Friday, 31 October 2008

Ugly smears

I have been horrified by some of the posts on a forum I wasn't a member of. I've been accused of "spreading lies" about the KC. Of having a grudge because I was "kicked out of the KC".

Click here to arrive at the offending strand... although there are others!

I have to say I've wasted such a lot of time this morning writing a response that I thought it may as well get a wider airing as I am so totally fed up with what can only be described as a propaganda campaign to discredit me.

Here's the post...

Now exactly what "lies" have I spread about the Kennel Club?

You can't accuse people of lying without evidence. That is so strong!!!

If you have evidence of "lies" I have spread about the Kennel Club as opposed to "lies" your forum has spread about me - then front them up now.

You really have to stop shooting the messenger and accept facts no matter how unpalatable. You are meant to be a Pet owners forum - why aren't you screaming for reform to protect the future health of dogs, too?

Reform of the Kennel Club is long overdue - to suggest my motivation is anything other than honest attacks me fundamentally as a human being and is both extremely hurtful and potentially damaging as it infects unprejudiced people if it goes unchallenged.

If you have any allegations - please put them to me here and I am confident I can answer them, it is just plain cowardly to say these things only when you feel there is no chance of confrontation.

I have nothing to hide - so if you have heard things which make you prejudiced - confront me.

I am feeling charitable, perhaps some of you hold these strange views out of ignorance. We haven't been introduced. I am sure after such rudeness you will allow me to tell you a little more about my background and motivation.

I do not hold grudges and my aim is to see everyone united on this issue pressing for meaningful and far reaching reform to bring us up to date - Sweden made the changes I have LONG been campaigning for 20 plus years ago. Their country should be our model. No rescue problems, no pups in pet shops, the best pet insurance in Europe, health testing mandatory before breeding, stud dogs limited in use so that genetic diversity is maintained, coefficients of inbreeding easily accessible via their website, democratic - every dog owner a voting member.

I could go on and on about what needs to change to make things better here. And it is such a relief to see change finally starting. It has been painfully slow and our dogs have been left behind and disadvantaged because of it.

Yes I worked at the KC for a few years 20 years ago. But was I sacked? Did I leave under a cloud? Am I nursing a grudge? And if you perceive that to be the case - who told you that? Why did they want you to dismiss the words I say as biased?

I started at the KC as their first Information Officer - Brian Leonard was also given this title and we shared an office. Sadly it wasn't that exciting as the regime wasn't really into giving out much info in those days and I was really just dictating letters and sorting out problems. It was okay, I was good at my job - there was often flowers or chocolates being delivered downstairs as I'd always go the extra yard to resolve a muddle, I liked helping the people who phoned in or wrote in - but I wanted to do more and took every challenge I was offered. It was an unforgiving and Victorian place in those days and there was always someone crying in the library after they had been savaged by one of the high-ups. We were defined as servants constitutionally and I think some of them rather liked that! But there were some lovely people who worked there and when a job came up on the Kennel Gazette I applied as I really wanted to get my teeth stuck in to making that more readable. I introduced some new elements that are still there to this day - the Judge's choice (where judges pick their fav dog of particular breed of all time and say why). A q&a bit with a famous judge. A problem page - that soon got clamped down on though! Bit too friendly! Interviews with famous dog owners David Blunkett, Princess Antoinette of Monaco, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Peter Cadbury, Leslie Kenton - Jilly Cooper was banned though - or anyone openly gay which I thought was odd!

I also happily accepted any extra duties going - at Crufts I started writing press releases on the day about the winners - first time that had been done - they were written on my own Amstrad computer - PCs were very new that's how long ago this was! I used to also stay in the hotel in London with the Crufts BIS winner and help them doing their TV appearances.

I would do anything anyone asked of me with enthusiasm. But I would also write reports urging them to introduce a good breeder scheme etc, a way of rewarding the good. I spent ages talking to key Kennel Club committee members trying to urge them to press for change - guess that was lobbying. But it was slow, slow going and I could see the years ticking by and while I was enjoying my work and I was appreciated I was earning a pittance and couldn't even take my dog to work - Clarges Street is still a 'no dogs' office.

