Saturday, June 24, 2017

Scotland Greenlights Tail Docking for Working Dogs

The Scottish Government repealed the ban on tail docking for specific breeds of working dogs after Glasgow University reported that over half of working spaniels and a third of hunt, point, and retrieve breeds suffered tail damage each shooting season.

Dogs that had had the tip of their tails docked were far less likely to sustain injury.

While other parts of the UK have a ban on docking, there are exemptions for working dogs including spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.

Back in 2007 I addressed the issue of tail docking in a post entitled Nannying Idiots Continue to Ignore Real Problems:

Tail docking is a very minor procedure and does no harm to the dog. It is largely aesthetic and historical with certain breeds. That said, some terriers and other breeds have long thin tails that can be damaged when whipped in brush, worked in rock, etc. so they may benefit, medically, if they are docked. How often an over-thin and fragile tail is a real medical problem depends on the breed, the dog, how it works, where it works (and if it is worked at all).

A terrier's tail, of course, is an essential part of the dog, and I consider it a very stupid thing to dock a terrier tail too short. I always advise people to err on the side of leaving the tail too long. You do not want to lose a good handle on the rear end of a working terrier by being too quick or aggressive with a pair of tail nippers....

People circumcise their children, women get themselves nipped for child birth (it's called an episiotomy), and every third teenager has a pierced tongue, nipple, eyebrow or navel.

Whole TV shows are devoted to full-body tattoos.

Women are getting breast implants or breast reductions, and men are getting hair transplants and scalp reductions.

Noses are bobbed, fat is sucked out, teeth are capped, botox is injected, and ears are being pierced, ringed, barbelled, and pinned.

Ever been to a PETA rally? If you look around, you will see a lot of metal hanging out of nostrils, off of eye brows, or rammed through tongues. Every other girl will be showing off her "tramp stamp" tattoo on the small of her back. God only knows what you might find ringed, belled and pierced if you were foolish enough to ever see one of these PETA lunatics standing before you naked. The mind shudders.

Consider PETA spokes-idiot Pamela Anderson, who not only married the walking Erector Set known as Tommy Lee, but who also got her own body repeatedly tucked, sucked, injected, lifted, dyed, bobbed, and implanted. And these people are worried about a ten-second tail nip? What on earth for?

There are real problems in the world, and this is NOT one of them.

The anti-tail docking people have no sensible rationale to oppose tail docking -- it is a ten-second thing done when the dog is one or two days old, and it is over with very little fuss or pain. People who love dogs more than their own lives have been doing it for generations -- proof alone that it is a small thing and does no damage to the dog while sometimes serving a health function in the field.

Here are some real things to worry about with dogs:

  • Closed genetic registries which mean that the genetic diversity of dogs is dramatically reduced in time, and with it the health of every breed with a closed registry (i.e. all Kennel Club breeds);
  • Fat dogs which do not see exercise and which have sad and shortened lives (about 1/3 of all dogs);
  • Slick floors in kitchens which increases the chance of hip dysplasia for all large canines (a serious and sad thing);
  • Poor fencing, poor obedience training, and the complete absence of tags and microchipping which means dogs are easily lost and frequently struck by cars.

These are REAL dog problems. Tail docking does not even come close to making the list of things to be concerned about -- in the world of working dogs or otherwise.

Not everything in the world needs to be legislated, and this is something that fits under the umbrella of "leave it alone and let freedom ring."

If a breeder of nonworking dogs wants to leave the tails on their dog long, so what? If a breeder wants a sensible working dog with a properly docked tail, so what?

What interest, business or concern is it of society?


The tail docking debate is really about a very small but vocal sector of society wanting to be nannies to the rest of us.

As a general rule these people know very little about dogs, know nothing about working dogs, and do not give a rat's behind about honest animal welfare -- if they did, they would pick a real issue to take action on.

And there are a LOT of real animal welfare issues. How about habitat protection? How about disease control in wild animal populations (rabies, distemper, mange, tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, West Nile)? How about pushing to lower the price of veterinary care and improving access to it as well? These are real issues.

Fair warning, however -- making a change in these arenas might involve actually going out into the environment with mud, bugs, rain, and cold (Ugh!).

In addition, a real problem might be inconveniently complex and serious (God forbid!), and actually involve something more involved than self-righteous bullying of ignorant legislators and dog owners.

But of course, the tail-docking debate is not really about dogs, is it? It's about people who want to feel smarter and superior to others. These people will always be with us and I suggest they simply find something new to feel smarter and superior about.

If, faced with all the issues and problems in the world (hunger, violence, hurricanes, disease, lack of health insurance, war, poverty, illiteracy, racism, deforestation, violence against women, animal extinctions, loss of global fisheries, pollution, child abuse, etc.), someone thinks tail docking of well-loved pets and working dogs is a major concern worthy of time and energy, they are idiots.

Australia Fights the Plague

The State Health Department rat gang of Queensland, Australia, fighting the Plague in Queensland from 1900 to 1909. Picture from the State Library of Queensland.

Ratcatchers in Sydney, Australia, about 1900.

The Fighting British

The Richmond Golf Club in Surrey, England, drafted an interim set of rules explaining the proper code of conduct should Nazi aircraft bomb the greens mid-game.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Rat Catchers Who Supplied the Rat Pits

From Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, we get a nice description of the rat catchers of his day who supplied the rat pits where small dogs competed based on weight:

The number of Vermin-Destroyers and Rat-Catchers who ply their avocation in London has of late years become greatly diminished. One cause which I heard assigned for this was that many ruinous old buildings and old streets had been removed, and whole colonies of rats had been thereby extirpated. Another was that the race of rat-catchers had become distrusted, and had either sought some other mode of subsistence, or had resorted to other fields for the exercise of their professional labours.

The rat-catcher's dress is usually a velveteen jacket, strong corduroy trousers, and laced boots. Round his shoulder he wears an oil-skin belt, on which are painted the figures of huge rats, with fierce-looking eyes and formidable whiskers. His hat is usually glazed and sometimes painted after the manner of his belt. Occasionally — and in the country far more than in town — he carries in his hand an iron cage in which are ferrets, while two or three crop-eared terriers dog his footsteps. Sometimes a tamed rat runs about his shoulders and arms, or nestles in his bosom or in the large pockets of his coat. When a rat-catcher is thus accompanied, there is generally a strong aromatic odour about him, far from agreeable; this is owing to his clothes being rubbed with oil of thyme and oil of aniseed, mixed together. This composition is said to be so attractive to the sense of the rats (when used by a man who understands its due apportionment and proper application) that the vermin have left their holes and crawled to the master of the powerful spell. I heard of one man (not a rat-catcher professionally) who had in this way tamed a rat so effectually that the animal would eat out of his mouth, crawl upon his shoulder to be fed, and then 'smuggle into his bosom' (the words of my informant) 'and sleep there for hours.' The rat-catchers have many wonderful stories of the sagacity of the rat, and though in reciting their own feats, these men may not be the most trustworthy of narrators, any work on natural history will avouch that rats are sagacious may be trained to be very docile, and are naturally animals of great resources in all straits and difficulties.

