Claws at Crufts
SuperVet Noel FitzPatrick
About the programme: Hard-to-cure pets from across the country receive cutting-edge care from Noel Fitzpatrick, the ‘Bionic Vet’, and his crack veterinary team.
Watch Crufts? or Super-Vet? No contest. The two programmes are essentially very different animals. Channel 4’s The Supervet is a clear sharing of scientific and emotional knowledge, based around the stories of animals with the welfare of the creature positioned squarely at its centre. The charismatic Irish veterinary surgeon interacts with the humans who are their pets’ carers as sensitively and honestly as he engages with the patients whose lives he almost invariably saves or improves. His breathtaking skills often teeter on the edge of experimental innovations, a thrill which competes with the most absorbing of fictional dramas for edge of the seat suspense. Combine these fascinations with those of his personal gifts for communicating with all participants as sincerely as if they were his own family members, and here is the best of a soap opera formula. People like are the badly needed inspirational heros for today, when so many become disillusioned because of the shabbiness of shallow role-models pedalled by the flimsy media.
By contrast, Crufts has passed its sell by date and its model should be either reformed radically or the pretence of its core values exposed and rejected altogether. Over many years, the Event became a worldwide institution, establishing its prestige upon its claim to excellence. It is not difficult to dupe dog-lovers who are fascinated by the abilities and personalities of different breeds, swept along by the audience participation experience of assessing their appearance and performance. Many of us never questioned why a human owner becomes so obsessed with being in the public eye, their chief aim to win awards literally on the sorry backs of other dogs who will fail to win the top prizes. It was innocently assumed that they so passionately loved their dogs that they wanted to share their canine’s talents with the rest of the world. All that grooming and fussing and transporting of the obliging animal around venus which might or might not feel like relaxed environments for sensitive, intelligent “pets”. Very few viewers would wonder what varieties of unseen regimes must underpin such delightful displays by competitors who were usually also breeders. The client community are merchants, in fact, dealing in bloodlines of champions. Serious money hanging upon the wag of a winning tail. All competitions are industries, but where business is conducted around animals, it is a cause for concern to genuine dog-lovers that insufficient care is shown for the subjects of this often tortuous trade.
To be fair, there are probably many, well-handled dogs who respond enthusiastically to their training when properly conducted. We all know dogs love to run, jump, catch and perform various tricks which intrigue them. But do they enjoy walking backwards, and other increasingly demanding gymnastic feats, which involve stress because those cutsie actions do not come naturally to dogs? Really? Is this what owners who love their dogs want to inflict on devoted best friends? Really?
And if so, the question arises inescapably: WHY?
As for the audiences who watch entranced, will we choose to become mindful witnesses of miracles while watching “The SuperVet”, or dumbly continue to swell the hords spectating at a dubious, exploitative, game of hounds?