de Mauley insisted that there was no need for a regulatory body... no need for any new/supplementary legislation... and that we should leave it the Kennel Club whose work on the pedigree dog breeding front was "impressive" - to sort it all out. "We think that is better done by organisations such as the KC,” Lord de Mauley said - although when pressed for a reason he admitted he was "not able to elucidate".
Read all about it in this report in this week's Dog World.
The Kennel Club is understandably delighted - as this statement reveals.
So what's with Lord de Mauley? Did he not listen to the evidence? Do the experts endorsed by his own Department count for nothing?
A hereditary peer, Lord de Mauley is the 7th Baron de Mauley - real name Rupert Ponsonby (yep, really). And he is a Freemason according to this source listing the House of Lords Register of Members interests.
Well, I'm not really into conspiracy theories. But I have always been interested in the Kennel Club's Freemason connection - ever since a senior member of the Kennel Club made the mistake of giving my other half (and PDE co-producer) Jon a masonic handshake. This, needless to say, was early on in our relationship with the KC. In fact, the KC member wasn't that far off - Jon isn't a freemason, but his father was so he's no stranger to their odd ways.
The KC's president is a famous Freemason, too - Prince Michael of Kent - and I'm told that Kennel Club masons frequent the Connaught Lodge at the Connaught Hotel.
So... want to know who it was at the KC who shook Jon's hand masonically?
I am open to bribery...