One great source of the rat-catcher's employment and emolument thirty years ago, or even to a later period, is now comparatively a nonentity. At that time the rat-catcher or killer sometimes received a yearly or quarterly stipend to keep a London granary clear of rats. I was told by a man who has for twenty-eight years been employed about London granaries, that he had never known a rat-catcher employed in one except about twenty or twenty-two years ago, and that was in a granary by the river-side. The professional man, he told me, certainly poisoned many rats, 'which stunk so,' continued my informant — but then all evil odours in old buildings are attributed to dead rats — 'that it was enough to infect the corn.

He poisoned two fine cats as well. But I believe he was a young hand and a bungler.' The rats, after these measures had been taken, seem to have deserted the place for three weeks or a month, when they returned in as great numbers as ever; nor were their ravages and annoyances checked until the drains were altered and rebuilt. It is in the better disposition of the drains of a corn-magazine, I am assured, that the great check upon the inroads of these 'varmint' is attained — by strong mason work and by such a series and arrangement of grates, as defy even the perseverance of a rat. Otherwise the hordes which prey upon the garbage in the common sewers, are certain to find their way into the granary along the drains and channels communicating with those sewers, and will increase rapidly despite the measures of the rat-catcher.

The same man told me that he had been five or six times applied to by rat-catchers, and with liberal offers of beer, to allow them to try and capture the black rats in the granary. One of these traders declared he wanted them 'for a gent as vas curous in them there hinteresting warmint'; but from the representations of the other applicants, my informant was convinced that they were wanted for rat-hunts, the Dog Billy being backed for 100 pounds. to kill so many rats in so many minutes. 'You see, sir,' the corn merchant's man continued, 'ours is an old concern, and there's black rats in it, great big fellows; some of 'em must be old, for they're as white about the muzzle as is the Duke of Wellington, and they have the character of being very strong and very fierce. One of the catchers asked me if I knew what a stunning big black rat would weigh, as if I weighed rats! I always told them that I cared nothing about rat-hunts and that I knew our people wouldn't like to be bothered; and they was gentlemen that didn't admire sporting characters.'

The rat-catchers are also rat-killers. They destroy the animals I sometimes by giving them what is called in the trade 'an alluring poison.' Every professional destroyer, or capturer, of rats will pretend that as to poison he has his own particular method — his
secret — his discovery. But there is no doubt that arsenic is the basis of all their poisons.

If the rats have to be taken alive, they are either trapped, so as not to injure them for a rat-hunt (or the procedure in the pit would be accounted 'foul'), or if driven out of their holes by ferrets, they can only run into some cask, or other contrivance, where they can be secured for the 'sportman's' purposes.

The grand consumption of rats, is in Bunhill-row, at a public-house kept by a pugilist. A rat-seller told me that from 200 to 500 rats were killed there weekly, the weekly average being, however, only the former number; while at Easter and other holidays, it is not uncommon to see bills posted announcing the destruction of 500 rats on the same day and in a given time.  Dogs are matched at these and similar places, as to which kills the greatest number of these animals in the shortest time. I am told that there are forty such places in London, but in some only the holiday times are celebrated in this small imitation of the beast combats of the ancients.

To show the nature of the sport of rat- catching, I print the following bill, of which I procured two copies. The words and type are precisely the same in each, but one bill is printed on good and the other on very indifferent paper, as if for distribution among distinct classes. The concluding announcement, as to the precise moment at which killing will commence, reads supremely business-like:


A Sporting Gentleman, 
Who is a Staunch Supporter of the destruction of these Vermin will GIVE A
Under 13£Kw. Wt.


On Tuesday, May 20, 1851

To be killed in a Large Wire Pit. A chalk
Circle to be drawn in the centre for the Second.—

Any man touching Dog or Rats, or acting in any
way unfair his dog will be disqualified.

To go to Scale at Half past
7 Killing to Commence At Half past 8 Precisely.

Queen Victoria's Rat Pits

A recycled post from blog, circa March, 2005.

Between 1800 and 1900, the population of Great Britain grew from 10 million to 35 million and advances in medicine, agriculture, animal husbandry and industry occured by leaps and bounds.

Despite great economic and social advances, the era was a time of squalor, deprivation, and grinding poverty for most people. The Enclosure Movement of the early 19th Century had forced huge numbers of people off of their lands and into the cities where they lived cheek-to-jowl and hand-to-mouth. Horse excrement littered the streets, water was pumped into homes untreated, and sewage systems were quickly pushed beyond capacity. The first large factories were started, and with them crushing boredom, inhumane work loads, and horrific industrial injuries.

Into this world arrived Rattus Norvegicus -- the brown rat. The rat pits required a certain type of rat -- the Brown Rat -- to do business. The Black Rat is simply too small and too docile to provide much sport, plus they tend to reside at rooftop, making them much harder to catch. It is not an accident that the Romans, who would fight any other two animals at the drop of a hat, did not have rats pits -- they were missing the required animal.

The Brown Rat arrived in Great Britain around 1730 and -- over the next 70 years -- quickly proliferated in the trash and garbage-strewn cities of England driving its cousin, the plague-carrying black rat, into extinction.

Bored and impoverished factory workers quickly found a good use for brown rats -- as contest combatants with small dogs. Thus was born the Rat Pit.

Rat pits were not actually pits, but instead were small built-up enclosures six to 12 feet in diameter, with wooden sides at elbow height, and with smooth metal walls to discourage the rats from climbing.

Into this pit were tipped various numbers of rats, depending on the size of the dogs and the rules of the contests. In general, dogs competed against each other by weight, with dogs being timed on how many rats they could kill in a set amount of time or -- conversely -- how much time it took them to kill a set number of rats.

Some contests featured rats placed inside overturned flower pots so that the dog had to knock over the flower pot, release the rat, and then run around inside the ring to catch the rat -- amidst all the other flower pots also containing rats ready to be released if that pot were knocked over in the commotion.