They were a bit shocked when I decided to move on as I guess I looked the type who would stay forever. If there'd been a glint of light at the end of the tunnel that I could have made a difference from within I would have probably stuck it out - but back then it was even worse than it is now if you can imagine. After I left they would get the first sensible businessey KC secretary who sorted out some of the internal weirdness about working there as an employee, made it function a bit more effectively and promoted and rewarded some key workers that had dug in and stuck it out through the very grim years where it was all stick and no carrot. But my era at the KC was very Victorian and dark. It makes a good anecdote to recall the one-armed man doing the filing, the valient deaf lady operating the switchboard and the lovely girl who should have been registered blind doing my typing (on a normal machine - nothing to help her!) The KC didn't have at this stage an enlightened policy of employing disabled people, there was nothing shiny and happy about the place, the staff morale was very low indeed.

I had had the odd clash with my bosses over the years - but nothing serious. An ill judged letter to a German Shepherd owner had ended up on the front page of Dog World - got a roasting for that! Someone had posed the theoretical question when I was info officer as to if there was a perfect German Shepherd that was white and a perfectly marked
GSD that was a physical wreck which one should the judge place first. I had - perhaps naively - quoted the breed standard at them that did seem to imply that colour was of secondary importance to construction! After that I was told not to interpret if people asked questions - and every letter we all wrote after that had to be censored by our poor boss who must have died of boredom as nothing remotely contentious ever came in after that!

Can't remember anything else I got into big trouble about. One of the Chairman's friends had said something untrue in an interview I had done for the Gazette - but I was able to produce the tapes to prove it wasn't my error - I had accurately reproduced his words. I was always being told off for being too helpful. The Chairman at the time once yelled at me at a show -"Don't even try to explain the rules to them (an exhibitor was asking a question). Just point at the relevent passage!" He'd been a surgeon before he retired and he thought you couldn't hear him if he didn't yell. He once sacked a cleaner for sitting in his chair. It was an odd place. There was always someone getting sacked and then you'd hear a rumour of a settlement before the tribunal. So perhaps that's why its been assumed I got sacked, lots of people did!

I left when I was offered a much better paid job in corporate non-doggie journalism that could mean I could get on the property ladder and afford to actually have a dog with me again. It was the difference between something like £14k and £25k with bonuses. If anyone says I was sacked by the KC I will sue them, it is nothing more than a lie to distract because what I have been saying all these years has been very uncomfortable - because it is true! It is easier to dismiss facts as bias than answer real criticisms. But now they are starting to accept they needed to change - so surely this smear campaign can be stopped once and for all?

I helped train my successor, I worked out a long notice period conscientiously, I even had a send off party.... no leaving under a cloud, no falling out or being encouraged to leave. (Just remembered I had a lovely leaving present, one of my colleagues took the envelope round all the staff and I can't have been so unpopular as it got a huge present.)

I liked my job and the people I worked with, I just had a feeling that staying put on a low wage and little hope of changing a badly flawed system would have achieved nothing. I even liked several of the KC committee members making the decisions. It wasn't the individuals that was the problem - it was the system that needed reform to make it work.

The only vaguely scandalous thing about my leaving was that the man who was meant to replace me - (at a slightly higher wage, of course - he was a mainstream male journalist after all and not a dog mad young woman!) - decided not to stay and left on the same day I did - announcing this to me and the others at my leaving party! He had hated the job and the place.

It is true, we did then go on to live together for eight years, but it certainly wasn't my intention to disrupt the department by subversively making him fall in love with me! There were only two candidates for the job after all and the other one turned it down! He was Australian and we'd never met before I started training him - just in case some of you think I'm that devious!

Before the KC as a child and young person I was an accidental show person, a successful breeder and exhibitor of Beardies from the age of 11, one of the youngest ever championship show judges, at 21 I was the main Breed Club secretary for several years.

(My background should always have been seen as a positive in my stance as champion for reform as I have seen the dog world from so many angles, I know what needs to change and tried and failed with diplomacy from within. With such a stagnant and undemocratic institution I could not make inroads by writing reports and lobbying inactive members to start standing up and making waves.)

