BREED clubs have reacted with dismay to the news that the Kennel Club is to accept registrations of imported Irish Red and White Setters (IRWS) crossed with Irish Setters.
The Great Britain club said such a programme should only be implemented after discussion with clubs worldwide, the Scottish club said it was neither necessary nor desirable, and the Canadian club said the decision was ‘seriously flawed’.
They were reacting to the KC’s announcement that the Irish Kennel Club (IKC) had accepted that crossbreeding IRWS with Irish Setters ‘might become necessary in the future’ to preserve the genetic health of the breed, and that it had made the decision to register the crosses ‘in accordance with reciprocal agreements with other national kennel clubs’ – providing they meet all the current requirements for UK registration and are clear of hereditary condition GPRA rcd1.
The KC will transpose the identification system adopted in Ireland (X1, X2, X3) with its own asterisk identification system, to identify the crossbred generations.
"The KC supports crossbreeding programmes which improve breed health, and the IKC decided there was a need to recognise dogs who may be born from such a cross in preparation for the need to preserve genetic diversity and to prevent associated health problems from surfacing within the breed,” a spokesman said.
"The success of any cross programme can be determined by breeders and breed clubs themselves through their future decisions to incorporate these dogs into their bloodlines.”
After hearing of the clubs’ concerns the KC said on Tuesday: "We first met representatives from the IRWS some months ago, and this was the agreed way forward – ie with their agreement.
"The situation regarding registrations of dogs from Ireland is different to that of other countries as I am sure you are aware.
"However, we could simply have accepted the registrations with no marking on the database – which would fall in with the reciprocal agreements we have with all kennel clubs – but in order to help the IRWS breeders we agreed to mark the registrations and to require health testing of all the dogs involved.”
The IRWS Club of GB said it had monitored the health and genetic viability of the breed for more than 30 years.
"If, at some time in the future, it should become necessary to crossbreed in order to preserve the genetic viability of the breed worldwide, any proposed strategy would only be implemented after consultation with other breed clubs in the UK and overseas and with the sanction of the KC,” a spokesman said
The Southern Society for IRWS said it shared the views of the main club.
"Choosing breeding stock is a personal matter,” said chairman Muriel Iles. "It would be wise to remember that the breed had had two revivals in the past 100 years, both brought about by dedicated breeders using carefully selected, linebred stock.
"It does well to remember the past.”
The IRWS Club of Scotland expressed disappointment.
"While we acknowledge the KC’s position with regard to reciprocal agreements… this programme has been devised and instigated without the full and frank discussion of all interested parties,” a spokesman said. "This club is of the opinion that had these discussions taken place it is likely that such a crossbreeding programme would have been deemed neither necessary nor desirable at this time.
"We also think that the worldwide population of IRWS has a genetic base diverse enough to preserve the genetic health of the breed, and that more effort should be made to use the diversity available within the breed before outcrossing outside the breed.”
The IRWS Club of Canada expressed dismay.
"Our breed club, among others, first became aware of the Irish breed club’s proposal when the general guidelines were printed on its website in spring 2011,” a spokesman said. "There was no discussion, no forewarning given to breed clubs around the world. There was no dialogue with other breed clubs worldwide and no concerns expressed to any of us.
"Further, our breed club, among others, was appalled to read that this drastic action was presented as a fait accompli, driven by the Irish breed club, through the IKC and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). This demonstrates a wilful disregard of and disrespect for the many keepers of the breed worldwide.
"The Canadian breed club, having thus been given notification by way of a website, met and discussed the issue. On May 11, 2011 we sent a letter to the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), the Irish breed club, the IKC and the FCI, among others, outlining our position. We have received only one reply, a supportive and helpful letter from our own CKC.
"We find both the rationale and process of crossbreeding Irish Setters to IRWS to be seriously flawed…
"The decision to cross two disparate breeds with separate breed Standards appears to be based on an unconvincing argument concerning the future health and working ability of the IRWS. If the Irish breed club is concerned about its current limited gene pool, surely the logical first step should be dialogue within the breed. Genetic diversity is available, as are working dogs.
"Further, we cannot condone the crossbreeding of our essentially healthy IRWS breed with dogs of a breed which is known to hold, by various unknown modes of inheritance, far more genetic detritus than ours. Genotype is of far greater importance than mere phenotype, which is all these Irish Setters can offer.
"We would ask the KC to reconsider its response, and encourage the Irish breed club, the IKC and the FCI to pursue other avenues to resolve whatever problems they believe they have.
"The current direction will have drastic repercussions on the breed worldwide, and that dictates a more cautious approach.
"Our mandate is the protection of the breed, first and foremost. It grieves us that we must first protect it from the country that gave birth to the IRWS. But we must find a way to protect our purebred pedigrees, as we cannot condone needless crossbreeding.
"Failing that, we would encourage the KC to demonstrate leadership by requiring all progeny of these crossbreedings to be marked as crossbred, not only for three or four generations but in perpetuity.”
Stephen Clayforth, 31/08/2012
Why all the arguments? I understood that Irish Setters were originally bred from Irish Red and White Setters. All this is doing is trying to put back into the breed some diverse genetic material. After all the IRWS nearly died out completely and was only brought back by breeding from a VERY SMALL gene pool. Although there are more of them about today the gene pool will still be small as no matter how many generations are bred you will not get any diversity without bringing in outside genes. At least the Irish Setters have the same genes and they are not intending to bring in a completely different breed like they have with others!
I've not read through all this and this isn't my breed but what on earth is going on within the Kennel Club these days? It's not going to be long before Beagles x Bassets are accepted ' to improve the Basset breed'. Well that should sort out 'overly long backs, long ears and eyes that don't please vets looking for a basic dog eye on this breed'. Thank goodness I'm not out there breeding and competing any longer - is all I can say.