Jewish dog breeders call upon BBC to cancel Nazi-linked film

By Jessica Elgot, January 12, 2012
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A dog and its owner arriving at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham

A dog and its owner arriving at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham

Jewish dog breeders are urging the BBC to cancel a new film about pedigree dogs - because a previous film compared breeders to Nazi eugenicists.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed was aired in 2008. After complaints, the media watchdog, Ofcom, found that the Kennel Club had not been given a proper opportunity to respond to an allegation about eugenics and a comparison with Hitler and the Nazi Party.

A follow-up programme is being filmed for broadcast later this year on BBC Four, but the BBC said similar comparisons would be avoided.

But Jewish breeders want the programme, produced by Jemima Harrison, to be pulled entirely, because of the distress the original broadcast caused.

Dog breeder Mike Davidsohn, who lost family members in the Holocaust, said he had been extremely distressed at the comparison.

He said: "Her accusation of Nazi eugenics against the Kennel Club, and thus pedigree dog breeders, underpinned the entire programme. The Kennel Club was founded in 1873 as a registration service. The eugenics movement was not fully formed until the turn of the 20th century; the early Nazi Party was not formed until 1919. But Ms Harrison charges the Kennel Club with being formed from the eugenics movement."

In the 2008 film, a voice-over narrates the history of eugenics, (selective genetic breeding), over an image of the Kennel Club HQ and the annual dog show, Crufts. Images are also shown of Adolf Hitler, Nazi rallies and antisemitic signs.

After the 2008 screening, Ms Harrison said: "The film-makers acknowledge that the link between the eugenics movement and dog-breeding is an extremely uncomfortable one for many, but it is nevertheless factually correct.

"It was the horrific events of 1930s Germany that led to the eugenics movement being discredited. And yet eugenicist principles are still endorsed today. The film-makers believe the use of archive footage from the 1930s/1940s was, therefore, justified in order to make the point that the Kennel Club system, which has at its heart the pursuit of 'purity', perpetuates a philosophy that is morally and scientifically flawed."

Now Mr Davidsohn and other breeders have set up a Facebook group with more than 1,500 members called "Stop the BBC making another PDE".

Jemima Harrison has continued, on her blog, to defend the comparison with Nazi practices. She wrote: "Pedigree Dogs Exposed documented the relationship between dog-breeding practices and discredited eugenics theory as practised by Hitler. The link has been well-documented - including by the Kennel Club's own genetics adviser, Jeff Sampson."

    Last updated: 12:16pm, January 12 2012