The RSPCA has accused Channel 4 of misleading viewers who wrote in to raise welfare concerns about this year's coverage of "the world's biggest dog show".
In its response to complaints, the broadcaster claimed that it "worked with" the RSPCA in putting together this year's broadcasts.
Not true, says the RSPCA.
Here's the response one viewer received from Channel 4 (my bolding):
"Our coverage this year, as in the past, will not only cover the show itself, but will also reflect the on-going debate and continuing developments regarding dog welfare. We believe that by providing a major platform for debate and education, this can help people to make the right decisions about buying, raising and breeding healthy dogs as well as ensure that this debate is given an on-air forum. To that end, we will cover a range of health and welfare topics in short films followed by studio discussions with a member of the British Veterinary Association. We also have the RSPCA working with More4 and Channel 4, on how best to address health and welfare issues in the coverage of this year's Crufts."
The RSPCA, however, disputes this. Says Campaigns Manager Violet Owens:
"The RSPCA did attend a meeting with Sunset and Vine along with the Kennel Club and the BVA, but it was to discuss our concerns about the Crufts coverage from last year and the changes and improvements that should be made. However, we do not believe that any of our suggestions were taken forward and we were even more disappointed with this years coverage. We will be taking up the fact that we are being used as an endorsement of welfare in this response with the production company."The RSPCA is right to be irritated by this year's coverage.
• The "member of the British Veterinary Association" was mostly vet Nick Blayney, the Kennel Club's Chief Veterinary Advisory/official KC apologist. (And always to be remembered by me as the man who refused to condemn mother/son or full-sib matings when we interviewed him for Pedigree Dogs Exposed). Blayney even managed to recommend to viewers a Cavalier as the ideal lap-sitting breed for an elderly person without any mention of the costs involved in caring for a dog at a very high risk of heart disease and syringomyelia. (Heart meds alone can cost over £100 a month). And he maintained that there were more crossbreeds in rescue in the UK than purebreds - not in fact true.
• The KC's Assured Breeder Scheme was plugged without reflecting any of the flaws in the scheme.
• The Pekingese that went Best of Breed and won Reserve in the Toy Group (above) was a furball who panted for air as he waddled round the ring. Despite this, commentator Frank Kane made a point of saying the dog was "sound and healthy" and free of exaggeration (while praising owner/handler Burt Eadon for not walking too fast). Kane also declared - astonishingly - that the dog did not have too much coat.
Ch Yakee Ooh Aah Cantona is the grandson of Danny (Yakee A Dangerous Liaison) who won Crufts in 2003. As we revealed in Pedigree Dogs Exposed, Danny had had a soft-palate resection to treat his brachycephalic airway syndrome (although still gasped like a beached grouper).
In most thinking people's opinion, the op should have meant a disqualification - surgical procedures that alter a dog's natural conformation are not allowed and Danny's owners had not reported the procedure to the KC. But there was just enough wiggle room in the regulations (hey, the op only changed the dog's internal conformation not the external) for the KC to allow the win to stand.
Danny died earlier this year at the age of 15 - with some Peke-o-philes claiming this as evidence that PDE was wrong to criticise the dog. This is a bit like claiming that because Stephen Hawking has defied the odds in terms of longevity that there's nought wrong with motor neuron disease.
This year's winner was a little better than his grandfather in terms of his breathing, and I was pleased to see that he has a low co-efficient of inbreeding (at least according to the KC's Mate Select), but he is still light years from anything resembling a functional dog. And he certainly should never have been awarded Reserve Best in Show.
As ever, the impression given is that these dogs emerged fully-formed from some kind of natural evolutionary process. In reality they are the product of some sick people's warped idea of what a dog should be - something that needs to be challenged and challenged and challenged until they start breeding for a more athletic dog with longer legs, longer muzzle, wider nostrils, smaller eyes and less coat.