Chinese Controversies in the Dog Show World

From the Yulin dog meat festival to the 2019 World Dog Show and FCI's Tibetan breed origin changes, dog fanciers are up in arms about Chinese dog issues.

From the Yulin dog meat festival to the 2019 World Dog Show and FCI's Tibetan breed origin changes, dog fanciers are up in arms about Chinese dog issues.

We’ve all heard of the highly publicized animal welfare violations in China in recent months, but even more trouble is brewing in the dog show world on the subject of China. Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and American Kennel Club (AKC) are currently fighting over the right for AKC to support a Chinese national kennel club separate from FCI, and now there is international upset about the FCI awarding the 2019 World Dog Show to China and about FCI approving a change of origin for several breeds from Tibet to China. With all this controversy, it’s hard to keep track of what is happening, so here’s a breakdown of everything that’s been going on, in semi-chronological order.

FCI and AKC Fight for China

China’s dog scene has developed in recent years as its economy has grown. As a result, many kennel clubs sprang up, vying for national dominance. Two of the most important that have emerged are the China Kennel Union (CKU), which has been a contract partner of FCI since 2006, and the National General Kennel Club (NGKC), which has had an official contract with AKC since 2007.

The conflict in this situation lies in the fact that FCI, which governs international dog show activities in most of the world, accepts only one national organization per country and obviously chooses to recognize the club with which it is contracted. In addition, FCI rules don’t allow AKC judges to officiate at non-FCI shows held in countries that already have an FCI-recognized club. As the dog scene in China has continued to grow, FCI has become increasingly upset with AKC for continuing to support the FCI club’s competition, because each club has its own registry and occasionally holds competing shows.

In the February 2010 issue of Dogs in Review, Bo Bengtson wrote about the “American involvement in the Chinese dog scene,” suggesting that it would result in problems for American judges, breeders and exhibitors, and his prediction has proven right. After FCI began warning AKC judges again about judging non-FCI shows in countries with an FCI-recognized club, AKC responded in February 2015 by barring all judges from the FCI Asian Pacific Section at AKC shows. The AKC gave FCI 90 days to respond — until May 19 — threatening to disallow all FCI judges, but there appear to be no actions as of yet. If neither organization backs down, it will have worldwide consequences for the international judging, registering, importing and exporting of purebred dogs.

 

Animal Welfare in China

On April 17, The New York Times ran an article about Chinese animal welfare activists preventing a truck with more than 150 dogs, including purebred Tibetan Mastiffs, from arriving at a slaughterhouse. It appears that the Tibetan Mastiff, once a Chinese status symbol like expensive sports cars or flashy wristwatches, has fallen out of style. While breeders sold puppies for over $250,000 just a few years ago, many are now over capacity and can no longer afford to care for the large dogs when puppies can’t be placed. As a result, many breeders sell just to get less-than-perfect specimens off their hands, and a large number of these dogs — along with other dogs suspected of being stolen pets — end up on slaughterhouse-bound meat trucks.

In addition, the yearly Yulin dog meat festival ran from June 21 through June 30, where an estimated 10,000 dogs are eaten during the festival. The festival faced widespread criticism — including a large social media movement, various petitions and celebrity backing, foreign and domestic.

On June 26, FCI drafted a letter to Yulin’s governor calling for an end to the festival and invited all FCI member clubs to send copies it to their country’s Chinese embassy. The letter offers the Chinese Kennel Union’s “expertise and knowledge to help educate people, to raise awareness among the population that the Dog is Man’s Best Friend and is a living entity, sharing our lives and living with our families.”

 

2019 World Dog Show… in China?

On June 9, FCI awarded the location of the 2019 World Dog Show to China and the CKU. After the numerous controversies concerning China, many fanciers were confused as to why such a prestigious event in the sport would be held in a country with such a tarnished animal welfare record.