The rat pit era did not last long and, contrary to what is sometime asserted, no breed of dog was specifically bred for this sport. Because the rules varied so much from pit to pit and from contest to contest, it was impossible to breed a dog that could develop much of a competitive edge.

Speed was important, of course, but so too was the weight of the dog and the degree to which it could take punishment. Square pits were very easy for a dog to work as the rats would jungle up in a corner and the dog could pick them off the back -- here only speed mattered. Round pits defeated this tactic, however, and if a dog were required to work 30 to 50 loose rats in a round enclosure, it would likely take some bites around the ears.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal was founded in 1825. They found rat pits an easy thing to oppose as they were organized, drew publicity, and had a less-than-politically-powerful clientel. It did not hurt at all that many rat pits were associated with bars. Never mind that children were being jungled off into work houses, mothers were starving, and factories were lopping off the fingers of their workers -- save the rats!

By 1835, rat pits had been outlawed in Great Britain -- along with the fighting of any other animal whether wild of domestic. The era of legal rat pits had lasted not much longer than 50 years -- and within another 40 years or so, even the illegal rat pits would be gone.

The Resilient Power of Charlatans

Pet Fox Gets a Tunnel Den

Riot the pet fox gets a new tunnel den in the yard and he loves it, but Castiel, the German shepherd, is too large to fit.

I should probably make a tunnel in the yard for the dogs.

A Mind Reader of a Dog Trainer?

Circus dog trainer Vladimir L. Durov claimed to be able to communicate with dogs by sending his thoughts directly to their minds. You can read his story over on Atlas Obscura, and decide if he was right.

Fish on Friday

Sloane's Viperfish is a deep water fish, found all over the world, at a depth of about 8,500 feet. They are a long ribbony fish that is 11-12 inches long.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This is Why Health Care Is So Expensive

"Trump Doen't Care" misses the essentials, from long term care to affordability, and from cost containment to border collies.

Silence Is Golden

The folks who tell you that man domesticated wolves for hunting purposes have not hunted too much.

The truth is that most hunting is not done with dogs for a very simple reason: dogs scare away game.

Most hunting is a stealth performance with hunters hidden in blinds or in stands located up trees.

Dogs to point or retrieve shot birds?  A nicety, not a necessity.

Here we see an honest assessment of the needs for dogs when ferreting rabbits. Dogs are emotionally satisfying, and in some locations they can may increase your bag, but nets were invented for a reason.

Here in the U.S., our native rabbits do not go to ground and nest in shallow scrapes in thick grass and brush, so there is no ferreting at all.  When dogs are used on rabbits in this country, they are mostly slow-moving beagles used to drive rabbits out of weed-choked water ditches.

What about long dogs and greyhounds?  They are sometimes used for hunting hunting western hares which we call Jack Rabbits, a very inefficient sport. which not about pest control at all.

That said, when it comes to terrier work, silence is golden. If you have a single dog that knows its business, and it's a multiple-eye sette that is connected like a race track underground, you are likely to get a bolt and save a bit of digging.

In the hedgerows in which I often dig, bolts are not always possible, as many settes have pipes that, while they may branch, often come to stop ends.

That said, it's always best not to talk, smoke, or bang about too much when approaching a hole.

Let the dog do its job, press the creature in the hole, bay it to a new location, and do it again before rushing in to sink a hole. A bolt may very well be possible, and even if it's not, you may save a bit of digging on an animal which has only been pushed to mid-pipe.

The Fire Next Time

Ice Cube supports the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and you can too.

Victorian-era Dog Dealers

Henry Mayhew gives us a window into the world of dogs prior to the advent of the Kennel Club.

In London Labour and the London Poor he is careful to note that dog dealers are not the same people as dog stealers or "restorers" of kidnapped dogs, of the kind illuminated here, noting that:

[T]he street-sellers were not implicated in the thefts or restitution of dogs, 'just except,' one man told me, 'as there was a black sheep or two in every flock.' The black sheep, however, of this street- calling more frequently meddled with restoring, than with 'finding.'

Another street dog-seller, an intelligent man, — who, however, did not know so much as my first informant of the state of the trade in the olden time, — expressed a positive opinion, that no dog-stealer was now a street-hawker ('hawker' was the word I found these men use). His reasons for this opinion, in addition to his own judgment from personal knowledge, are cogent enough: 'It isn't possible, sir,' he said, 'and this is the reason why. We are
not a large body of men. We stick pretty closely, when we are out, to the same places. We are as well-known to the police, as any men whom they must know, by sight at any rate, from meeting them every day. Now, if a lady or gentleman has lost a dog, or it's been stolen or strayed — and the most petted will sometimes stray unaccountably and follow some stranger or other — why, where does she, and he, and all the family, and all the servants, first look for the lost animal? Why, where, but at the dogs we are hawking?

No, sir, it can't be done now, and it isn't done in my knowledge, and it oughtn't to be done. I'd rather make 5 shilling on an honest dog than 51 on one that wasn't, if there was no risk about it either.' Other information convinces me that this statement is correct.

Mayhew goes on to note that dog-sellers are focused on a very particular type of client:

There is one peculiarity in the hawking of fancy dogs, which distinguishes it from all other branches of street-commerce. The purchasers are all of the wealthier class. This has had its influence on the manners of the dog-sellers. They will be found, in the majority of cases, quiet and deferential men, but without servility, and with little of the quality of speech; and I speak only of speech which among English people is known as 'gammon,' and among Irish people as 'blarney.' This manner is common to many; to the established trainer of race-horses for instance, who is in constant communication with persons in a very superior position in life to his own, and to whom he is exceedingly deferential. But the trainer feels that in all points connected with his not very easy business, as well, perhaps, as in general turf knowingness, his royal highness (as was the case once), or his grace, or my lord, or Sir John, was inferior to himself; and so with all his deference there mingles a strain of quiet contempt, or rather, perhaps, of conscious superiority, which is one ingredient in the formation of the manners I have hastily sketched.

As for sporting dogs, such as working terriers and fighting dogs, they are sold a bit differently:

The way in which the sale of sporting dogs is connected with street-traffic is in this wise: Occasionally a sporting-dog is offered for sale in the streets, and then, of course, the trade is direct. At other times, gentlemen buying or pricing the smaller dogs, ask the cost of a bull-dog, or a bull-terrier or rat-killer, and the street-seller at once offers to supply them, and either conducts them to a dog-dealer's, with whom he may be commercially connected, and where they can purchase those dogs, or he waits upon them at their residences with some 'likely animals.'

