Barking mad

Is Club 18-30 demeaning to dogs?

Ray Crowley

Topics Politics

When a baby is taken from a maternity unit, it’s going to raise questions about hospital security. Sensible questions, with sensible answers, you’d hope.

The abduction of Elizabeth Rice from Wordsley Hospital on 6 May pulled two new experts in security on maternity wards into the limelight – Dawn Griffiths and her 12-year-old daughter Alex.

Mrs Griffiths and her daughter do not work for a security firm. They are not midwives. They do not work for the department of health. Alex was snatched from St Thomas’ hospital in 1990. Although her mother is in an excellent position to understand the anguish the experienced by the parents of baby Elizabeth, she is hardly an authority on hospital security. Yet she has been treated as one by news programmes and national papers.

‘It seems the hospital authorities have learnt nothing from what happened with Alex and other babies in recent years. Every time something like this happens it brings back all the horror I went through’, she said (1). In fact, hospitals have brought in a plethora of security measures to prevent the abduction of babies – which have problems of their own (see Return of the babysnatchers?, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick).

Dawn and Alex were interviewed on Tuesday morning’s BBC Breakfast News. The newsreader asked the 12-year-old what she thought about the matter, adding that he knew she couldn’t remember actually being abducted. I’m glad he picked up on that, but wondered what useful comments she could possibly make.

The presentation of personal experience as news seems to be everywhere today. Gone are the days when long accounts of ‘my hernia operation’ were told in women’s magazines (rather than the Evening Standard), and blacked-out profiles of victims recounting how ‘it really happened to me’ were reserved for cheap documentaries.

The RSPCA have also had their complaints about media portrayal this week – moaning that an advert screened in cinemas is peeing all over the good name of Britain’s canine community. The ad is for Club 18-30 holidays. A dog watches some of the more amorous activities of youths on an 18-30 break and then hurries off to re-enact what it has seen with other pooches. The complaint is that the dogs may have been ‘exposed to indignity and ridicule’ (2).

Ridicule? One of the dogs was a poodle – possibly one of the most ridiculous animals in existence even in its most natural state. Dogs, being dogs and not people, don’t have a sense of dignity. The canines involved in the adverts are unlikely to suffer low dog-esteem because of filming; they won’t feel all dirty inside. As David Aaronovitch quite rightly asks in the Independent, ‘Can you ever demean an animal that enjoys rolling over and showing you its balls…?’.

Unfortunately Aaronovitch goes on to point out that it is far more worrying that teenagers are filmed for TV ‘baring their tits’ and ‘going to club loos for a shag’. Well yes, I suppose it is embarrassing to flash on TV, and yes, programmes that voyeuristically document teenage misbehaviour are fairly silly pieces of titillation. But why does Aaronovitch care so much about trashy TV?

‘[W]ho sits watching Club 18-30 on the telly, and wishing that they were the right age to go on holiday like this and pull and pull and pull?’, asks Aaronovitch. ‘It’s the younger teenagers who see this and want to be in the Club.’ He finishes by talking about a 12-year-old girl whose parents suspect that she is sleeping with a 22-year-old man, and suggests that the parents raise this with those responsible for the offending advert and 18-30 phenomenon.

I’m glad that Aaronovitch pointed out the difference between dogs and humans, but has he forgotten we are also different from apes? Will casual sex in terrible late night TV cause a spate of monkey see, monkey do?

Perhaps the most demeaning thing is that teenagers are seen as more daft than poodles.

Read on:

Return of the babysnatchers?, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick

spiked-issue: Love and sex

(1) ‘Hospitals “failed to learn from earlier abduction”, Helen Studd, The Times, 7 May 2002

(2) It’s people, not dogs, who are being demeaned, David Aaronovitch, Independent, 7 May 2002

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Topics Politics


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