Two separate petitions with more than 300,000 combined signatures have surfaced, demanding that FCI move the show to another country. On June 23, the Norwegian Kennel Club put out a statement advising all Norwegian dog owners and judges not to participate in the show. The statement also expressed the club’s wish for the show to be moved, unless the Yulin festival is put to an end and Chinese animal welfare as a whole improves. A few days later, on June 25, The Kennel Club of England announced that it would not be taking its roadshow stand to China in 2019, and discussed the country’s consumption of dog meat and lack of widespread animal welfare in its statement. As of July 15, several more national clubs have voiced their disapproval of the show’s location, including those of Finland, Canada and Sweden.

On the FCI website on June 30, President Rafael de Santiago explained that the decision to hold the 2019 WDS in China was made democratically by the General Assembly, where 68 countries were present or represented. De Santiago also added that China was awarded the show “over several other countries … in a clear victory.” CKU’s bid for the show was accompanied by a video presentation that acknowledged the cultural differences and asked for the show as an opportunity to spread the idea of dogs as companions to the Chinese population.

 

Tibetan Breeds 

While protests were still mounting over the 2019 WDS, FCI announced on June 23 something that had been decided three months earlier: Five breeds would have their “country of origin” changed. The Tibetan Mastiff, Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu are no longer Tibetan in origin in the eyes of FCI; as per the proposal of the China Kennel Union at the FCI General Committee Meeting on March 18, they are now listed as originating in China.

Tibetan breed fanciers were immediately upset by the news. Some took to social media, posting photos of their dogs with the caption, “Made in Tibet — not China,” and others started protest petitions. Many accused FCI of acting in secret due to the delay in announcing the change. Some suggested that the proposal was part of China’s goal to rewrite Tibet’s history, and that the change itself is an endorsement of this plan.

As the uproar about this announcement grew — along with all the other hullaballoo surrounding FCI and China — FCI released a statement. In the same statement explaining the 2019 WDS decision, President Rafael de Santiago said that as an FCI full member, “CKU has the right to ask to be the country of origin of the [Tibetan breeds].” He went on to remind readers that changes in breed standard are only implemented if the FCI General Committee approves them.

CKU also moved to have the breeds’ “country of patronage/development” changed to China, but the Committee chose to postpone acting on that proposal, according to another FCI statement. While the statement didn’t explain why the Committee agreed to CKU’s proposal regarding origin, it stated that the patronage (“the right to alter the standard and the name of the breeds”) of most of these breeds belongs to The Kennel Club, “as England traditionally is considered to be the country that played the biggest part in developing the breeds in question.” The only breed that doesn’t owe its patronage to England is the Tibetan Mastiff, which “belongs directly to the FCI.”

These statements, however, did little to quiet protests. Tibetan breed clubs across the world, whether in FCI countries or not, have moved to urge their national kennel organizations to oppose FCI action on their breeds. Some FCI clubs, such as those in France and the Netherlands, have already publicly called for reversal of the origin change. In the UK, the proposal to change the country of patronage/development united breed clubs to appeal to The Kennel Club for support. In the US, the Tibetan Mastiff and Tibetan Spaniel clubs have already notified the AKC of their objections, and the others are expected to soon.

 

AKC Statement

On July 22, AKC released a short statement regarding the numerous protests of the Yulin festival. Titled “The Institutionalized Inhumane Treatment of Dogs,” it appears below in its entirety:

“The recently held Yulin Dog Meat festival in China has resulted in cries of protest among the dog-loving public worldwide. The American Kennel Club believes that these protests are completely justified and imperative for there to be any chance of eliminating this institutionalized and heinous treatment, torture, and consumption of thousands of dogs each year. The AKC, as well as other purebred registries in the world, recognizes dogs as devoted companions and working partners, and denounces their use as food products and subjection to cruel and inhumane treatment.

“AKC urges all of the purebred dog registries in China to implement educational programs to help put an end to the barbarous practice of torturing and eating dogs, and extends the offer to assist in this effort in any way possible.”

 

 

For further reading, see the following Dogs in Review articles:

February 2010 | Bo Bengtson At Large: A World War of Kennel Clubs

May 2015 | Between the Lines: A War of Kennel Clubs That Affects You

June 2015 | Between the Lines: Dogs in the Headlines

Upcoming: August 2015 | FCI, China and the Tibetan Breeds

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