Ofcom finally rule...

After what can only be several £100,000s of legal fees on each side, Ofcom has finally ruled on Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Here is their summary:

The programme - broadcast on 19 August 2008 - looked at health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs and included criticisms of the Kennel Club, other clubs and individual dog breeders.
Ofcom considered five complaints that the BBC programme was unfair; they came from the Kennel Club, the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, Mr Michael Randall and Mrs Virginia Barwell.
Ofcom found that there was not unfairness to the Kennel Club in the editing of the programme and that the Kennel Club was not deceived about the purpose of the programme.
But it was not given a proper opportunity to respond to an allegation about eugenics and a comparison with Hitler and the Nazi Party; or an allegation that it covered up the nature of an operation carried out on a Crufts Best in Show winner.
Ofcom found that, when the programme alleged that the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain was not doing all it could about a condition called Dermoid Sinus, it did not fairly represent the research on the subject. An inaccurate description of the breed's ridge was likely to have unfairly compounded the impression that the Club was choosing to breed deformed dogs.
Summary of findings
Finally, Ofcom found that the programme was unfair to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder Mrs Virginia Barwell, as it did not convey her explanations for the very brief statements she was shown making in the programme.
Ofcom did not uphold the complaints from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club or Mr Michael Randall.
Ofcom has directed the BBC to broadcast a summary of this adjudication.
Read the full document here.
The only KC points that were upheld were entirely down to right-to-reply rather than accuracy or unfairness. The basic facts of the documentary remain undisputed and there's a huge amount for them to do!
I fail to see how anyone at the KC could claim that spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees to achieve this is anything like a good result for them, but that's what they are doing! http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2836/23/244/3
When will the KC just accept the facts and get on with sorting things out, until we have a KC that accepts its failings what hope do we have of them reforming themselves without legislation.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback element ruling is most peculiar and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about this in the future.

the BBC have issued this comment:
“While we note OFCOM’s findings regarding some aspects of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we stand firmly by the programme, which was clearly in the public interest; and we stand firmly by its conclusions. The broadcast has accelerated unprecedented reform in the way pedigree dogs are bred – including new limits on inbreeding, changes to the written standards of 78 breeds of dog and a new code of ethics which prohibits the culling of puppies for cosmetic reasons.”

And the RSPCA comment is:
The BBC's Pedigree Dogs Exposed was a landmark programme that made a serious animal welfare problem the subject of national debate.

Health and welfare problems faced by pedigree dogs are still being discussed and three separate inquiries (two scientific and one parliamentary) into the problem have been launched since the programme was broadcast.

This shows how important Pedigree Dogs Exposed was as a catalyst for change, and confirms that the health and welfare problems suffered by pedigree dogs are extremely serious - a fact that the Ofcom report does not call into question.

The RSPCA continues to be extremely concerned about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease affecting pedigree dogs.

Two reports have been published so far*, both backing the RSPCA’s view that the welfare and quality of life of many pedigree dogs is seriously compromised by established breeding practices for appearance. Both the rules and requirements of competitive dog showing and pedigree dog registration are major contributing factors to these problems.

Rather than fighting this documentary the KC should be celebrating what it has achieved! Here's a summary:


• The KC will no longer register the progeny of father/daughter; mother/son or full-sib matings (unless convinced of a strong scientific reason for doing so).

• The KC is running a prominent "fit for function, fit for life" campaign

• The KC has made changes to 78 breed standards in order to discourage/reverse exaggerations and has added the following clause to every breed standard:

"A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure."

• the KC has commissioned an independent enquiry into dog-breeding that will report in January. Headed by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson it is expected to make strong recommendations regarding the need to preserve/improve genetic diversity.

• two other independent enquiries - one from the RSPCA and one an all-party parliamentary group - have come to the same broad conclusions as the film - that there are serious welfare problems that need to be addressed urgently. Both have favoured self-regulation rather than new legislation and also recognise that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The APGAW report is downloadable from here:

The RSPCA report is downloadable from here: http://www.rspca.org.uk/in-action/issuesindepth/pedigreedogs

• the KC, as part of a ‘stakeholder’ group compromising veterinary and animal welfare organisations, has signed up to the following welfare principles:

1) every dog should be born with the best possible chance of living a healthy and happy life, well suited to its intended lifestyle

2) all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed, in order to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring

3) all those who benefit from dogs have a collective responsibility to work
together to protect dog welfare

More info: http://www.bva.co.uk/newsroom/1663.aspx

• the KC has announced that it is minded to allow the registration of Dalmatians crossed with a pointer (known as LUA or NUA Dalmatians) in order to alleviate the breed of a debilitating, sometimes fatal, condition caused by high uric acid levels. Objections from the UK breed clubs (requested by Dec 31 2009) can only be on the grounds of health and welfare (ie.not on the grounds of breed purity). Although the KC has allowed some limited outcrossing in the past, it is being more proactive in this area. See also:

• The KC has launched a new Canine Genetics Centre based at the Animal Health Trust (the main developer of DNA tests in the UK)

• The Animal Health Trust says it has had a "huge increase in breeders" wanting to help in the development of new DNA tests since the programme.

• The KC has improved judge's training inc that judges of gundog breeds must attend field trials before being allowed to judge at Ch show level.

• Breed clubs' Code of Ethics are no longer allowed to condone the culling of healthy puppies that don't meet the breed standard.

• The KC has withdrawn the allocation of CCs from GSDs in 2012, demanding evidence that conformation problems in the breed are being tackled.
( http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2791/23/5/3)

• Many more cavaliers are being MRI scanned for syringomyelia. (A three-fold increase in the number of MRI-scanned dogs listed on the UK Club's website)

• The KC has promised breed health plans for every breed. Part of this will be an assessment of the genetic diversity of every breed.

• The RSPCA is funding the University of Sydney to develop a veterinary-based disease-surveillance scheme.

Click here for some of the back story


Anonymous said…
sounds like the kc is doing some fantastic work...hope it continues.
Anonymous said…
pde really helped the kennel club to see things in a new perspective. it sounds like they are doing lots of positive things now, lets hope that in continues to go in such a positive direction.
Anonymous said…
Without PDE at their heels they'd still be sitting in their ivory tower, twiddling their thumbs and patting themselves firmly on the back!
Anonymous said…
so Passionate productions have been proved in public that they were happy to lie and distort. The full report makes very interesting reading just how low journalst will now stoop to sell a story and how poor the BBC's own investigations must of been for them not to have come up with the same conclusions of Ofcoms following many viewers original complaints. I wonder if the ofcom ruling/apology that the BBC will now have to broadcast will have to be shown in other countries too?
Anonymous said…
maybe so, but there are so many breeders who actually do all of these things, and have done for years (ie health screening). pde should have pointed that out.

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