I did a degree in history writing a dissertation on the concept of cruelty in Victorian Britain and the formation of the RSPCA. Then wrote for Our Dogs for a year and then worked at Dog World for the next (even writing for Terrier World for a while, too).

After the KC, I unusually had a whole year of not doing much doggie (apart from writing a couple of dog books) but being very richly paid doing corporate journalism for BT ...and being bored stiff. And then I glimpsed the advert in the Guardian for the launch editor of Dogs Today - a new magazine for pet lovers. It ignited my imagination and when I met the proprietor (the owner of the Daily Mail) it was obvious this was my dream job. I could give the pet owner the voice they hadn't had before.

Since 1990 we have campaigned hard on so many issues - the end to quarantine, banning tail docking, reform of the DDA - from 1995 we started a crusade to get more breeders health testing, launching Dial-a-dog now rebranded The Furry Godmother. We came up with the concept for Take your Dog to Work Day, were there at the beginning of Rescue Dog of the Year with David Cavill. Invented the Wag and Bone Show, the Cold Wet Nose Show... I could go on and on... We are certainly not a one trick pony.

In 1992 my wonderful proprietor sold me the magazine for a pound and came in as my minor investor giving me the magazine I loved. He was a very wealthy and important man - but he really loved dogs and knew I would do my very best for them. A love of dogs cuts across all boundaries. He was the seventh richest man in Britain, but he knew for certain his dogs loved him not for his power or influence, it was a genuine bond and one he would value above all others.

(When he had dreadful car crash in France with his two dogs (he was driving a bashed up old Porsche for some reason - he didn't much care for the trappings of wealth) one of his beloved Akita's died and the other ran off. He sent a missive to everyone who worked for the Daily Mail that anyone who could speak French should get over to France to help search for his dog. The clever girl who found his beloved Ryu-ma was given the Hollywood reporting job as a reward.
What a brilliant bloke he was! He changed his paper's allegience to the Labour party to get rid of quarantine, kept the Home secretary almost hostage to try to get him to change the DDA. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man and the best friend for dogs you could imagine.)

But some would have you believe that the sum total of my whole life is just to make life hell for the KC by fair means or foul.

I have to say reading the earlier posts on teh Pet Owners Forum did give me a serious sense of humour failure as you might of gathered!

If you have kept reading I hope you now feel you know me a little better but if you still have any concerns or any 'lies' that you want me to substantiate - I will be happy to respond.

It's easy to see the world in tabloid terms - but I am not evil personified. I am just a dog lover - hopefully like you - trying to do my best for our best friend.

I have no grudges, all right, I am human, it still stings that Caroline Kisko accused me of making up the health problems in dogs live on GMTV - way before the documentary aired. That did upset me that she wouldn't admit the problems the KC now concede are very real. An apology is I feel rather overdue - but I'm not holding my breath.

I am not wishing I was still there - although I'd gladly try to help them sort the mess out if they'd let me. I love my job at Dogs Today. I can say exactly what I think without sanction - Caroline is paid to protect her employer and she used whatever weapons she could find to try to deflect from the damaging situation I was exposing. No, I know I much prefer my current job! No one has to pay me to have this standpoint - speaking from the heart is such a joy.

That's why I say call a truce now. Put these ugly things behind us. The focus needs to be on the future not the past, and people repeating old propaganda as fact really should be jumped on from a very great height!

Now you know my side of the story - I've been transparent - judge for yourself. Ask the KC for a statement as to why I left if you are still unsure. Let's gets this one cleared up once and forever."

So Dog World, Our Dogs - go on - go get that KC statement and print it in full. Let's get rid of this ridiculous urban myth once and for all!

I also tackled the main poster head on via private message - she/he never did reveal her name - but here is my reply to her very half-hearted and begrudging apology
- she felt that I unjustly vilify the KC and that she was only repeating what others have said.

"The problem with lies is that they are often juicy and they get repeated - especially when someone is telling you something you'd prefer not to hear. Perhaps if you see anyone else repeating similar untrue statements you could alert me via my blog?

To get the KC to start to reform we had to get them to admit they had problems. As soon as they have started reforming I have been being supportive - encouraging breeders to back a stronger KC and urge them to go further. I have always consistently supported a strong reformed KC - without one there would be chaos.

