Inquiry – an act of asking for information or to conduct a formal investigation.

On 8th September SNP MP Dr Paul Monaghan for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross reminded us he was involved in an inquiry into animal welfare through his role as a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, EFRA Select Committee Special Sub-Committee on Greyhound Welfare and the EFRA Select Committee Special Sub-Committee on Animal Welfare saying “Traveling to Wales tomorrow with @CommonsEFRA to visit puppy farms & dog rescue services as part of our ongoing inquiry into animal welfare.”

This was then followed by a tweet on 9th September which said:

The inquiry launched earlier this year and since then, no doubt as a result of what he has learnt, he has been active showing support by joining different campaigning groups on protests.

Indeed on 23rd May he replied to the International Fund for Animal Welfare Parliamentary Team who applauded him for tabling an Early Day motion in Westminster calling for tighter legislation on dog breeding saying, “It’s a privilege to be able to highlight and support animal welfare issues. Let’s hope change is around the corner.”

Whenever an MP backs calls for better animal welfare to create a brighter future for Britain’s animals in need it has to be a good thing, that’s what we all hope as dog lovers because there are far too many stories around the world daily showing man’s best friend suffering at man’s hand.

However, when a publicly appointed MP with a role in animal welfare on a public forum such as Twitter takes a personal stance on an organisation who he has previously shared material from, hope turns to something else. It’s a feeling unlike another. Over the years many things come up which I keep silent about. Ryan’s voice, as publisher of K9 Magazine, is very often enough more eloquent than mine. Brevity is not my friend, but it is his.

Through we see a lot of stories of dogs rescued from puppy farms and so I see the end result if you like, as animal rescues pick up the pieces from all types of situations trying to give a dog a second chance in life. The life they should have had.

The organisation he has chosen to take a personal stance about is Puppy Love Campaigns, who are supported by author and Huffington Post contributor Janetta Harvey, who’s main body of work revolves around raising awareness to puppy farming and the long-term effects on the dogs saved based on personal experience, and he seems to have also taken a personal stance here having taken the same action against her.

Puppy Love Campaigns aren’t a group who court media and publicity, but in my opinion, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Their investigations have resulted in 10 puppy farms (and counting) being closed, saving many dogs from a life as a breeding machine in dark, squalid conditions we as dog lovers can’t quite get our heads around.

Their videos and images have been circulated by many other puppy farming campaigns utilising their hard work and efforts to spread the word using the material and evidence they gather.

Surely an MP with a role actively involved in inquiries about animal welfare should be doing all he can to benefit from the advice, work and specialist knowledge of those involved?

Instead, after sharing news on 8th that he was visiting Wales as part of his work into animal welfare, he took the decision on 9th September to block both Janetta and Puppy Love Campaigns.

This essentially stops them from engaging with him, but also stops him from seeing their activity on Twitter. For an MP who can be quoted telling us we should all “show respect to those we share our planet with” and who seems to want to do good and see an end to puppy farming, he will now miss out on vital news, information and advice he could benefit from for the good of the inquiry from Janetta, who has recently launched a book with a campaign to educate children about the subject and Puppy Love Campaigns, who have helped to close down – say it with me – 10 and counting puppy farms.

This seems to be a thought echoed by many others who have echoed disbelief at the public figure’s actions, let alone those involved. Janetta has detailed her thoughts on her website while Puppy Love Campaigns have been left confused by the MP’s stance. All of which I note seem to have, publicly anyhow, gone without reply.

Investigations of Puppy Love Campaigns have also resulted in 3 breeders being struck off the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. This scheme was implemented after the critically acclaimed ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ documentary aired on the BBC highlighting the plight of certain dog breeds bred to conform to specific standards outlined by the Kennel Club.

When you cut through the marketing, the Assured Breeder Scheme in the Kennel Club’s own words “helps puppy buyers find breeders who follow good practice. We wish to guarantee a responsible and rewarding experience for everyone. Every single Assured Breeder will be inspected by the Kennel Club, a UKAS accredited certification body, in order to ensure that the scheme is recognised as the essential quality seal for puppy breeding and buying.”

In exchange for joining and for the above, breeders can use the scheme literature and logo to promote their litters of puppies. The Kennel Club say “this is an important badge that shows puppy buyers your commitment to the health and welfare of your dogs.”

The reason I highlight the work of Puppy Love Campaigns is for one reason only – they don’t seek the limelight, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve applause for their work.

Puppy Love Campaigns is made up of a group of volunteers who want to see an end to the puppy farming trade and as such, remain anonymous to allow them to carry out their investigations gathering evidence to pass onto bodies, such as the RSPCA and Local Authorities at which point the investigations continue with the relevant bodies able to ensure cases are taken to court, such as the latest case in Wales or in other cases, improvement orders will be given, ensuring a better life for the dogs.

Their investigations begin with calls from concerned members of the public, sometimes neighbours of individuals who are mistreating animals and aren’t sure what to do. This organisation has the trust of the public, after all, their investigations stem from public reports.

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Their work is not built on personal opinions and they don’t seek thanks from members of the public, but they deserve respect and they deserve to be listened to, particularly if you are part of an inquiry into the subject.

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In fact, wouldn’t you assume a publicly appointed figure would be seeking the ear of a body who have helped to close puppy farms across the UK?

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After waiting what we felt was a respectable amount of time for the publicly appointed, but no doubt busy, MP to reply, we contacted his office for a comment for this story.

We asked him why he had chosen to block. He told us after originally engaging with them (at the time of writing, this activity is still visible for anyone who wishes to browse), he spoke with someone leading him to feel they had a difference of viewpoint on strategies taken and repeated multiple times it was a personal decision.,

Which left us confused as to why with this in mind he has left a tweet showing him sharing images taken by Puppy Love Campaigns (as below).

To this, he replied that he feels there was no reason to delete it as the sentiment is in line with his viewpoint.

We can’t help but feel that by blocking those who have had a voice about the subject of puppy farming for longer (Janetta) or those who have had more of a direct role in communicating with and investigating puppy farms than you may have, you cast aspersions by doing so, given the goal of all is to end puppy farming.

We put this to him and he said: “It’s important not to lose sight of the goal from all involved to end puppy farming.” He concluded wishing them well but reiterated his personal stance.

Surely, this is a conflict of interest? If you’re using the platform to voice your work as a public official and MP for your constituency and beyond if you sit on committees, surely you should be open to receiving information, advice and data from those who have more expertise on a subject than you, as someone on an inquiry gathering data and insights to assess?

After all, if you already knew all there was to know on a subject why hold an inquiry at all?

We remain hopefully the enquiry will bring a silver lining to the lives of animals in need, but the subject of bias has to be raised, because lets face it, if you don’t have all of the data or insights on a subject how can you say you fully investigated and assessed for a well rounded, complete inquiry.

Sadly, the topic of puppy farming is one those within the field are split about. Some believe stopping third party sales will end puppy farming, some, including Puppy Love Campaigns and the RSPCA, disagree saying third party sales would continue somehow, instead they would like to see every seller and breeder licenced.

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1 comment
  1. Oh well if BBC Scotland can have faith enough in Puppy Love Campaigns to steer them in the right direction allowing them to commission 2 BAFTA award winning programmes in 2015 and 2016 specifically exposing the evils of puppy farming and all that that entails who are we to disagree with the well read SNP Dr P Monaghan – I say this with more than a hint of sarcasm if my voice could be heard.

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