Friday, 6 March 2009

KC thinks inbreeding is boring!

Here's a slightly abridged transcript of the surprising exchange between KC spokesman Caroline Kisko and myself yesterday on Sky News. I suspect some of those remarks may haunt Caroline for some time. If you can see the footage you'll see she was rattled and I think PR training must have slipped and for the first time we hear what the KC really thinks about the importance of reducing inbreeding. It's boring apparently. THe pain of dogs with SM must get a bit dull, too.
And notice the side step near the end. It's the KC being criticised yet she deflects it to breeders.

Caroline: Talking about breed plans etc....The health of pedigree dogs is pretty well assured for the future.

Dermot: Beverley, they seem to be addressing the issues, and, as Caroline is saying, breed by breed – every breed is different.

Beverley: Well, I think that’s just putting things off. There are things that can be brought in instantly to make it easier for the breeders to avoid the dead end of inbreeding. This week they showed they could stop close breeding – they banned incest brother-to-sister, mother-to-daughter – but the vast majority of people who show dogs breed grandfather to granddaughter, and I think Caroline will not say that she has a problem with that. Any normal person will know that repeatedly breeding a grandfather to a granddaughter is a recipe for disaster.

Dermot: Caroline?

Caroline: What we’re doing here is largely getting off the point. We need to make sure puppy buyers... (Transcriber's note - goes off point talking about Accredited Breeder scheme) and welfare checks – visited by an advisor – all sorts of things we’ve done to make sure the future of pedigree dogs is assured. As Beverley knows, the vast majority of pedigree dogs are healthy.

Dermot: I just wanted to pull you back to that direct question - that direct problem from Beverley there - and you rather swerved it. Do you have a problem with grandfather-to-granddaughter breeding?

Caroline: (Sigh) ...We do in certain breeds. We will not in other breeds because it will depend so much on the size of the gene pool already. We shouldn’t be humanizing this. What we are talking about here are dogs, and dogs have a very different genetic structure to us.

Dermot: Okay, we shouldn’t humanize it; we don’t in agriculture or in horse racing; they breed selectively.

Beverley: It’s true we don’t really worry about longevity in cows because we eat them, but in pets we rather do worry when the life expectancy is declining and the number of health problems is going up and the vet’s bills are going up. It’s so obvious that, generation after generation, if you breed close relatives together, you’re going to have huge health problems.
We’ve only had shows since Victorian times; we’ve only had kennel clubs since Victorian times. This practice has to start being addressed. Other countries put things in place 20 years ago to stop the overuse of popular sires – a dog can sire nearly every litter in the country in a generation – and that really has to be stopped. The Kennel Club could make these changes – they just don’t want to.

Caroline starts talking at the same time... But that’s not happening, is it Beverley?....

Dermot: Why isn’t it happening, Caroline?

Caroline: Well, it’s not a question of the Kennel Club not wanting to – we are trying to do the best thing for pedigree dogs. We keep harping on about this one point while at the same time there are so many good things that the Kennel Club is doing. You cannot do everything at exactly the same time. We have no legal power – we need to keep breeders with us. And in order to be able to do that, we have to do things little by little, not visit the whole thing on breeders in one go. What we want to do is take things little by little, make sure that breeders are actually with us all the way. Otherwise, they could just say goodbye; they can go and register with another organisation or simply not bother to register at all. Then whose caring about the dogs they breed? No one. The Kennel Club wants to do the right thing. We cannot do it overnight, as Beverley well knows. And just bleating on about inbreeding and so on constantly is just boring in the end.

Dermot: Well, what about that point there, Beverley? The Kennel Club are trying, they have to be the regulator, and they have to keep breeders and owners on board?

Beverley: It shouldn’t be overnight. It shouldn’t be them suddenly having to catch up. Fourteen years ago, they knew about the problem with inbreeding and they tried to sell the breeders a program to allow the breeders to work it out for themselves about inbreeding. In Sweden the same number of years ago, they opened up the system for all people, who are using it to calculate for them the level of inbreeding, and set targets and stopped the overuse of popular sires. Our Kennel Club was negligent all those years ago; it didn’t put the things in place to save our pet dogs from suffering today.

Dermot: Do you think they could do it in a big-bang way now – catch up as you’d like them to?

Beverley: The software is there on their computers. They could instantly start telling people how inbred the dogs they are about to buy are.

Dermot: Okay, Caroline; well, last go for you – technology should make it quite simple for you.

Caroline: Well, actually we can’t. I’m sorry, well [Caroline talking over Dermot] – well. I think that turning around and simply saying we should have done it 14 years ago is pretty unfair. We actually started this whole episode a very long time ago. We carried on doing it and started doing lots of good things now – let’s just have a little pat on the back and a bit of support for breeders instead of this constant whinging and whining about what we haven’t done soon enough – no, we can’t do everything that the Swedish Kennel Club are doing and actually you’ll find that breeders in Sweden are not terribly happy with the way that their Kennel Club have gone about things either. They’ve lost people, they will continue to do so. We want to keep people with us, so we have to do it steadily.

Dermot: Okay, Caroline, thank you up there at Crufts in Birmingham, and Beverley Cuddy, who, I take, is not on her way up there...

Latest installment. Click here to read what the Swedish Kennel Club said on reading Caroline Kisko's outburst on Sky News.

Here's what it says on the Pinboard section...

We are told that British KC spokeswoman ms Caroline Kisko in a debate aired on March, 5th by British Sky News, claims that Swedish dog breeders are leaving the Swedish KC because of discontent with breeding regulations. Is this true? We haven´t heard any information to that purpose, but will be back with a comment from the Swedish KC as soon as may be!

I fail to recognize the description of the attitudes of Swedish breeders to Swedish Kennel Club policies, nor that breeders should be leaving the Swedish Kennel Club in discontent.
For my part, I strongly doubt that Caroline Kisko could have said so, as she is quite familiar with our work, and as the Swedish KC and the KC regularly meet to exchange views on the experience we have of various breeding matters.
If we look at the numbers of new breeders who, for instance, apply for a new kennel name, that group has grown by more than 35% over the past five years, which I think is a pretty clear signal of breeder attitudes to the Swedish Kennel Club.

Ulf Uddman, Executive of the SKC


Anonymous said...

But surely there are some breeders whose custom they want to lose? Example being those consistantly breeding dogs of poor health and those churning out puppies factory farm style and registering countless litters in a single year. I would have thought that the new modern kennel club whose motto is fit for life would have welcome cleaning some of those poorer breeders out and supporting all the good breeders that they have?
Has there been a survey of what the breeders actually want?
Do they know just how many want them to stay the same and how many would like see changes that support health testing and reduce inbreeding?

Mutthouse xx

Anonymous said...

Beverley, you did really well. What Caroline said was so depressing. She just doesn't understand about how important this inbreeding thing is and how it should be addressed immediately.
I was only looking at a pedigree today showing a bitch mated with her grandfather.
Why can't the KC just refuse to register litters bred from close relatives?
What is the reason not to?
And why cannot they not urge the breed clubs to do a programme of outcrosses with suitable dogs?
The trouble is, we are not going to get real change unless there's a revolution at the KC and these backward looking people are swept away.
Julia L

Badger said...

Our Boxer was diagnosed with Skin cancer today :(

So with that and her heart defect it looks like she is a victim of the 'boring inbreeding debate'.

But shush, bad me, for whinging and whinning about it. ;)