A dog-dealer told me that he hardly knew what made many gentlemen so fond of bull-dogs, and they were 'the fonder on 'em the more blackguarder and varmint-looking the creatures was,' although now they were useless for sport, and the great praise of a bull-dog, 'never flew but at head in his life,' was no longer to be given to him, as there were no bulls at whose heads he could now fly.

Another dog-dealer informed me — with what truth as to the judgment concerning horses I do not know, but no doubt with accuracy as to the purchase of the dogs — that Ibrahim Pacha, when in London, thought little of the horses which he saw, but was delighted with the bull-dogs, 'and he weren't so werry unlike one in the face hisself,' was said at the time by some of the fancy. Ibrahim, it seems, bought two of the finest and largest bull-dogs in London, off Bill George, giving no less than 101 pounds for the twain. The bull-dogs now sold by the street-folk, or through their agency in the way I have described, are from 5 pounds to 25 pounds each. The bull-terriers, of the best blood, are about the same price, or perhaps 10 to 15 per cent lower, and rarely attaining the tip-top price.

The bull-terriers, as I have stated, are now the chief fighting-dogs, but the patrons of those combats -- of those small imitations of the savage tastes of the Roman Colosseum, may deplore the decay of the amusement. From the beginning, until well on to the termination of the last century, it was not uncommon to see announcements of 'twenty dogs to fight for a collar,' though such advertisements were far more common at the commencement than towards the close of the century. Until within these twelve years, indeed, dog-matches were not infrequent in London, and the favorite time for the regalement was on Sunday mornings. There were dog-pits in Westminster, and elsewhere, to which the admission was not very easy, for only known persons were allowed to enter. The expense was considerable, the risk of punishment was not a trifle, and it is evident that this Sunday game was not supported by the poor or working classes. Now dog-fights are rare. 'There's not any public dog-fights,' I was told, 'and very seldom any in a pit at a public-house, but there's a good deal of it, I know, at the private houses of the nobs.' I may observe that 'the nobs' is a common designation for the rich among these sporting people.

There are, however, occasionally dog-fights in a sporting-house, and the order of the combat is thus described to me: 'We'll say now that it's a scratch fight; two dogs each have their corner of a pit, and they're set to fight. They'll fight on till they go down together, and then if one leave hold, he's sponged. Then they fight again. If a dog has the worst of it he mustn't be picked up, but if he gets into his corner, then he can stay for as long as may be agreed upon, minute or half-minute time, or more than a minute. If a dog won't go to the scratch out of his corner, he loses the fight. If they fight on, why to settle it, one must be killed — though that very seldom happens, for if a dog's very much punished, he creeps to his corner and don't come out to time, and so the fight's settled. Sometimes it's agreed beforehand, that the master of a dog may give in for him; sometimes that isn't to be allowed; but there's next to nothing of this now, unless it's in private among the nobs.'

Dog sellers did a big business in lap spaniels 
but, as Mayhew notes, by his era (1851) the bulldog had already collapsed into a shadow of his former self.  As I noted in an earlier post about molosser breeds:

In England, catch dogs began to disappear with the rise of the Enclosure Movement of the 18th Century. As the Enclosure Movement pushed people off the land and into squalid cities and towns, boredom set in and (in the absence of television, movies, video games, and real theatre), spectacles pitting dogs against bulls, pigs, bears and even monkeys were created for entertainment, much as the Romans had done centuries before.

The dogs used for pit work were different than the catch dogs used a century or two earlier. Pit dogs were quite variable in size, and the goal was to match the dog with its opponent (dog or beast) by weight or sense of threat. While catch dogs had to be fast to catch running stock, and tended to weigh 50-80 pounds (large enough to turn a bull or stop it, but not so large as to be slow), pit dogs weighed anywhere from 10 pounds, in the case of a small ratting terrier, to as much as 140 pounds or more in the case of bear-fighting dogs. Encounters were brief, and no nose at all was required.

Other than rat pits and cock fights, animal baiting spectacles were never common, and were banned altogether by 1835. Though secret underground dog fighting and badger baiting contests continued, they were rare, episodic, and genetically maladaptive. When police raided dog fights, the dogs were killed. When participants went to jail for other reasons, dogs disappeared. And in the era prior to antibiotics, "successful" fighting dogs often died from wounds inflicted in the ring.

In 1859, the first dog show was held. Breeds that had lost their original purpose -- catch dogs, cart dogs, pit dogs, and turnspit dogs -- soon found a new rationale for existence -- rosettes.

As for the famous bulldog yard of Bill George, mentioned by Mayhew above, this had started out as "Ross and Mangles," the best source for fighting dogs in all of England, but when owner Bill White died, it was taken over by Bill George who embraced a different model following the ban on dog fighting in 1835. George's dogs fell into several distinct types, including bow-legged wrecks called "English" bulldogs today (and never mind if they are mostly Chinese Pug) and over-large heavy-boned "front of the shop" dogs designed to intimidate. A complete write up of this transition, and its role in story is told in Who Supplied the Hound of the Baskervilles?.

Not What I Signed Up For

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Did Falconry Create Crisis in the Middle East?

The dust-up between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may have its origins in falconry gone awry. From the Financial Times:

In December 2015, Qatari falconry enthusiasts ended up on the wrong end of the hunt. The ill-fated Qatari hunting party of 26 was captured in southern Iraq and held hostage by an Iranian-backed Shia militia for 16 months. A deal to release them this year became one of the triggers that led to this week’s stand-off between Doha and its Arab neighbours.

Regional officials familiar with the deal say the ransom, which cost Doha up to $1 billion, stirred suspicions among Saudi Arabia and the UAE that Qatar was funding radical Islamist groups and their arch-rival, Iran. In one fell swoop, they say, Doha paid off blacklisted Iranian security officials, the regional Shia militias they support and a jihadi group in Syria accused by the west of being an al-Qaeda affiliate. The Qatari government said in a statement to the Financial Times that the ransom was much less, and was paid only to Baghdad to help secure the hostages’ release.

According to a person familiar with the group, the hunting party — nine of whom were from the al-Thani ruling family — knew they were taking a gamble. The trip was carefully co-ordinated with Iraq’s interior ministry, which is widely believed to be infiltrated by pro-Iran operatives.

