In August 2008 BBC broadcasted a documentary that has greatly affected the world kynological society. The 1-hour long film entitled "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" is an extraordinary attempt to disclose and bring out to the general public the alarming health issues, ignorant breeding practices and ethical problems of show dog breeding of our times. For more detailed overview of the documentary, see a related article on Wikipedia.
It is the responsibility of today's dog breeders towards future generations to preserve mentally and physically fit canines, capable of living long, healthy and happy lives. This, and not the opportunity to win another Best-in-Show, is of utmost importance. Sadly, it happens too often that a breeder becomes so blinded by his success in the show ring, that he would forget about this responsibility. Exaggerated traits and anatomical features cause suffering to many animals. As one of the veterinarians interviewed in the documentary said:
My feeling is that people are simply not aware of how much suffering is involved here. I think dogs actually are their own worst enemy in this regard.
Because many dogs are very stoical, they... they don't complain. They just carry on, despite the fact that they are carrying all these uncomfortable handicaps.
The documentary immediately caused a tsunami of heated discussions in practically every online group and community formed around various dog breeds and more broad canine topics. Nobody remained indifferent to the issue; and while for many veterinarians, show judges and knowledgeable breeders there was nothing new in the film, for others it became a revelation. There are also many who would not admit the problems.
Numerous related articles were written and published online both complementing the documentary and trying to disprove it. Many of them would not have made such an impact if they were not preceded by the BBC film, which heated the subject to the boiling point. Some of those articles are extremely interesting and educational:
- Inbred Thinking by Terrierman 2 years before the BBC documentary saw the light of day.
- It’s the DNA, stupid: Purebred dogs, closed studbooks, and genetic minefields by Christie Keith
- 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed' - the BBC TV programme that has got all my clients talking by "Vet In Harness"
Deep, crusty layers of problems were shifted as if by a huge earthquake, and of course it was on everybody's mind: what is to follow? The Kennel Club was forced to provide a proper response. It has chosen an active reform, reviewing breed standards to make sure that the standards do not encourage exaggerated or deforming traits and features. Revised breed standards have now been announced, but this has not affected the BBC's decision not to televise the Crufts dog show this year. Other organizations, including RSPCA have announced cutting their links with Crufts.
In America the story has developed an interesting twist. PETA, American animal rights organization decided to use the BBC documentary to push their own agenda, accusing breeders of routinely using incestuous inbreeding and genetic manipulation and therefore asking the USA Network, which airs the Westminster show every February, to follow the suit. Luckily, this time they went too far and the kynological community was unanimous in its response.
The full story is yet to be told. We are still to see the long-term effect of this historical BBC film. I hope with all my heart that it would help the humanity make the right decisions.