Sunday, October 26, 2008
A Question Of Ethics
Well, 'Drew and I are back from the regional specialty show and then another two day show at Dixon. We didn't enter either of them for reasons that may become obvious.
Mostly, though, there are questions we are pondering about the dog show world and, in particular, why it is that people will resort to just about anything to win.
When a regional club for a given breed holds a specialty, and will be involved in taking care of the judge (whether it be picking him or her up from the airport, taking him or her out to dinner, and so on), should the members of the club's governing committee enter (or be allowed to enter) their dogs in the show? Wouldn't doing so, at a minimum, raise the appearance of impropriety? And, if one of the club committee member's dog then wins the show, doesn't it raise the spectre of actual impropriety?
Many clubs state right on their premium lists that "Out of courtesy to our exhibitors members of the this kennel club will not enter or exhibit dogs at this show." Good for them. They are exhibiting some ethics. Unfortunately, that was not the case this weekend. Perhaps the answer to the question about a club member's dog winning under such circumstances comes in the song lyrics, "Why would you want to take that stolen thing, and what real happiness can it bring?"
Let's take this supposition one step further. Suppose you are appointed judge of the show and that one of the dogs you have bred is entered: would you not recuse yourself from judging? If not, wouldn't the most basic tenets of ethical conduct compel you to refrain from picking that dog as the winner? Not in the show world.
The show world, perhaps more than anything else, demonstrates the difference between dogs and humans. For we dare say that Lord Byron is rolling over in his grave today:
"Oh man! thy feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame."
We think Byron would agree with what Lewis Mumford wrote on ethics over 50 years ago.
"Qualitative discrimination and selection and quantitative control are both essential elements in an ethics of development. Where their practice is not deeply ingrained in custom and habit and conscious self-direction, a disordered life will result. Who in our time has not witnessed and participated in this disorder? - often with a false feeling of emancipation and pride, coming directly from the fact that we had overthrown old rules and norms on the supposition that they had no place in a universe interpreted by the sciences. And one does not have to seek far to detect such sinners: one need only honestly examine one's own life. Once the constant need for discrimination and self-direction is admitted, as an unfailing condition for truly human life, every day becomes a day of reckoning."
(Lewis Mumford, The Conduct of Life, p. 147 (1951).)
That day has yet to arrive for all too many. And that is a sad commentary on the condition of man.