Animal Aid

Going to the Dogs - Channel 4

Posted 11 June 2014

Animal Aid this morning (11 June) saw a preview of the Channel 4 programme Going to the Dogs, which will air tomorrow night. While we knew that this was a documentary rather than a campaign film, we did not expect the subject to be treated with such deference. In a newspaper interview, filmmaker Penny Woolcock states that the ‘dogs are loved and largely well treated’, even as the film shows unforgiving training methods and a ‘fangs into flesh’ fight.

One real concern is that the film could be seen more as a manual on how to organise a dog fight than an exposé of this illegal underground world, and there was no challenge made to the claims and ideologies of the men being filmed. Those taking part knew they were being filmed and allowed access only to the parts of their world that they were happy to be seen. They would have modified their behaviour and words accordingly. It is not an undercover film – and is undoubtedly far more sanitised than reality.

The documentary did not include interviews with police, vets or RSPCA inspectors who could have spoken about the suffering inflicted on dogs who are forced to fight, and this is a serious omission.

Woolcock says she is uncomfortable criticising poor people for dog fighting when its upper class equivalents – bird shooting and horse racing – receive little public condemnation. We agree with that point but surely it would have been more honest and braver to have compared banned blood ‘sports’ with legal ‘sports’ where animals are deliberately and / or routinely harmed, and called for an end to all? Instead, we are left with an unrealistic portrayal of one disgusting ‘sport’.

Animal Aid is not, however, calling for Channel 4 to cancel the airing of this show. We think it important that people see it, discuss the issues and recognise the inconsistencies in how different sectors of society treat animals for their own ends. We should all examine our own impact on the lives of animals, not least those who are farmed, killed and eaten. (Animal Aid supplied footage from our undercover farming and slaughter investigations – some of which was used in the finished film.)

Meanwhile we are asking that all footage taken for the film be made available to the RSPCA and the police who can pursue prosecutions of those who organise and take part in dog fighting. After all it is illegal – and rightly so.

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