It was easier to try to discredit me than actually reform when I was one of the lone voices. When the whole world of science united to say "get your finger out" and we had a powerful BBC documentary they finally listened and we got action. But I still get people who should care just as passionately about dog's health being thoroughly mean to me! Why? They didn't move when it was done from within, from without by just a few people - they only started moving when the general public started screaming and welfare organisations started distancing themselves.
I am very aware of what they did in the past - usually the bare minimum comapred with other more dynamic registries. There are plenty of hero breeders that do every possible test, that investigated coefficients of inbreeding all on their own without direction. But they are the tiny minority. Most dogs bred are bred by people having a single litter in their lifetime. (KC's own stats). These people need firm guidance. in 30 years a pathetic 60,000 Labradors have been hip scored - 45,000 Lab pups are registered EVERY YEAR. Voluntary testing never worked and to not limit the overuse of popular sires earlier was so short sighted. It's not like there's n precedent for them to follow, others implemented these reforms years and years ago.
The KC is not a little tiny organisation, it should have been keeping abreast of change and protecting our dogs future. They had the money and the resources - just not the will.
They can change and they will, but you should not feel sorry for them and attack the messengers that move them forwards.
All the information was at their fingertips and they lacked the bravery to make the changes, they feared being unpopular. Doing nothing - or next to nothing - let dogs down.
But we move forward now and should be on the same side. The KC has millions in the bank and countless trained well paid advocates ready to defend themselves quite ably without you having a go in your spare time - and if anyone asks them why I left and if I left under a cloud you will find that that widely spread lie was just that. Who started it I don't know, but it was obviously extremely effective sabotage.
And, if you read the petition carefully you will see it seeks to give the KC the legislation it needs to implement stronger reforms - exactly what the KC itself was asking for!
Prejudice needs confronting - imagine all the people who read your words and assumed them to be true who then go on to repeat what you did.
How else do I clear my name?
If I don't confront each person that casually accuses me of evil intent how will I ever clear my name?

I'm going to post my answer on the thread as it may help explain to others why I am trying to stop these lies circulating.


Beverley Cuddy
Editor, Dogs Today


11 comments:

Julie Hill said...

Beverley I'm sory you've had such things said about you and had to defend yourself. (Although it was interesting reading!)
You must be feeling very hurt right now, but there are lots of us out here who appreciate and like you.
Chin up and don't let them get you down or send your blood pressure up too far.

Jan said...

Beverley I too am sorry that you have had such untrue and unjust things said about you.

As you know, you are not the only person who has suffered personal attacks in the recent months. It seems that those who can't fight issues on the facts have to stoop to this sort of thing.

It's a sad world when such people believe they have the right to behave like this, but as Julie said there are many of us who appreciate the effort you put in on the behalf of the health of our dogs.

Please keep going because we need people like you who are prepared to fight for dog welfare.

Anonymous said...

It is so incredibly childish to go on Forums and knock someone they dont know. Sorry you have been upset. You'd have thought we'd all be on the same page - with the dogs welfare at heart. One thing of interest to me, one of these people makes reference to this Blog. They obviously find what you say (and others replies) interesting.. something flattering in that.

Anonymous said...

Beverley,
brilliant response! I was so angry reading some of the posts leading up to it.
So many people seem to want to go on and on about backyard breeders, as if putting the blame on them.
But the dogs featured in Jemima's programme, with their inherited illnesses and appallingly disfigured bodies, were bred by so called respectable breeders not by BYBs, as they call them.
I would be that 95 per cent of the public are on your side.

alfmcmalf said...

Well I am very glad you have corrected them and hopefully halted the lies.

What we have to recognise is that there is a cohort of breeders who sincerely believe they can operate outside the law.

They do not believe that "trades description" laws apply to them and so advertise their "healthy" puppies with impunity.

The laws of economics do not apply to them so they should be allowed to charge what they like for their puppies despite not health testing anything they breed from but are outraged at any advert for labradoodle puppies at £700 plus. Yes my dears it is called the law of supply and demand - that is what settles price.

They certainly do not believe that they are subject to the laws of genetics. No for them any amount of inbreeding is perfectly fine. The diseases it creates - they say - are all due to environment. Mendel must have got it wrong.

