Recently I witnessed an appalling example of group behaviour.
It is not the first time I have experienced it, but certainly one of the most unpleasant. A training group forum, where one member expressed a viewpoint regarding their training methods for their own dog. Although it was, I suppose, a little coarsely worded, the trainer was in fact asking for advice, for support, from the fellow group members.
Within fifteen minutes the thread had reached over forty posts, each one escalating in poisonous vitriol. The original post was lost in a furore of misinterpretation and vile indignation. How dare this trainer use this method. How could the trainer suggest that such a method was even part of their knowledge base? And so it grew, uglier and uglier. A baying mob, a pack of hounds hunting down and treeing their victim. The group moderator ignored my requests to act. ‘People should be allowed to express themselves’, said he, and promptly joined in further.
It was at this point that I left the group for good. Toxic trainers I do not want to learn from.
We work with animals and would not dream of roaring into their faces, stringing them up or backing them into a corner. If we saw someone treating an animal in this way, we would step in, we would stop them, defend them. Even if we witnessed the animal behaving in an aggressive manner, we might excuse the animal, perhaps seeing if they were reacting in this way from sheer terror or self-protection. Maybe the animal makes a mistake, or does something we did not want, do we attack them in response, inviting all our fellow trainers to come on round, chase them down and do the same?
Why join in or permit uncensored violence towards our fellow trainers? Words can be equally violent and insidious and they hurt. Often called ‘politics’, the art of manipulation, can be used to persuade for positive purpose, or for unpleasant mobbing. Where we win with our animals, talking the good talk and creating a trusting environment, reading their every signal and working alongside them, how can we lose every shred of respect for our fellow folk? When do we condone mass hysteria and group dismemberment of an individual?
Free speech is fine, but it is not always fair, nor friendly, and when surrounded, is frightening. Don’t pardon this, don’t take the easiest path to avoid discomfort, nor call it censorship. Shut it down.
– Karen Wild