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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

SHOSHANNAH McCARTHY: Petitioning Grazia Magazine

  • Cats Protection, working across the country to neuter as many cats as possible to reduce the numbers of unwanted kittens being born in the UK.
  • The RSPCA, including amongst its numerous goals 'stopping pet overpopulation'.
  • Dogs Trust, whose mission is 'to bring about the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction'.
  • The Kennel Club, aiming to regulate dog breeding throughout the UK and promoting good breeding practice.
  • GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy), which 'takes very seriously its responsibility to support the breeding of healthy cats'.
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, which wants to see licenses required for anyone breeding more than two litters of dogs instead of five.

Most, if not all, of the charities and organisations above are well known to us, as a nation of animal lovers. They all carry out their work with variable amounts of success, but it's clear that an important goal shared by all is the regulation of dog and cat breeding in the UK.

And the numbers of dogs and cats being produced should be regulated. All of the country, rescue centres are fit to bursting. They have to turn animals away. More people are moving into rented accommodation and being forced to give up their pets. We are overflowing with unwanted and accidental animals, and many lose their lives as a result.

As for litters of cats and dogs that are intentional, many are still poorly planned and suffering for it. The friends who all said they 'would love a kitten' suddenly disappear and the litter is unhomeable. Young dogs are still going blind early in life because their parents carried the gene for PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), a disease that can easily be tested for if only those breeding the dogs could be bothered to inform themselves and organise it. Unvaccinated puppies are still dying from parvovirus every month and people are still letting their young female cats outside to become teenage mothers because they think they should have 'just one litter'.

It's a bleak picture. The charities do their best to educate, provide financial aid and scoop up the homeless. They do a sterling job under difficult circumstances.

Having read the above, you will understand why every single one of the above bodies has joined the public outrage against a flippant but harmful piece published in a recent edition of Grazia magazine, which goes against everything these groups stand for and seek to promote.

At the beginning of July, the lifestyle and fashion weekly printed a feature called 'Meet the Millennial Hustlers', outlining how some of today's young women were earning themselves some extra money. One of them was a taxidermist. But another, Ella Jane Brookbanks (28, from Wilmslow) works for an estate agent and her 'nice little side-earner' (yes, that is a direct quote) is breeding her pets. She started with her Ragdoll cat, which she had evidently not purchased with a view to breeding but had just not gotten around to neutering. In her words, things 'worked out well, so we kept it up and started breeding our Shih-tzus too'. The phrase 'cash cat' actually was printed. The quote, 'it's the difference between Ikea furniture and Habitat' was included. There was no mention of health testing the cats; Ragdolls are prone to a genetic heart condition called HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), which is easily tested for in this breed via a DNA sample. Responsible breeders are working to eliminate the condition from the breed they love. Ella Jane Brookbanks is not, and the article published by Grazia fails to recommend it.

The animal-loving public was soon up in arms. Grazia's Facebook and Twitter feeds were inundated with protests - some articulate, some thick with uncontrolled emotion. Grazia's response was slow, short and missed the point. The magazine, when it finally responded to the criticism it was receiving on all sides, apologised for any 'offence' caused and stated that it 'in no way promotes or condones irresponsible breeding'. If casually breeding family pets on an afterthought to upgrade one's furniture is not irresponsible breeding then it is a little difficult to define what is; but more concerning was Grazia's apology for the 'offence' caused.

It is not the offence that has angered the masses. A reader being offended over this is neither here nor there. It is the harm to the UK's dog and cat population that has caused fury; the harm to the already overloaded rescue centres and the endless cause of the neutering charities; the harm to responsible breeders who select their breeding animals carefully for temperament and health, test to eliminate inherited diseases and will always take back their dogs/cats if the new owners' circumstances change. This ill-conceived piece of journalism has flown in the face of the work done by all the UK's major animal charities, and barely apologised for it.

In a somewhat bizarre example of PR, Grazia's editors have remained silent since the response. They continue to post their celebrity and fashion material via their social media outlets, but are greeted only with continued uproar from the public who cannot let it lie. They have seemingly ignored the public statements made by the RSPCA, Cats Protection, Battersea and The Kennel Club all condemning the article. The animal lovers of the UK want more from Grazia, and the rescues and charities deserve more from Grazia.

A movement has begun petitioning Grazia to publish a more sincere apology in an upcoming issue and to include a piece highlighting the issues around home breeding and the pet overpopulation problem for the benefit of their readers. It's a tall ask for a fashion magazine, but then nobody expected them to write about dog and cat breeding in the first place.

Please sign the petition and join the fight on Twitter (#boycottgrazia). Grazia cannot undo the damage they may have done, but maybe we can all help minimise it. Breeding pets for a quick buck is not a good idea. For Grazia to acknowledge and demonstrate the other side of the coin - the darker side, and sadly the much larger side - will be an important step towards redressing the balance.

Thanks for reading.


Dan said...

To be honest, this happens a hell of a lot with horses, even racehorses. If you look through a good many magazines, you'll see unbroken horses offered, with great claims made as to what their parents did plus an inflated price being asked for what is essentially an unknown quantity.

There is also a worrisome tendency for people to buy a mare, discover that quite a lot a time, patience and training is needed to get the best from the animal (mares really do not respond well to tricks that work on a gelded male, such as simply administering a general good hiding) and decided to breed from the animal in the hope of getting something useful out of it.

Generally speaking, when you have one known-useless parent, putting it to the best stallion on the planet only gets you a vaguely useful foal, and that requires four or five years training to be anything like useful. People who can't put in six months to master a mare aren't going to spend that time to sort out a decent youngster.

This is especially prevalent in the USA, and over there the animal rights numpties have managed to get an extra-special law passed. It is forbidden now to send horses to slaughter in the USA, excepting humane euthanasia. That means that an easy disposal route for the thousands of horses that are frankly cat food on the hoof and nothing more is gone.

The route now is to truck them to either Canada or Mexico. You cannot even release these animals into the wild, as the USA now lacks widespread predators capable of eating them. Truly, there is no bad situation that idiots cannot make immeasurably worse.

Alex Clifford said...

Alex Clifford @Shoshannah Wow, Shoshanna, that was a beautifully conceived and written article. I am so glad I had the opportunity to read it, thank you. Anyone taking time to read that who doesn't sign the petition, isn't worth wasting time on.
It's a "no brainer" as the americans say.
It really is so refreshing to read such a talented writer for the first time. Jon told me you were amazing, and I knew you were witty after that Mike Batt thing, but jeez, you covered every pertinent angle and cross referenced each of them with each other respective one. Excellent work.

This foolish magazine "editor" and "journalist" for sadly I'm sure they think they are fit to be called such, have let everyone who makes an effort to solve these problems and render aid to the innocent casualties DOWN.

Maybe if people were clamouring for their resignations or sacking, the magazine owners might get involved, any idea who owns this vacuous rag?

Anyway, I'm off to sign your petition and share your brilliant presentation. Let's make a stink and sow havoc!