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BBC announces it won't air Crufts Dog Show

December 16, 2008 |  3:25 pm

Irish Setters The BBC says it will not broadcast the Crufts Dog Show (the British equivalent of the American Kennel Club's Westminster Dog Show) next year, a decision based on the findings of a BBC documentary that suggested many purebreds suffer major health problems as a result of breeding practices designed to produce show-winning dogs. 

Following the release of the documentary, "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," it appears the dispute between the BBC and Britain's Kennel Club centered around several breeds considered "at risk," including the Basset Hound and the German Shepherd Dog. The BBC further reports that:

The programme ... identified the Rhodesian ridgeback and cavalier spaniel as having serious congenital issues.

It showed spaniels with brains too big for their skulls and boxer dogs that suffered from epilepsy.

The Kennel Club has complained that the show was unfairly edited and did not properly reflect its "deep commitment to the health and welfare of dogs."

When the Kennel Club refused to ban the "at risk" breeds from Group and Best in Show competition, the BBC responded by "'suspend[ing]' the show pending further health and safety investigations," the report says.

Kennel Club chairman Ronnie Irving  responded in a statement:

"I am very sorry that BBC audiences around the world will not be able to join us in celebrating all dogs in 2009 and to see the remarkable diversity of dogs and activities on show at Crufts; ranging from the show classes to agility displays, the Friends for Life competition and the unsung heroes who take part in breed rescue.

"However, we have been forced to reject the insupportable conditions imposed by the BBC, who have told us they will only televise the show in 2009 if certain breeds are excluded from participating. We are unable to agree to these demands, as it would compromise both contractual obligations and our general responsibility to dog exhibitors and our audience and we believe it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to exclude any recognised breed from Crufts.

"We are obviously disappointed and confused with this outcome as we hoped the broadcast would have supported our focus on health and welfare issues, given advice about caring for and training dogs and showcased the charitable work that we support. This TV exposure would have benefited all dogs and given viewers a well-rounded picture of what the new Crufts in 2009 is all about."

Steve Jones, a genetics professor at University College London, told the BBC in an August interview, "People are carrying out breeding which would be first of all entirely illegal in humans and secondly is absolutely insane from the point of view of the health of the animals.... In some breeds they are paying a terrible price in genetic disease." 

Commenting on the BBC's decision, PETA blogger Liz Graffeo said:

Apparently USA Network (which broadcasts Westminster Dog Show every February here in the states) hasn't yet gotten the memo that "breedism" is a thing of the past. Remember last year's winner, Uno? As a beagle, Uno has a significantly higher risk of hypothyroidism, demodectic mange, umbilical hernia, epilepsy, eye and eyelid problems, cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease, and luxating patella. Now what ribbon does that deserve?

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Elise Amendola / Associated Press

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