As the kidnapping began, their Iraqi guards slipped away, according to one person in contact with the former hostages. Helicopters landed nearby, suggesting some Iranian or Iraqi complicity in the operation. According to this account, the hostages were held underground in Baghdad’s green zone, home to most foreign diplomatic missions (Iraqi militia leaders said the prisoners were held in Iran). The hostages received poor food and little medication, leaving them physically and mentally scarred, their teeth rotting on their return. “They don’t say much,” the person said. “They need psychological support.”

The Dog Thieves of Victorian England

From London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew comes this section on the dog thieves of Victorian England:

Before I describe the present condition of the street-trade in dogs, which is principally in spaniels, or in the description well known as lap-dogs, I will give an account of the former condition of the trade, if trade it can properly be called, for the 'finders' and 'stealers' of dogs ...

I cannot better show the extent and lucrativeness of this trade, than by citing a list which one of the witnesses before Parliament, Mr. W. Bishop, a gun maker, delivered in to the Committee, of 'cases in which money had recently been extorted from the owners of dogs by dog-stealers and their confederates.' There is no explanation of the space of time included under the vague term 'recently'; but the return shows that 151 ladies and gentlemen had been the victims of the dog-stealers or dog- finders, for in this business the words were, and still are to a degree, synonyms, and of these 62 had been so victimized in 1843 and in the six months of 1844, from January to July. The total amount shown by Mr. Bishop to have been paid for the restoration of stolen dogs was 977 guineas or an average of 6 guineas and 10 shilling per individual practised upon.

These dog appropriators, as they found that they could levy contributions not only on royalty, foreign ambassadors, peers, courtiers, and ladies of rank, but on public bodies, and on the dignitaries of the state, the law, the army, and the church, became bolder and more expert in their avocations — a boldness which was encouraged by the existing law. Prior to the parliamentary inquiry, dog-stealing was not an indictable offence. The only mode of punishment for dog-stealing was by summary conviction, the penalty being fine or imprisonment; but Mr. Commissioner Mayne did not known of any instance of a dog-stealer being sent to prison in default of payment. Although the law recognized no property in a dog, the animal was taxed; and it was complained at the time that an unhappy lady might have to pay tax for the full term upon her dog, perhaps a year and a half after he had been stolen from her. One old offender, who stole the Duke of Beaufort's dog, was transported, not for stealing the dog, but his collar.

The difficulty of proving the positive theft of a dog was extreme. In most cases, where the man was not seen actually to seize a dog which could be identified, he escaped when oarried before a magistrate. 'The dog-stealers,' said Inspector Shackel, 'generally go two together; they have a piece of liver; they say it is merely bullock's liver, which will entice or tame the wildest or savagest dog which there can be in any yard; they give it to him, and take him from his chain. At other times,' continues Mr. Shackel, 'they will go in the street with a little dog, rubbed over with some sort of stuff, and will entice valuable dogs away If there is a dog lost or stolen, it is generally known within five or six hours where that dog is, and they know almost exactly what they can get for it, so that it is a regular system of plunder.' Mr. G. White, 'dealer in live stock, dogs, and other animals,' and at one time a 'dealer in lions, and tigers, and all sorts of things,' said of the dog-stealers: 'In turning the corners of streets there are two or three of them together; one will snatch up a dog and put into his apron, and the others will stop the lady and say, "What is the matter?" and direct the party who has lost the dog in a contrary direction to that taken.'

In this business were engaged from 50 to 60 men, half of them actual stealers of the animals. The others were the receivers, and the go-betweens or 'restorers.' The thief kept the dog perhaps for a day or two at some public-house, and he then took it to a dog-dealer with whom he was connected in the way of business. These dealers carried on a trade in 'honest dogs,' as one of the witnesses styled them (meaning dogs honestly acquired), but some of them dealt principally with the dog-stealers. Their depots could not be entered by the police, being private premises, without a search-warrant — and direct evidence was necessary to obtain a search-warrant — and of course a stranger in quest of a stolen dog would not be admitted. Some of the dog-dealers would not purchase or receive dogs known to have been stolen, but others bought and speculated in them. If an advertisement appeared offering a reward for the dog, a negotiation was entered into. If no reward was offered, the owner of the dog, who was always either known or made out, was waited upon by a restorer, who undertook 'to restore the dog if terms could be come to.' A dog belonging to Colonel Fox was once kept six weeks before the thieves would consent to the Colonel's terms. One of the most successful restorers was a shoemaker, and mixed little with the actual stealers; the dog-dealers, however, acted as restorers frequently enough. If the person robbed paid a good round sum for the restoration of a dog, and paid it speedily, the animal was almost certain to be stolen a second time, and a higher sum was then demanded. Sometimes the thieves threatened that if they were any longer trifled with they would inflict torture on the dog, or cut its throat. One lady, Miss Brown of Bolton-street, was so worried by these threats, and by having twice to redeem her dog, 'that she has left England,' said Mr. Bishop, 'and I really do believe for the sake of keeping the dog.' It does not appear, as far as the evidence shows, that these threats of torture or death were ever carried into execution; some of the witnesses had merely heard of such things.

'His less popular, but more upright father, had once been a dog-fancier, and George, after many years' vicissitude, at length took a "fancy" to the same profession, but not on any principles recognized by commercial laws. With what success he has practised, the ladies and gentlemen about the West-end have known, to their loss and disappointment, for more than fifteen years past have been and still are on the alert, George has, in every instance, hitherto escaped punishment, while numerous detections connected with escape have enabled the offender to hold these officials at defiance. The "modus operandi" upon which George proceeds is to varnish his hands with a sort of gelatine, composed of the coarsest pieces of liver, fried, pulverized, and mixed up with tincture of myrrh.' This is the composition of which Inspector Shackel spoke before the Select Committee, but he did not seem to know of what the lure was concocted. My correspondent continues: 'Chelsea George caresses every animal who seems "a likely spec," and when his fingers have been rubbed over the dogs' noses they become easy and perhaps willing captives. A bag carried for the purpose, receives the victim, and away goes George, bag and all, to his printer's in Seven Dials. Two bills and no less — two and no more, for such is George's style of work — are issued to describe the animal that has thus been found, and which will be "restored to its owner on payment of expenses." One of these George puts in his pocket, the other he pastes up at a public-house whose landlord is "fly" to its meaning, and poor "bow-wow" is sold to a "dealer in dogs," not very far from Sharp's alley. In course of time the dog is discovered; the possessor refers to the "establishment" where he bought it; the "dealer makes himself square" by giving the address of "the chap he bought 'un of," and Chelsea George shows a copy of the advertisement, calls in the publican as a witness, and leaves the place "without the slightest imputation on his character." Of this man's earnings I cannot speak with precision: it is probable that in a "good year" his clear income is 200 guineas in a bad year but 100., but, as he is very adroit, I am inclined to believe that the "good" years somewhat predominate, and that the average income may therefore exceed 150 pounds yearly.'

