Sunday 18 January 2009

The Future of Cat Breeding?

Can we see a part of the future of cat breeding by observing what has happened to the Kennel Club in Great Britain? The Kennel Club has had to change the breed standards of 209 of its registered dog breeds as a result of a BBC program (Pedigree Dogs Exposed) that claimed that the club encouraged the breeding of unhealthy dogs through misdirected breed standards and judging at shows (including the biggest show of all, Crufts) that focused on appearance over health and temperament.

The program led to loss of sponsorship forcing the club to give way and change what was an ingrained practice established over decades. This has come as a major shock to the club and more particularly the various dog clubs and breed committees affiliated to or working on behalf of the Kennel Club. The committee members are often traditionalists. They have been doing what they do for generations. They became blind, I would argue, to what they were actually doing, focusing on the wrong thing, appearance, for the sake of status and profit at the expense of the animal they so loved and cared for.

However, grass roots members of the Kennel Club seem to disagree with the club. One committee member was kicked out of the King Charles Spaniel committee for assisting the BBC. The grass roots wanted her back and voted her in. The senior members of the committee all resigned forcing this member to back down. I am not sure why she did back down though. Anyway the point is, it is very hard to change well entrenched ways and one wonders sometimes whether the senior dog breeders are actually concerned about their animals' health as they no doubt claim to be. But they will be obliged to follow the new breed standard. Change will occur.

The same kind of thing, I believe, may well happen with the major cat associations. The CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) in the USA is the bastion of tradition but a tradition based on breed standards that have gradually veered off course under their management, resulting, albeit on a lesser scale, in some cat breeds being bred with health problems. Will there be a similar television program about cats? What is the future of cat breeding? The world is changing and the breeders aren't.

The CFA would do well to snap out of its cosy world and face the modern world. It will then ensure a long future but without change there will be mounting pressure from animal rights and grass roots to change, which may jeopardize its position and standing in the long term. Other cat assocations follow the ways of the CFA. These may face similar problems. The associations need to care more for the future of cat breeding.

See Cat Breeders and Animal Rights | Cat Breed Standards Need Reviewing | Persian Cats | Complete Book of Cat Breeding, The

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