Section E of the OMJ’s show classification is devoted to ‘posture’ canaries, better known in Britain as ‘type’ canaries. A common feature of the breeds in Section E is that they tend to have regional names: Yorkshire, Norwich, Irish Fancy, Rheinlander, North Dutch Frill, Raza Espagnol, and the Arlequim Português (Portuguese Harlequin canary). The list goes on. There are only two exceptions from this custom: the Crest and (you knew this was coming) . . . the Lizard canary.
That is why the official COM standard for type canaries (1), recognises the importance of the origin of a breed. It introduces Section E with this preamble:
It is the first two sentences that are relevant to the recent vote on the Scale of Points for the Lizard canary (described in Part 1). Translated into English (2) they say:
- This standard was developed in support of the descriptions provided by the countries of origin of the breeds.
- Only countries of origin have the power to develop their breeds.
The intention is clear: the Germans have the final say on the Rhinelander, the Irish on the Irish Fancy, the Portuguese on the Arlequim Português and, dare I hope, the British on the Lizard canary. It is a sensible rule. These breeds are a matter of national pride. The breeders of those nations know more about them than anyone else and have every right to feel protective towards them. Except, it seems, the Lizard canary.
COM recognises Great Britain as the country of origin of the Lizard canary. In theory, the Lizard’s Scale of Points cannot be changed without the agreement of COM-UK (and through consultation, the LCA), but it seems that COM doesn’t necessarily stick to its own rules.
Let’s go back to the OMJ meeting in September 2016. The agenda was ‘agreed’ on the day because it had not been circulated prior to the meeting; a surprising and unacceptable failure of communication. Delegates were travelling from all parts of Europe without knowing what they were going to discuss. Crucially, as far as the Lizard’s Scale of Points is concerned, COM-UK and other national federations had no opportunity to consult with specialist breeders and clubs, or to prepare for the debate. To the best of my knowledge, only one delegation knew of the proposal and its details in advance: COM-Portugal, which had submitted it. They came in strength.
There was also a communication problem at the meeting itself: nine different languages were spoken by the delegates. Without advance notice of the agenda, people were struggling to interpret what was being proposed. How many people really understood the true implications of the Portuguese proposal?
You might assume that the preamble to the Standard Canaris de Posture gives the home nation the ultimate sanction: a veto. Think again. The minutes of the meeting tell us that “The COM-President Carlos Ramôa was noted that the veto of a country has which came to its own stance a race, can be cancelled by the unanimous decision of the expert meeting“ (3). In plain English, he claimed that the veto of the country of origin can be overridden.
I have read the OMJ constitution (4) and have found no official rule to support Mr. Ramôa’s statement. The British veto should have prevailed. As President of COM, his role is to represent all member nations and uphold its constitution. He should have remained impartial, yet he appears to have intervened in his country’s favour (he is Portuguese), quoting an unofficial ‘rule’ to overturn one the OMJ’s fundamental principles (5).
I have not met Mr. Ramôa, but I do know people who hold him in high regard. His intervention seems out of character, but it had the desired effect: the proposal was approved (6).
Let’s compare that decision to others made at the meeting. The Lizard was not the only variety where changes to the standard were proposed (7). In every other case the decision was deferred for two years unless the home nation approved. Why didn’t that happen with the proposal to change Lizard’s Scale of Points? Why was the Lizard canary treated differently? Why indeed.
In summary, the process was fundamentally flawed:
- The failure to issue an agenda in good time denied national federations the opportunity to consult and prepare for the meeting.
- There was inconsistency in the treatment of contentious subjects at the meeting: only the Lizard’s Scale of Points was forced to a yes/no decision; all other controversial proposals were rightly deferred.
- The President’s intervention was based on a false premise.
- The rights of the mother nation were incorrectly overruled.
I hope the OMJ will acknowledge these shortcomings, suspend the decision, and restore the consultation process.
- Standard Canaris de Posture, which is available on the COM website. You can download it here: http://www.conforni.org/telechargements/standard
- This is my translation, not an official COM translation.
- I’ve quoted the statement verbatim from the translation published in the minutes.
- You can find the OMJ constitution here: http://ornitologia.difossombrone.it/articoli/regolamento_OMJ.pdf
- I hope I’m wrong; if someone can provide evidence to the contrary, I’d be pleased to publish it.
- Simon Tammam, the COM UK delegate, voted against the proposal but was over-ruled.
- Of interest to British readers, Turkey has submitted alterations to the Yorkshire show standard; Brazil wants variegated Lancashire canaries to be recognised. Brazil also proposed an alteration to the Portuguese Harlequin standard. All of them were deferred for two years to allow further consultation.