Crufts Cruelty: Why The Show Must Not Go On

Crufts has been held in the UK since 1891


4 Minutes Read

A dog at UK dog show Crufts, which has been accused of promoting animal cruelty Crufts has been blasted as cruel by some animal rights campaigners - Media Credit: Mike Abrahams / Alamy Stock Photo

Today (March 9, 2023) marks the return of Crufts, an annual international dog show hosted by The Kennel Club in the UK.

But anyone who truly cares about dogs won’t be tuning into the controversial canine beauty pageant. What’s promoted as a celebration of man’s best friend actually glamorizes everything that is wrong with the dog breeding industry. Far from being desirable, the exaggerated aesthetic standards the participating animals are judged on cause dogs immense pain and suffering.

A dog competing at UK canine show Crufts
Harry Whitehead / Alamy Stock Photo Crufts is being held in Birmingham from March 9-12

Flat-faced dogs in Crufts 2023

Among the victims of this designer-dog pageant are flat-faced breeds. These animals are prized by the industry for their snouts, which are shortened and pushed so far back against their skulls there isn’t enough space to accommodate their normal anatomical features. Pugs, English and French bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston terriers, boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, shih tzus, and others known as breathing-impaired breeds (BIB) often suffer from a debilitating and often fatal condition called brachycephalic syndrome. 

At best, they struggle to breathe. This means that going for a walk, chasing a ball, running, and playing – things that make dogs’ lives joyful and fulfilling – are impossible. But the condition also causes dogs to endure an array of distressing and painful symptoms. From labored breathing, coughing, and vomiting to collapsing and fainting, and even heart failure from the strain of constant breathlessness. Dog shows like Crufts encourage people to go out and buy these unethical “must-have” breeds. In turn, breeders continue to selectively breed dogs for this flat-faced look. This, at a great expense to the animals’ health and wellbeing. And it needs to stop.

‘These dogs are struggling’

Subjecting dogs to these deformities for human vanity is so cruel that it is illegal to breed certain BIBs – known as “tortured” breeds in Germany – in Austria, Germany, and Norway. The Netherlands, which banned breeding BIBs in 2014, is now considering also prohibiting ownership of these breeds. After Norway passed its law last year, ITV veterinarian Dr Scott Miller called on kennel clubs around the world to take responsibility for setting “insane” breeding standards. “These dogs are struggling,” he said. “They’re in pain, they’re uncomfortable and in a lot of cases, they need surgical correction to be normal.”

PETA has written to Kennel Club Chair Tony Allcock OBE urging him to “realize that the tide is turning.” And, “to take a stand against promoting dogs who spend their lives in misery.” Additionally, tens of thousands of PETA supporters and hundreds of veterinarians have written to Channel 4 asking it to drop the show. The BBC did so in 2008 after an investigation revealed the suffering caused by genetic diseases from years of inbreeding.

A pug taking part in UK dog show Crufts
david pearson / Alamy Stock Photo PETA is calling on Crufts to ban flat-faced breeds from the competition

Promoting animal cruelty

Indeed, it isn’t only BIBs who are affected. All animals paraded around the arena in front of thousands of purported dog lovers are dangerously inbred for “purity.” But let’s take a beat to look into what that means. Dog “breeds,” far from being pure or natural, are a human construct. The breeding industry artificially produces dogs who’d never exist in nature to meet vain and arbitrary aesthetic standards.

A recent study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College found that the pug has diverged to such an extent from mainstream dogs that it can no longer be considered a typical dog from a health perspective. And bulldogs have been bred to be so deformed they can’t mate or give birth unaided, as the puppies’ oversized heads would likely kill the mother passing through the birth canal. There’s nothing pure about that.

Given the wealth of evidence showing how vulnerable flat-faced breeds are to chronic health issues, it’s unconscionable to promote them. Therefore, Crufts is not a celebration of the nation’s love for dogs. But a promotional campaign for the greedy dog-breeding industry, which churns out litter after litter of dogs as fashion accessories despite knowing that their extreme features are painful and deadly. It sells these genetically disadvantaged dogs to anyone. And, in full knowledge that their deformities will lead to sky-high vet bills, leading many people to abandon them at already over-burdened shelters or on the roadside.

Anyone who truly cares about animals will never perpetuate their misery by buying these – or any – “pedigree” dogs from breeders. If you love dogs, adopt, don’t shop. And tell everyone you know to turn off the telly when this sordid spectacle comes on.

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