Aiding the Enemy or Cleaning House?

By speaking out so often against the unethical actions of other breeders, am I unwittingly aiding the enemy?

The "I Hate Dog Breeders" Facebook group is using my essays for propaganda.

The “I Hate Dog Breeders” Facebook group is using my essays for propaganda.

The main thrust of this blog is breeding ethics, how we should treat our dogs and structure breeding schemes: what is effective, good, and moral.  This is most often a high level of discussion, above the implementation and details, above laws and politics.  I argue against behaviors I think are immoral or unjustified, issues of legality and custom are tangential.

But we don’t live in a philosophy classroom, we live in a world of laws and competing interests struggling for power.

As breeders large and small we do not exist in a vacuum and networking with other breeders and owners is a necessity.  The days of Royal Kennels and one-man breeds are gone.  No breeder is an island.  And thus the dirty business of politics, commerce, and human emotion are at play.

Our ethics can guide how we treat our own dogs and even our fellow man, but individual ethics are not universal.  Animal Rights groups espouse a system of ethics that precludes any of us who even own dogs from being ethical agents, let alone those who breed and sell animals.  And these groups spend no small amount of their multi-million dollar budgets on writing laws that would chip away at breeder freedoms and produce advertising campaigns to poison public opinion against animal ownership and breeding.

Many of the most popular posts on this blog are not Anti-AR, they are criticisms of other breeders:

So what to make of the fact that as much or more of the content on this blog are arguments against the actions of breeders versus the Animal Rights lobby?  If the enemy is authoritarian Animal Rights fanatics and my allies are other breeders, why do I write so much about the ethical abuses of other breeders and am I offering aid and comfort to the enemy?

If I am going to fight for ethical dog breeding, there has to be something worthwhile to fight for and the breeding abuses I cite have no place in an ethical society of breeders.  These are things I refuse to stand for, so I must stand against them.  Such practices are a liability for all of us, the likes of which are sufficiently graphic and unsympathetic to the public and to lawmakers that allowing these abuses in our community will damn us all, not just the unethical.

They blame us all for the sins of commercial breeders.  They blame us all for the sins of hoarders.  They blame us all for puppy mills and shit holes and dog fighters and people who just don’t give a fuck about the dogs they produce.  That blame is misplaced and we can only hope that when the law comes for those “breeders,” we won’t be taken out with the trash.  And that’s not a safe assumption, these laws are universally broad in reach, deep in effect, and unsympathetic to the hobby breeder.

But what about the blame for the crimes “good” breeders do commit?  What about the behavior we sanction, either actively or passively?  We have to fight a constant uphill battle against the legal “solutions” to bad breeding from outside our community, we can’t afford to have unethical breeders at our backs too.  We have to jump through hoops just to distinguish ourselves and our dogs to the public who doesn’t tune in long enough to tell the difference between a factory bred dog and an artisan bred one.  We can not be sabotaged by our own membership.

The internet is the great equalizer and breeding practices that the fancy has long accepted as “the way things are done” are being exposed to a public that has not been acculturated and desensitized.  Make no mistake, these are the people who are judging the ethics of our actions and they don’t care about engraved silver cups or acrylic ribbons at all.  Such concerns as ear-set or how a dog looks in profile during a stack or a trot are not weighed against the unpalatable practices that have been used to produce them.  They don’t approve of the ends or the means.  And why should they?

Ethical abuses are like cancer.  They start small and localized but if they are not snuffed out, they grow and invade the entire body.  They don’t kill right away, they can take years before their effects are lethal.  Cells at the margin of the cancer are influenced by the robust success of the cancer cells.  They follow suit.  The cancer spreads.  The immune system–the ethical regulator of the body–can’t tell the good from the bad any more.

When I call out ethical sabotage from within our community of conscientious breeders, I do so because they are cancer.  If we don’t correctly admonish them for what they are doing to dogs, we tacitly approve of what they are doing and the success they find attracts others to consider the same behavior.  We cannot let the immorality grow.

When the time comes to purge the cancer, will there be enough healthy culture left to survive the treatment?  Legislators aren’t surgeons, they will cut us off at the knees to remove an ingrown toenail.  Their laws will not distinguish between the good and the bad, it will be more damaging than radiation.  More good breeders will be wiped out than bad in an effort to kill the cancer.  And every day we avoid treating the disease we increase the chance that the patient will die from the treatment.  The end of companion animals as we know it.

We either clean our own house or the government will condemn it, kick us out, and raze it to the ground.

It might not be politically savvy in the short term to be honest and open about problems within the breeder community, as those zealots  who are against all dog ownership and breeding can and do use our candor to their advantage.  But in the long term, we cannot afford to shelter and protect the unethical among us.  We have to be better, we have to be objectively good and do good works.  Our dogs actually have to be better than the marginal “breeders” we look down on.  And it will not be us who judges our product.

We have to earn the trust and support of the public, and we have to maintain that at all costs.  Otherwise we will find ourselves outnumbered and besieged at all sides.  And once that happens it’s only a matter of time.  They’ll starve us out while we cannibalize each other with blame and recrimination.  Throwing the unethical among us to the wolves then will not save us.  Too little, too late.  It will just confirm to the masses that their witch hunt is working and that there’s more to be done.  They won’t stop until it’s all burned down.

Only then will they realize “well where am I supposed to get my next dog from?”  “How come no one breeds anymore?”  “Why do I need a license to own a dog and why are they incredibly expensive?”  “What ever happened to Old Shep?”

And then, all we can ask ourselves will be “why didn’t we do something about it sooner?”  And there’s no good answer to that question.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.