The Remarkable Henry Mayhew

Henry Mayhew
Yesterday, I quoted a couple of good long sections from London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew, which was originally produced as a serial and then compiled as a "Cyclopedia" of Victorian street life.

London Labour and the London Poor eventually became 2 million words in four volumes, and contains a jaw-dropping directory of characters and trades.

Mayhew was writing about the invisible people of Victorian England -- the knife and scissor sharpeners, match sellers, dog meat sellers, knackers, metal scrappers, prostitutes, pickpockets, umbrella and stick sellers, water vendors, chimney sweeps, rat-killers, and sandwich sellers.

Mayhew's genius -- and his historical contribution -- is that he shoved the background into the foreground, and the effect is every bit as astonishing as when a pinch of beach sand or a tablespoon of pond water is put under a microscope.

Mayhew's work is remarkable for the fact that he finished it. Mayhew was not a notable finisher. He started and abandoning half-written works, almost blew up his house while trying to manufacture artificial diamonds, and was associated with the start of several failing journals and at least one successful one -- Punch -- form which he was ousted as editor after only a few months.

Things took off, however, when in September of 1849 he was sent by the Morning Chronicle to report on a cholera outbreak in the slums of Bermondsey.  His reporting was sufficiently luminous, that the Chronicle's editors soon announced a new series of articles which would provide "a full and detailed description of the moral, intellectual, material, and physical condition of the industrial poor throughout England" with Mayhew as the Metropolitan Correspondent writing the series.

Mayhew's work was popular in his day, and it has stood the test of time. as he not only had an eye for observation and an ear for voice and story, but he paired it all with whatever census and government records he could find in order to present a full tapestry of Victorian street life -- a tapestry that other writers, as well as historians and sociologists, have been  drawing on for over 165 years.

Mayhew was, quite simply, the Studs Terkel of the Victorian era, or rather Stud Terkel was the Mayhew of his, weaving biography and story, autobiography and data, detailed observation and economic and social connections into a rich stew that hangs together as a whole and offers delight in its parts. Mayhew understands the value of lists, scent, color, diversity, and background.  Nothing is presented as static -- the world is connected, and if you pull on any one thing you find it is connected to everything else, from rain to storm sewers, from horses to dogs, from tossed cigarette butts to tobacco pipe.

While Mayhew loved statistics and economics, odd jobs, scams, and strange repurposings, his clear delight is the original. odd, and quirky characters he meets along the way, all of which he presents in their own voice telling their own stories.

To say I find Mayhew a delight is an understatement; he is a veritable goldmine of story, character, data, and history.  More from him to come! 

They Never Leave Alive

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Coffee and Provocation

The Spineless Creature Unique to D.C. Political Swamps
It turns out that Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park has an endemic and endangered form of spineless wildlife that is neither politician nor lobbyist. Called the "The Hay's Spring amphipod" it is described as: "Spineless and lacking vision, the creature is an opportunistic feeder, consuming whatever resources are available including the remains of its own kind." It lives under the mud in the five creeks that run through the park.

Free Muskrat Cookbook
During World War II, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produced a cookbook with recipes for Wine-fried Muskrat, Muskrat a la Terrapin, Maryland Shredded Muskrat, Muskrat Salad, Muskrat Pie, Pickled Muskrat, and Stewed Muskrat Liver.

Cats Domesticated Themselves
Cats seem to have domesticated themselves, attaching themselves like parasites to human settlements, and spreading across the globe beginning about 8,000 years ago (video). Wild and domestic cats show no major differences in their genetic makeup.

A Polynesian Canoe Around the World
The Hukulea, a Polynesian double canoe, has circumnavigated the world without modern navigation.

Owsley Stanley’s Lost ‘Sonic Journals’
Starfighter Stanley, Owsley Stanley’s son, has catalogued, and released, his father's "Sonic Journals’ and lost recordings of Doc and Merle Watson, Johnny Cash at the Carousel Ballroom, and Quicksilver Messenger Service at San Quentin, among others. The reel-to-reel recordings have been in storage for 50 years or more, and are available now at the web site.

To Valhalla With a Dog
Archaeologists in N. Iceland have discovered as Viking chief buried in his ship with his sword and dog.

Eat Eggs to Increase Height in Children?
Eggs can significantly increase growth in young children.

The Oldest Soup?
The oldest soup was made of hippo, sparrow, and lentils.

The Street Level Dog Men

From the 1861 publication, London Labor and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew which contains fascinating chapters on those who sold dogs, dog meat, and dog collars.

An interview with a leather dog collar vendor gives us this:

I made rope traces for the artillery; there's a good deal of leather-work about the traces, and stitching them, you see, puts me up to the making of dogs'-collars. I was always handy with my fingers, and can make shoes or anythink. I can work now as well as ever I could in my life, only my eyes isn't so good. Ain't it curious now, sir, that wot a man larns in his fingers he never forgets? Well being out o' work, I was knocking about for some time, and then I was adwised to apply for a board to carry at one of them cheap tailors, but I didn't get none; so I takes to hawking link buttons and key rings, and buys some brass dog-collars; it was them brass collars as made me bethought myself as I could make some leather ones. Altho' I had been better off I didn't think it any disgrace to get a honest living.

The leather collars is harder to make than the brass ones, only the brass ones wants more implements. There are about a dozen selling in the streets as makes brass-collars -- there's not much profit on the brass ones. People says there's nothing like leather, and I thinks they are right. Well, sir, as I was a telling you, I commences the leather-collar making, -- in course I didn't make 'em as well at first as I do now. It was werry hard lines at the best of times. I used to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning in the summer time, and make my collars; then I'd turn out about 9, and keep out until 7 or 8 at night. I seldom took more than 2s. per day. What profit did I get out of 2s.? Why, lor bless you, sir! if I hadn't made them myself, I shouldn't have
got no profit at all.

