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:
They’re the freaks of the world’s biggest dog show. And I’m not referring to those poor inbred dogs, with all their health issues of squashed-in faces and crippling joint diseases. They’re as loving and lovable as any abused dog. I’m referring to the people who would do this to dogs, turning them into deformed shadows of their true canine nature.
Like a cattle show where genetically modified cows are paraded for their meat value, or a fashion show where modified models strut around in the skins of dead animals, or the ridiculously out-of-date Miss America-type “pageants”, Westminster exists to promote an industry that has no place in the 21st Century.
The 2012 winner, for example, was Malachy, a Pekingese, whom the judges considered emblematic of the very best in dogs – a model of everything to which people who care about dogs should aspire.
Nobody at the show mentioned that the entire Pekingese breed is in crisis, so plagued by health issues that veterinarians and other experts say the breed may not even survive. The biggest issue is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, the upper airway problem that plagues short-nosed, flat-faced dog breeds. Their specially bred short heads, narrow nostrils, small trachea and overly long soft palate lead to rapid, noisy breathing, panting, coughing, snoring, and difficulty engaging in physical activity.
“They’re the quintessential designer dog,” a friend of mine said who has had more than a dozen rescue Pekingese – most of them purebreds. “Two of my Pekes are blind, which is very common. And because of their long, low backs, I’ve often taken them to the chiropractor.”
The blindness has two causes: Their eyes protrude because of the unnatural shape of the skull. And the ridge around their nose has hair growing out of it that gets into their eyes, oftentimes requiring surgery.
These problems are so serious that the 2003 winner of Crufts (the British equivalent of Westminster), a Pekingese named Danny, had to sit on an ice pack while being photographed to stop him overheating.
But the dog show business is big business, and discussion of these issues is strongly discouraged by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
In Europe, by contrast, the breeding business is coming under increasing fire from veterinarians and humane organizations. A groundbreaking two-year investigation by the BBC, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, 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 that occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.
Talking about the Crufts, Mark Evans, the RSPCA’s chief vet, said:
“When I watch Crufts, what I see is a parade of mutants. It’s some freakish, garish beauty pageant that has nothing, frankly, to do with health and welfare. We’ve become completely and utterly desensitized to the fact that breeding these deformed, disabled, disease-prone animals is either shocking or abnormal.”
Speaking about King Charles spaniels, who are also bred with skulls that are too small for their brains, veterinary neurologist Clare Rusbridge said:
“The cavalier’s brain is like a size ten foot that has been shoved into a size six shoe; it doesn’t fit. It is described in humans as one of the most painful conditions you can have, a piston-type headache. Even a light touch – a collar, for example – can induce discomfort.
“If you took a stick and beat a dog to create that pain, you’d be prosecuted. But there’s nothing to stop you breeding a dog with it.”
While most of the media in the United States just swallows whatever the AKC promotes, the New York Times took up the topic of “purebred” dogs in a 2011 feature, “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?“, in which James Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania suggested that if bulldogs had been modified in a laboratory the way they are in the breeding business, there would be a public outcry. But since they’re “just” being bred this way, it’s considered natural.
And Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, has said about “purebred” dogs:
“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.”
Happily, breeding of dogs with these kinds of deliberate deformities is no longer allowed in Europe. It’s also illegal there 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.
As if that’s not enough, dogs at these fashion shows get more cosmetic touch-ups than an aging movie star. Writing about the Westminster Dog Show for the National Post, Jane Macdougall says:
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.
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.
As part of its annual promo for inbreeding, the AKC has released its list of top ten most popular breeds, headed up by Labs, German Shepherds and Goldens, all of whom are predisposed to crippling hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as cataracts, epilepsy, eczema, stomach twists and cancer. Bulldogs and boxers come in at fifth and seventh place, with all the breathing and heart problems of squashed-face dogs.
Why would anyone want to do this to their supposedly best friends?