Game shooting good for gundogs
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