Earlier, we are told of the economics of the dog and cat meat business:

The cat and dogs'-meat dealers, or "carriers," as they call themselves, generally purchase the meat at the knackers' (horse-slaughterers') yards. There are upwards of twenty of such yards in London; three or four are in White Chapel, one in Wandsworth, two in Cow-cross -- one of the two last mentioned is the largest establishment in London -- and there are two about Bermondsey. The proprietors of these yards purchase live and dead horses. They contract for them with large firms, such as brewers, coal-merchants, and large cab and 'bus yards, giving so much per head for their old live and dead horses through the year. The price varies from 2l. to 50s. the carcass. The knackers also have contractors in the country ( harness-makers and others), who bring or send up to town for them the live and dead stock of those parts. The dead horses are brought to the yard -- two or three upon one cart, and sometimes five.

The live ones are tied to the tail of these carts, and behind the tail of each other. Occasionally a string of fourteen or fifteen are brought up, head to tail, at one time. The live horses are purchased merely for slaughtering.

If among the lot bought there should chance to be one that is young, but in bad condition, it is placed in the stable, fed up, and then put into the knacker's carts, or sold by them, or let on hire. Occasionally a fine horse has been rescued from death in this manner. One person is known to have bought an animal for 15s., for which he afterwards got 150. Frequently young horses that will not work in cabs -- such as "jibs" -- are sold to the horse-slaughterers as useless. They are kept in the yard, and after being well fed, often turn out good horses.

The live horses are slaughtered by the persons called "knackers." These men get upon an average 4s. a day. They begin work at twelve at night, because some of the flesh is required to be boiled before six in the morning; indeed, a great part of the meat is delivered to the carriers before that hour. The horse to be slaughtered has his mane clipped as short as possible (on account of the hair, which is valuable). It is then blinded with a piece of old apron smothered in blood, so that it may not see the slaughterman when about to strike. A pole-axe is used, and a cane, to put an immediate end to the animal's sufferings.

After the animal is slaughtered, the hide is taken off, and the flesh cut from the bones in large pieces. These pieces are termed, according to the part from which they are cut, hind-quarters, fore-quarters, cram-bones, throats, necks, briskets, backs, ribs, kidney pieces, hearts, tongues, liver and lights. The bones (called "racks" by the knackers) are chopped up and boiled, in order to extract the fat, which is used for greasing common harness, and the wheels of carts and drags....

At one yard alone near upon 100 carriers purchase meat, and there are, upon an average, 150 horses slaughtered there every week. Each slaughter-house may be said to do, one with another, 60 horses per week through-out the year, which, reckoning the London slaughter-houses at 12, gives a total of 720 horses killed every week in the metropolis, or, in round numbers, 37,500 in the course of the year.

The London cat and dogs'-meat carriers or sellers -- nearly all men -- number at the least 1,000.

And then, of course, there is the Street-Seller of Dogs.

There’s one advantage in my trade, we always has to do with the principals. There’s never a lady would let her favouritist maid choose her dog for her. Many of ‘em, I know dotes on a nice spaniel. Yes, and I’ve known gentleman buy dogs for their misses. I might be sent on with them and if it was a two guinea dog or so, I was told never to give a hint of the price to the servant or anybody. I know why. It’s easy for a gentleman that wants to please a lady, and not to lay out any great matter of tin, to say that what had really cost him two guineas, cost him twenty.”

More later from this gold mine of a book!

Gods Don't Kill People

"Fetch" Has Happened

Selling Dog Shit for Profit in Victorian England

If you have been to Fez, Morocco, you may have seen the dye pits there -- over a 1,000 years old and carved into solid rock.

They secret to Moroccan leather is that the sheep and goat hides are softened in an alkaline mixture of feces and urine collected from both animals and people.  The soaking softens the leather and the alkaline water burns away the fat, sinew, and hair.

It seem the British tanneries of the Victorian era used the same system but prized dog shit above all other varieties.  "Pure Finders" of the era collected dog shit from the streets of London for resale to leather tanners. And guess what?  There was even a business in selling fake dog shit!

From the 1851 socio-demographic treatise, "London Labour and the London Poor” by Henry Mayhew comes this description:

'Dogs' dung is called "Pure," from its cleansing and purifying properties.

'The name of "Pure-finders," however, has been applied to the men engaged in collecting dogs'dung from the public streets only, within the last 20 or 30 years. Previous to this period there appears to have been no men engaged in the business, old women alone gathered the substance, and they were known by the name of "bunters," which signifies properly gatherers of rags; and thus plainly intimates that the rag-gatherers originally added the collecting of "Pure" to their original and proper vocation. Hence it appears that the bone-grubbers, rag-gatherers, and pure-finders, constituted formerly but one class of people, and even now they have, as I have stated, kindred characteristics.

The pure-finders meet with a ready market for all the dogs'--dung they are able to collect, at the numerous tan yards in Bermondsey, where they sell it by the stable-bucket full, and get from 8 d. to 10 d. per bucket, and sometimes 1 s. and 1 s. 2 d. for it, according to its quality. The "dry limy-looking sort" fetches the highest price at some yards, as it is found to possess more of the alkaline, or purifying properties; but others are found to prefer the dark moist quality. Strange as it may appear, the preference for a particular kind has suggested to the finders of Pure the idea of adulterating it to a very considerable extent; this is effected by means of mortar broken away from old walls, and mixed up with the whole mass, which it closely resembles; in some cases, however, the mortar is rolled into small balls similar to those found. Hence it would appear, that there is no business or trade, however insignificant or contemptible, without its own peculiar and appropriate tricks.

.... The kennel "pure" is not much valued, indeed many of the tanners will not even buy it, the reason is that the dogs of the "fanciers" are fed on almost anything, to save expense; the kennel cleaners consequently take the precaution of mixing it with what is found in the street, previous to offering it for sale.

'The pure-finder may at once be distinguished from the bone-grubber and rag-gatherer; the latter, as I have before mentioned, carries a bag, and usually a stick armed with a spike, while he is most frequently to be met with in back streets, narrow lanes, yards and other places, where dust and rubbish are likely to be thrown out from the adjacent houses.

The pure-finder, on the contrary, is often found in the open streets, as dogs wander where they like. The pure-finders always carry a handle basket, generally with a cover, to hide the contents, and have their right hand covered with a black leather glove; many of them, however, dispense with the glove, as they say it is much easier to wash their hands than to keep the glove fit for use. The women generally have a large pocket for the reception of such rags as they may chance to fall in with, but they pick up those only of the very best quality, and will not go out of their way to search even for them. Thus equipped they may be seen pursuing their avocation in almost every street in and about London, excepting such streets as are now cleansed by the "street orderlies," of whom the pure-finders grievously complain, as being an unwarrantable interference with the privileges of their class.