They certainly do not feel the laws of common courtesy apply (see the v flicking sign photo as my proof of that). And there really is no need to be polite with one another around a show ring.

Oh yes and finally they really do not believe they are subject to laws of libel and slander - and so can pass on all manner of malicious gossip and rumour about you and Jemima - and me for that matter. Though I have to laugh at the rumours about me - being a member of the media intelligentsia. Not so much "guilty by association" more "influential my association". And I like that.

The attacks have been outrageous and totally unfounded. But here is my message to them. Such attacks are water off a duck's back to me. They are but mere badges of honour. Because you know what? We will not cease in our campaign. Do you understand? - we will not cease.

Philippa Robinson

Jan said...

I have posted my response on the site. After a couple of posts on certain dog sites I did not intend to post on them again, but didn't think I could let this pass. Opinions are one thing, personal attacks something else.

I am not intending to post again, but I hope that the person in question has the grace to reply on the forum with an apology.

Jan Bell

Jontus said...

Great response Beverley. You are a star! I can't tell you how much your cogent support of dogs and the dynamism you bring through the magazine / blog means to me. It's wonderful to have a voice like you, actively taking a position. You are an inspiration.

(BTW: Not all breeds in Sweden have to be tested. It depends on the breed but I think it's coming. The fact we have to refund buyers for any faults that crop up over the first three years makes breeders very careful --on the whole)

Best wishes,
Jon

Anonymous said...

anonymous said

"But the dogs featured in Jemima's programme, with their inherited illnesses and appallingly disfigured bodies, were bred by so called respectable breeders not by BYBs, as they call them."

That is why so many responsible breeders are so upset about the programme, this was never investigated or stated. The Cavaliers shown in agony with SM, the question was never asked where they had come from. When the Boxer appeared, I thought they were going to start about heart problems in Boxers but no they went on to epilepsy, nowhere can I find that this is a particular problem in the breed. Any living being can develop epilepsy for a vast number of reasons including it being hereditary. Again it wasn't questioned or stated how the Boxer had been bred, responsibly or otherwise. They probably didn't go into the heart problems in Boxers because so much work has been done in researching and preventing this particular problem.

alfmcmalf said

"The laws of economics do not apply to them so they should be allowed to charge what they like for their puppies despite not health testing anything they breed from but are outraged at any advert for labradoodle puppies at £700 plus."

A very sweeping statement based on what, personnel prejudices. Many breeders do health test beyond what they need to do. The objection to labradoodle puppies and other doodles is the excessive amount for what is in effect a crossbreed generally from unhealth tested parents and the ridiculous claims that are made about such 'breeds', but then they do say a fool and his money are easily parted.

also wrote

"No for them any amount of inbreeding is perfectly fine. The diseases it creates - they say - are all due to environment."

Inbreeding does not cause diseases or should that be hereditary problems. If I mate a dog with a good hip score to a dog with a good hip score then I stand the best chance of getting puppies with good hips. If I mate a bitch with eye problems or a bitch that hasn't been eye tested then there is a good chance that the puppies may have problems.

Bad breeding not inbreeding causes most problems. Having said that I am not a fan of close line breeding.

The message from the programme should have been to research the breed before you buy and only buy from breeders that do the recommended health tests with good results, no excuses, not all pedigree dogs are mutant freaks to quote the RSPCA vet.

Beverley Cuddy said...

Can we stop this imagined war?

There are good breeders but not enough. Most people who breed do so only once in their lives. Amateurs who ideally need dissuading if possible or educating as to best practise if they are persistent.

Let's try tp find what unites us and fight for sensible change together

Anonymous said...

All experienced breeders have started out as amateurs, and it is the serious dedicated and educated amateur that will provide a better future for the pedigree dog.
It tends to be the old timers that are stuck in their ways and dont want dogs with noses that can breath or skin that fits their body's right.
Dont knock the next generation of breeders I think you will find they are on the same wave lengh as you!

Pai said...

Your show was the truth, and I hope it does a lot of good in the UK. The AKC needs something similar, as it is in many ways very much as in denial and lax as the KC is, perhaps PDE will scare them into action as well!