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devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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Should Judges Campaign Cats?

Editor’s Note: The subject of this article is whether a judge should be campaigning a cat. Part of the discussion includes instances where judges may have abused their position by unfairly influencing the success of their own cat’s campaign and negatively affecting the success of their competition. This is not to imply that most judges who also campaign behave this way. Such incidents are the exception.

Should judges campaign cats as well as judge their competition? It is an interesting question…

Conflict of Interest

Clearly, it is reasonable to question the fairness of a system that allows an individual to campaign their cat one week and then judge their own competition the following week. Even if we could guarantee that a judge could evaluate all cats fairly, there would still be the appearance of a conflict of interest, no matter how impartial the judging might actually be.

Add to the mix the possibility that the judge’s spouse or partner campaigns the cat at one show while on the same weekend, the judge evaluates the competition at a different show, and there is an even greater possibilities for an appearance of unfairness.

Within the judging community, there is understandably much camaraderie. Judges often spend many hours in one another’s company, having built friendships throughout their careers in the cat fancy, hours spent together waiting for flights in airports, dinners and cat shows. Consciously or unconsciously, most judges want to like another judge’s cats. When a judge campaigns a cat, he or she is possibly placing their fellow judges in an awkward position.

Perhaps the time has come for judges to step away from exhibiting and campaign cats.

The APPEARANCE of Unfairness

Unfortunately, when a judge campaigns a cat, it opens up the possibility of there APPEARRING to be an abuse of their power. It is not necessarily a case of a judge consciously trying to give their own cat an advantage — but because they are in a position to influence the results of their competitors, the exhibitor-judge is putting himself in a position that can be viewed by the non-judge-exhibitors as being very unfair.

For instance, the following incidents have all happened involving judges who were campaigning cats and who judged their closest competition with results that were open to question by other campaigners…

  • A judge campaigning the #2 cat in her region was judging the #1 cat from the same region. Every time this judge had this cat in her show ring, she consistently gave it 2nd Best of Breed. This seemed an attempt to block the #1 cat from gaining points in the hope that the judge’s #2 cat could catch the #1 position and be Best Cat In Region. Even if the judge truly thought the #1 cat was unworthy of its success, the fact that the judge was placed in the position of having to place the cat lower than all the other judges made the judge’s placement look questionable.
  • A judge with the #2 cat nationally was judging the #3 cat nationally near the end of the show season. Despite having put the #3 cat as Best Cat early in the season at a huge count show, the judge did not even give it 2nd Best of Breed. Even if the judge just discovered something about the cat he did not like, his placement gave the appearance of protecting his own cat’s placement.
  • Judge “A” was campaigning a cat for a national win. Judge “B” was also campaigning a cat for a national win. Judge “A” was finaling Judge “B”‘s cat, but Judge “B” was not using Judge “A”s cat. Judge” A” told Judge “B” he had better start using his cat in the finals or else he would stop using Judge “B”s cats in his finals. Judge”B” began using Judge “A”s cat. Did Judge “B” just have a change of opinion about the cat? Or was he intimidated into using the cat? Either way, it appeared badly.
  • Near the end of the show season, a judge campaigning a cat nationally asked a fellow campaigner to send her spreadsheets showing all the points for the national cats in contention. The spreadsheet included how many points each cat had and each cat was replacing. Was this an innocent request by the judge? The information could be used to manipulate the national standing of the cats who were in a close race. The fact that this information could be used in a manipulative manner by the judge made the request appear suspect.
  • A judge campaigning a cat was judging a same breed cat which was his closest competition. Afterward, the judge was chatting with fellow judges and making derogatory comments about the cat. Was this an an attempt to sway other judge’s opinion of the cat? Or were they just the honest comments of a judge? Either way, the comments were in poor taste because they gave an impression of bias.

A conflict of interest exists when a judge is influenced in his or her decision by any relationship or factor other than the merits of the cats. This can be a very subjective determination, it is perhaps no more subjective than the very act of judging.

Why Do Judges Campaign Cats?

There are several reasons why judges continue to campaign cats after they become approved judges. Having come from an exhibitor background, most judges like showing, like campaigning and like winning. Before they became judges, many individuals have enjoyed great success in the show ring, often including multiple national wins. The judges who still campaign obviously still enjoy showing and winning. And judges who campaign do continue to win…

The primary reason for showing a cat is to evaluate the cat against the competition, to obtain feedback about your breeding program from a more educated eye. Of course, one would expect that a judge, by definition, would know when they had an exceptional cat. One could also assume that because a judge has the opportunity to see cats all over the world, they often have access to the best cats available for their breeding/showing programs. Surely they don’t need other opinions of their breeding program?

On the other hand, if the reason for showing is to attain national and regional wins, then let them  stop judging for the show season and be an exhibitor. It is a matter of setting priorities. Which is more important — judging or campaigning?

An interesting rationale for allowing a judge to also campaign a cat that is sometimes put forward is that it helps keep them in touch with the experience of being an exhibitor. If this is true, does that mean that the judge who does not continue to show and campaign cats is out of touch? Of course not. 

It is not enough that the cats be judged fairly. The cats must also APPEAR to be judged fairly.

The Good of The Cat Fancy

Judges who exhibit are frequently a major source of complaints regarding conflict of interest issues. Clearly, when a person campaigns a cat and also is in the position to judge their competition, affecting their competition’s success or lack of, there is called into play an aspect of questionable appearance. As more fanciers view the conflict of interest inherent in the situation, allowing an individual to both judge and campaign becomes detrimental to the overall best interests of the cat fancy.

The cat fancy has evolved to the point where it is no longer acceptable for judges to also be campaigning cats. Allowing an individual to wear both hats gives the appearance of an unfair advantage AND opens the possibility for outright manipulation of show results.

When an exhibitor decides to pursue the goal of becoming a judge, they are placing themselves in a position of knowledge and experience that should move them beyond the range of exhibiting. They must be held to a higher standard. By definition, a judge is saying, “I have the talent and ability to evaluate multiple breeds of cats according to their written standard.” Exhibitors pay fees for those evaluations and respect the judge’s opinion.

In a hobby based on personal opinion, it is essential that situations that can lead to unfairness (or be viewed as allowing for the possibility of an unfair advantage), must be avoided. The time has come for individuals to decide to judge or to exhibit – but not to do both – for the greater good of the cat fancy.


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