The pure collected is used by leather-dressers and tanners, and more especially by those engaged in the manufacture of morocco and kid leather from the skins of old and young goats, of which skins great numbers are imported, and of the roans and lambskins which are the sham morocco and kids of the "slop" leather trade, and are used by the better class of shoemakers, bookbinders, and glovers, for the inferior requirements of their business. Pure is also used by tanners, as is pigeon's dung, for the tanning of the thinner kinds of leather, such as calf-skins, for which purpose it is placed in pits with an admixture of lime and bark.

In the manufacture of moroccos and roans the pure is rubbed by the hands of the workman into the skin he is dressing. This is done to "purify" the leather, I was told by an intelligent leatherdresser, and from that term the word "pure" has originated. The dung has astringent as well as highly alkaline, or, to use the expression of my informant, "scouring," qualities. When the pure has been rubbed into the flesh and grain of the skin (the "flesh" being originally the interior, and the "grain" the exterior part of the cuticle), and the skin, thus purified, has been hung up to be dried, the dung removes, as it were, all such moisture as, if allowed to remain, would tend to make the leather unsound or imperfectly dressed....

The AKC Book of Deformed and Diseased Dogs

A flak has just sent me an email to let me know that the AKC is about to put out The New Complete Dog Book which is described as "the American Kennel Club’s 'Bible' of dogs."
For the past 88 years it has been the ultimate breed resource — the one book that no purebred dog aficionado and expert can live without. In addition to being the longest continually published dog book in history, it is also the most successful dog book ever published, with over two million copies sold.


This is the 22nd edition
of a book that has caused more misery in the world of dogs than any publication before or since.

Back in 2009 I wrote an article entitled So You Want a Dog? in which I noted:

Having decided to get a dog, most people start flipping through the pages of an all-breed book trying to decide which breed. Big mistake. Deciding to get a specific breed can dramatically increase your chance of getting a dog with serious health issues. Dog insurance records show pedigree dogs are less healthy, as a group, than cross-bred dogs. Canine health surveys show that 40 percent of Kennel Club dogs in the U.S. have genetic defects of one kind or another -- hip dysplasia, heart murmurs, deafness, cataracts, spinal problems, glaucoma, Cushings disease, autoimmune disorders, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, congenital skin conditions, polyarthritis, progressive renal atrophy, and genetic predispositions to cancer, to name a few. Instead of focusing on a breed of dog, consider focusing on a broad type of dog: a terrier, running dog, lap dog, guard dog, herding dog, retriever, or pointer, for example. After that, look for either a cross breed of the type, or get the healthiest breed of that type.

As for the dog on the cover of this $50 tome, it's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a basket-case of a breed that was literally created at a dog show out of universe of one. This is a breed in which over 80 percent of the dogs suffer serious heart conditions and which, when the parent club tried to prevent puppy mill registrations and install a health standard, they were shot down by the AKC which makes its money on puppy mills and deformed, defective, and diseased dogs.

This is the American Kennel Club, and this is how they do it, with slick pictures and potted histories, sniffing pretensions, and defective products.

The good news is that America is no longer buying, and less than 5 percent of all dogs acquired in the U.S. today are American Kennel Club registered.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Ballet Inside a Billet

This stop-motion film was created by taking thousands of pictures of cross-sections of wood and tree limbs as they are were gradually sanded down.

A Handful of Pups

Forest and Field Color Palette

A Tight Pipe

This tight mossy pipe held a possum, which was released unharmed. I always consider it a personal victory if I can get them up in a tree and away from the dogs without them shitting on my head.

Turkey Vulture

A shot of a Turkey Vulture next to the road yesterday. This was the vulture I grew up with. About 15 years ago, we started getting Black Vultures coming up from down south, and now almost all I see are Black Vultures.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Breakfast Club

Life is popping in the yard and in the field; birds going crazy at the feeders, fire flies out in force along with the cicadas, and horse flies tearing at me all day out in the field with the dogs. All good, and as it should be.

Thoroughly Modern Thog

Shut Up, Caitlyn

What's Wrong With the RSPCA?

The RSPCA has always been a lie; dressing like police,
they are in fact a private charity with no police powers.

The Daily Mail asks What's Wrong With the RSPCA?

Jeremy Cooper is the third CEO of the organization to cut and run or get fired in the last five years.

The core problem is that the organization has become colonized with animal right lunatics that are putting their own political agendas ahead of that of dogs and cats and horses, and in front of the best interests of the organization. The result is that membership and donations are in free fall, and the Charity Commission is threatening to take over the organization which has become very nearly ungovernable at the hands of radical vegans.

How did the RSPCA get colonized by vegans? The Guardian reports:

[T]heir domination of the RSPCA council turns out to have happened by design, rather than by accident, in a classic case of ‘entryism’, whereby extremists gain control of large organisations by getting seats on the small but powerful committees that control them. This particular infiltration began in 1970, back when the RSPCA devoted almost all of its huge financial resources to the business of looking after domestic pets and injured wild animals.

This focus upset militant members of the animal rights lobby, which was then in its infancy. They believed the charity’s funds would be better spent supporting their campaigns on vivisection, hunting, the fur trade, and factory farming.

Several duly founded an organisation called the RSPCA Reform Group, and began seeking election to the council.

Because only a small proportion of the Society’s members bother to vote in such ballots, they were soon able to gain seats on the body — and some have been there ever since.

Perhaps the best known is Richard Ryder, who has been described as the ‘founding father’ of the animal rights movement and coined the term ‘speciesism’ — which is effectively what he regards as discrimination against ‘non-human animals’.

Elected to the Council in 1972, he was also director of the Political Animal Lobby which donated £1 million to the Labour Party before the 1997 General Election to secure the ban on fox hunting.

At a time when the RSPCA has been instructed by the Charities Commission to reform, its coming AGM will see another five members elected, several of whom are likely to be allies of Ryder.

The hardliners’ domination of the council, so typical of the manner in which the Left has taken hold of Britain’s public bodies, doesn’t just impact on RSPCA policies.

It also, as this week’s events show, seriously affects its ability to function properly and work with sensible senior executives such as Jeremy Cooper.

Though modern charity trustees are encouraged to serve short terms of between three and five years, many of the RSPCA’s have been there for decades, sometimes leaving then returning for three or four stints.

Though the largest moderncharities have small boards (the National Trust boasts just a dozen trustees) stuffed with politicians, captains of industry, public sector chiefs and other high-fliers, the RSPCA’s vast council has almost no one with any experience running multi-million-pound organisations.