Westminster: a Pageant of Pornography
The Westminster Porn Show
Best in Shoes, 2016
The Freaks of Westminster
Best in Glow, 2011
Westminster Dog Show Nixes Adoption Ads
Today Show Investigates Puppy Mills
The BBC Investigates Dog Show Breeders
… and just for fun:
If you were planning on tuning in to the Westminster Dog Show, but were worried that you might have to watch commercials from Pedigree dog foods featuring adoptable shelter dogs, stop worrying. The ads have been axed.
TV sponsorship has been taken away from Pedigree after a run of 24 years, and given over to Purina, which promises that there will be no sad shelter dogs, but rather bland video of happy dogs running on the beach, riding surfboards, catching Frisbees and playing in the snow.
Pedigree’s senior brand manager Lisa Campbell said she was surprised and disappointed. She acknowledged that Westminster had made it clear that the Pedigree ads had become too focused on adoptions, but added that the ads were effective and that shelters around the country had thanked Pedigree for raising the plight of homeless dogs.
“Westminster has been a great platform for us,” she said. “We were able to tap into a dog-loving audience.” Mars Petcare, Pedigree’s parent company, said Pedigree had contributed $7 million to the pet adoption cause since 2006.
In 2007, Pedigree received $500,000 in pledges after its graphic ads were broadcast over the show’s two days. “People did not look away,” said Melissa Martellotti of Mars Petcare. “They were inspired to pick up the phone and make donations.”
Westminster spokesman and TV host David Frei says the Pedigree commercials took the wrong approach. “Our show is a celebration of dogs,” he said. “When we’re seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it’s sad, but it’s not our message.”
What, then, is the message of the Westminster Dog Show?
“We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds,” Frei said. “We celebrate all dogs.” But you’ll need binoculars to see anything but wall-to-wall “pure” breeds at the show.
Not that there’s anything “pure” about a pure breed, anyway. “In-bred” would be more accurate.
The show features about 2,000 dogs from 185 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. The AKC makes its money primarily by selling breed registration certificates through breeders and pet stores, “certifying” the lineage of the puppy – that the parent dogs conform to certain requirements that characterize the breed, and that the family has not been contaminated by genes from other kinds of dogs.
By now, the “pure” breeds are so inbred, and the characteristics so unnatural, that they do not make for a healthy, happy, good-natured dog. In many cases, the breeding of such dogs is banned in other countries.
A 2008 documentary by the BBC, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, found that “purebred” dogs are suffering from genetic diseases following years of inbreeding. The program showed spaniels with brains too big for their skulls, boxers suffering from epilepsy, and a prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.
Almost anyone who’s had a purebred German shepherd has seen their dog’s back legs deteriorate. And the genetic problems of other dogs are well-known and common – like deafness in Dalmatians.
Breeding of dogs with faces that have squashed noses (like Boston terriers and Pekingese) is no longer allowed in Europe. But these dogs are still celebrated by the AKC. It’s also illegal in Europe to mutilate dogs, as in ear-cropping and tail-docking for the sake of appearance. But mutilation is not just permitted at Westminster; it’s required.
Scientists at Imperial College, London, found that pugs in the UK are so inbred that although there are 10,000 of them, it is the equivalent of just 50 distinct individuals. And the documentary reports:
There is little doubt that the anatomy of the English bulldog has considerable capacity to cause suffering. … The breed is noted to have locomotion difficulties, breathing problems, an inability to mate or give birth without assistance. . . . Many would question whether the breed’s quality of life is so compromised that its breeding should be banned.
Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, said: “People are carrying out breeding which would be first of all entirely illegal in humans and secondly is absolutely insane from the point of view of the health of the animals. “In some breeds they are paying a terrible price in genetic disease.”
Last year, the New York Times took up the topic in a magazine feature: “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?”
The Bulldog Club of America (B.C.A.), which owns the copyright to the American standard, says it has no plans to [revise the bulldog standard, which] still calls for the breed to have a “massive, short-faced head,” a “heavy, thick-set, low-swung body,” a “very short” face and muzzle and a “massive” and “undershot” jaw.
, of the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that if bulldogs had been modified this way in a laboratory, there would be a public outcry. But since they’re “just” being bred this way, it’s considered natural.
Responsible guardians no longer breed such dogs. Diane Judy, a former bulldog breeder from Tennessee who bred the current Yale mascot, told the New York Times that she no longer felt comfortable breeding them.
“Most can’t have sex without help — they’re too short and stocky. Most can’t give birth on their own — their heads are too big. A breed that has trouble doing those two things is, by definition, in trouble.”
The dogs aren’t only bred for their looks; they get more cosmetic touch-ups than an aging movie star. Writing about the Westminster Dog Show for the National Post, Jane Macdougall writes
The dogs are routinely augmented with hairpieces, chalked outline markings, and dyes. In fact, tattooing is a common practice to darken certain features or markings. Sedation during competition is also not unheard of. … Hairpieces are almost exclusively the covert bailiwick of the poodle breed. Those cupcake-like poofs at the crown of a poodles’ head are the canine equivalent of double-D silicone enhancements. … if the Miniature Pinscher Club Headquarters say tail docking is what all fashionable min pins are wearing this spring, tail docking it is.
And, as we reported last year, cheating is common at the British equivalent of Westminster: the Crufts dog show:
They fluff them up and keep the look in place with hairspray. White dogs with an unwelcome brown spot have it covered over with chalk. Silicone gel gives a shinier look.
And since so many people do it, the Kennel Club in the U.K. decided to take strong action – meaning that they decided to cave in and stop doing any tests that might reveal the cheating.
So, removing any TV commercials that might show dogs in real life is but the icing on the whole poisonous cake of “pure breed” make-believe on the part of Westminster and the AKC . Underneath all the fluffing and primping, the hairspray and the genetic engineering, the show is worse than a sham and a scam; it’s the active promotion of cruelty and disease.
Why would anyone want to do this to our best friends?