Game shoot­ing good for gun­dogs

Shooting Gazette - - Letters -

Con­sis­tent across field­sports mag­a­zines over re­cent months has been the need for all in­volved to tell of the pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion made by the ex­is­tence of those sports. How­ever, one pos­i­tive story that has largely es­caped at­ten­tion is our care for our ca­nine com­pan­ions. As any­one who has sat in a vet’s wait­ing room or wit­nessed man’s best friend at large will re­port, ca­nine obe­sity is a mas­sive prob­lem in British life but one that has cu­ri­ously evaded the at­ten­tion of an­i­mal wel­fare groups.

Re­search sug­gests that 65% of adult dogs are over­weight and 9% obese with wor­ry­ingly high lev­els of obe­sity in ju­ve­nile dogs, sta­tis­tics show­ing an in­crease over the past decade. Given the PDSA es­ti­mated that there were 8.6m dogs in Bri­tain in 2017, this would sug­gest that some 5.63m hounds are over­weight, of which 779,400 are clin­i­cally obese. The num­bers de­mand at­ten­tion.

Obe­sity in our four-legged friends is now clas­si­fied as a dis­ease, with short­ened life span, re­duced qual­ity of life and pre-dis­po­si­tions to arthri­tis, di­a­betes and other con­di­tion­known out­comes – shame­ful be­cause ap­pro­pri­ate diet and life­style can pre­vent this.

Any shoot day will find tweed-clad con­se­quences of the lun­cheon ta­ble, but we bipeds choose what and how much we eat and, sig­nif­i­cantly, what and how much ex­er­cise we take – de­ci­sions of­ten be­yond loyal Fido’s choos­ing. And yet, al­most ev­ery dog I see in the shoot­ing field is healthy – well but ap­pro­pri­ately fed and well-ex­er­cised – and ca­pa­ble of main­tain­ing pace through a long and ar­du­ous work­ing day. Could this be said of those 5.63m over­weight dogs? Fur­ther­more, how of­ten has con­ver­sa­tion in the gun­bus or over elevenses turned to the choice and qual­ity of dog food and how one might keep the trusted shoot­ing com­pan­ion in con­di­tion over the sea­son? We guns con­sis­tently do the right thing by our com­pan­ions – and it is this an­i­mal wel­fare story we should tell loudly.

We might ask those same groups con­cerned with

an­i­mal wel­fare how they are con­fronting British so­ci­ety with the cru­elty in­flicted on our beloved pets each day. The RSPCA, Blue Cross, the LACS et

al cham­pion an­i­mal wel­fare but make lit­tle of this wide­spread and in­creas­ing abuse of dogs.

What­ever one’s po­si­tion to­ward hunt­ing with hounds, the Burns Re­port ac­cepted hunt­ing ac­counted for ap­prox­i­mately 25,000 fox deaths each year – acts of an­i­mal cru­elty, some would ar­gue, that war­ranted the £30m the hunt­ing ban cost and which con­tin­ues to cost the tax­payer for ev­ery pros­e­cu­tion. In this con­text, it is be­wil­der­ing that or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the RSPCA are not draw­ing at­ten­tion to the 5m over­weight dogs on British streets – or should that be so­fas? It is easy to get ex­cited about foie gras, but what is good for the goose is clearly not good enough for the hound.

So, amid all the pos­i­tive sto­ries we can tell about the con­tri­bu­tion of field­sports, per­haps we should men­tion the an­i­mal wel­fare story that ex­ists at our feet, by our side and (for the labrador own­ers among us) in­vari­ably not too far from lun­cheon ta­ble.

M.P. Alder­son, by email

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