Thursday 8 November 2012

Lazy, deaf - or brotherhood?

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?

Er,  no.

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.

So what?

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...


  1. "Mrs McIntosh asked whether he thought it was right that the KC should register any dog, as was explained to the committee by chairman Steve Dean who described the KC as a Somerset House-type registry.
    "It’s quite difficult for me to answer,” Lord de Mauley said. "That’s more for the KC.”

    Previous evidence given to the committee had revealed conflict between the KC and the veterinary profession, Miss McIntosh said. The latter wants revision of the breed Standards and the veterinary checks extended.
    She asked for Lord de Mauley’s views.
    "I am so sorry to say this but I think this is a matter for the KC,” he replied."

    Who pulls the strings?

  2. I couldn't care less about who's a mason and who isn't; like you said yourself "I'm not really into such conspiracy theories."

  3. Lets see now why would the vets want the vet checks extended and maybe breed standards reviewed by vets maybe? Ohh call me a cynic I don't mind but the almighty ££££ is glinting in their eyes. Why do we as breeders put endorsements on our progeny when vets are happy to do a quick in surgery health check and declare a dog/bitch fit for breeding!

    This from a profession who rarely punish their members for gross misconduct or failure in their duty of care - the list is endless. Vet checks were supposed to be the same as a judges going over - not torches in eyes or listening to chests or taking 20 mins to do said check, have to wonder at the motives that drive these vets to do such checks?

  4. Just how many times did you mention PDE in this post? we know you like the sound of your own voice but goodness, a little editing might be welcome in future! as for the Connaught Lodge, this is old news (and well documented, and not in need of the FOA to get it either)perhaps a reason for the "funny handshake" was more to do with your partners imagination than anything else. A quick note the glove the poodle is standing on by reason of its length is a Ladies glove and so the connection to Masons is one not valid, but it does make a good story for you.

  5. And, of course, it's so mature to sneer at somebody's name, isn't it?

  6. Yes, that's clearly a lady's long evening glove, which rather knocks the suggestion of subliminal Freemasonry messages into a cocked hat.

    Research, Jemima, research!

  7. Research, anon, research!

    It was customary in the 18th/19th century for new initiates to be given not just a white leather apron, as still happens now, but also two pairs of gloves - one a man's pair for himself and the other a woman's pair, of silk or kidskin, to be presented to the female he most esteems.

  8. What proportion of ladies' evening gloves would be presented by a freemason? The odds are against a lady's petdog being seen with anything other than an innocent prop.

    Unless, of course, one is a conspiracy theorist after all, determined to see the worst of everything.

  9. I know this is irrelevant.. Jemima, I was wondering if you could blog about your English Setters that you grew up with. Perhaps, also other pedigree dogs you had growing up too. Just wondering what their names were. lol

  10. Just read Umberto Eco's 'Prague Cemetery', about a C19 forger who sells documents to conspiracy theorists incriminating variously Jews, Jesuits, and yes, Masons. Disappointing to find in your post no midnight gathering in a disused graveyard.

    Seriously though, we live in a representative democracy; our locale is represented by our MP, our various interests by such pressure groups as trade unions, the AA, RAC, etc. On any dog-related question, government used to consult the KC. Now there's this DAC sprung up, seemingly ad-hoc, but with talk of greater permanence. Is it surprising that the KC resents some young pup organisation doing it out of a job?

    For all its faults the KC represents, through affiliated bodies, pretty much all of dogs UK. It cannot credibly be replaced, so if we don't like what it does we must aim at reform, not the confused messages that govt will get from a multiplicity of bodies.

  11. Last time I read this site you were mocking the sexuality of individuals on a pressure group, now you are having a swipe at the Freemasonary and and accusing someone of lack of professionalism and misconduct!

    Dog health and it's improvement is SO important, we can't afford such sloppy and self indulgent journalism.

  12. It was custom to shake hands to make sure the person you met could not draw their sword, well given yours and Jon's behaviour and the false letter of intent about PDE sent to the Kennel Club content/aims, its seems they sould of been more concerned of the dagger in your other hand when you stabbed them in the back!