The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Our love for dogs has become cruel and inhumane

When did our love for man’s best friend become a bid to genetically mutilate them?


We love pugs. More than 10,000 are waddling around in the UK at the moment, and the Chinese New Year of the Dog gives us admirers the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for the pug’s squashed nose and dislocated kneecaps. A celebratory pop-up Pug Cafe in Manchester has already clocked in the interest of more than 600 dog lovers on Facebook, who will no doubt flock on the day to fawn over the beauty of the pugs and profess to each other just how much they love dogs.

We love pugs so much that we’ve inbred 10,000 British pugs from a gene pool of only 50. We apparently love them so much that they suffer acute problems as a consequence of our love.

Let’s be clear: this is not love for the dog, but the fetishisation of its individual body parts.

In 2008, a BBC documentary uncovered a line of Crufts pug champions with numerous health problems characteristic of the breed: dislocated kneecaps, collapsed larynxes, elongated soft palates, narrowed nasal cavities, inward rolling of lower eyelids, and curvature of the spine. Spine abnormalities are bog-standard in pugs— in fact, they’re the breed standard. Double-corkscrews are desired in pugs’ tails, which contort pugs’ vertebrae to put their whole spinal structures at risk.

RSPCA Chief Vet Mark Evans called the Crufts show “a parade of mutants”, and, “a freakish, garish beauty pageant that has frankly nothing to do with health and welfare.”

But we love their funny looks. We love tagging friends in videos of pugs falling asleep while sitting or standing— which they do because their airways close when they drop their heads. We love them. We love the noises pugs make as they struggle for breath and their eyes that are too big for their sockets to contain. They’re cute; breeding is a business of cuteness, and that must be a delight.

The commodification of dogs as style items is a recent, capitalist phenomenon. The Kennel Club is less than 150 years old, and most modern dog breeds are younger than this. Before then, dogs weren’t bred in Britain for their appearance. It was when dogs made the move from the farm to the armchair that breeding for functionality was dropped to focus on fashionable aesthetics.

As a result, health was compromised to achieve deformities. The German Shepard Dog of today looks very different from its Victorian forefathers; it now also comes with a good dose of canine hip dysplasia.

The Kennel Club’s small efforts to reduce the occurrence of genetic defects are meek. They certify German Shepards whose parents are clear from hip dysplasia, but breeders easily worm round this by breeding young dogs who are less than a year old before their genetic defects start showing. And so, thousands of sick puppies get born and sold with clean certifications of health from the KC.

This doesn’t even consider the uncertified puppy farms, which notoriously over-breed females in inhumane conditions. These only arose after World War Two, and have grown into a multi-billion pound business in the UK alone. Meanwhile, 20,000 rescue dogs are euthanised in UK shelters every year. Rather than adopt them, we shell out thousands of pounds to buy pedigree dogs from breeders, whose genetic defects cost UK dog owners over £10 million in vets’ fees each week.

On the other side of the world, in China, street dogs are beaten to death on a daily basis. In Oman, the police are ordered to shoot puppies on sight. Romania runs state internment camps for dogs where they aren’t fed and are destroyed after 14 days. This all might seem depressing, but none of our concern over here in the UK.

Shelters abroad, however, run multifarious programmes— such as Barking Mad Dog Rescue — that allow British citizens to adopt dogs from life-threatening situations around the world. This might be a more popular system if foreign-adopted dogs were as Instagrammable as their inbred cousins.

As it is, pugs are our trending fashion choice of the moment, and their lives aren’t much better than street dogs’. Pug breeding is animal cruelty, and without knowing it, we’re wooed into complicity by their big buggy eyes and asphyxiating muzzles.

It’s hard to imagine an aesthetic as sweet as the pug’s could possibly be so barbaric. That’s the first step we need to take: changing our perspective of the pug from the aesthetic to the animal.

This Chinese New Year, for the Year of the Dog, we need to each take some time to address ourselves — when we say we love dogs, do we mean it? Or do we only mean that we love how they look?

  • Susan Lee

    What an inaccurate article! Pugs bred for health as part of the Breed Health Scheme are bred by ethical breeders with health in mind. The real fight is with puppy farmed dogs both from here and abroad. Tackle this issue and the health of pure bred dogs will improve straightaway.

  • Eva Marie Fisher

    Well I certainly do not share your opinion! Pugs are some of the happiest dogs I have ever seen. They are loved and treated as a part of the family. The misconception that people want them because they look “cute” is simply wrong. They want them because the traits they have make their personalitys “cute”. I know…your going to tell me that my dog is deformed, unhealthy, and suffers constantly because he can not breath … and that I am just to stupid to see he is suffering. Well your wrong .. and not only do I think you are wrong but so does my Vet. There is room for improvement on all dogs and your efforts would be better spent promoting getting good breeding health schemes in place for all dogs breeding and stopping the illegal entry of puppys into the UK.

  • Debz Rosamond

    Wow could you make anymore
    sweeping generalisations in a few
    paragraphs? I thought journalism was about meeting real life subject matter you are going to write about not regurgitate the hits from a Google search…. A lot has and is being done by ethically sound breeders, the health of brachy breeds has improved tremendously.
    Saying people are morally at fault for buying a dog of their choice is like saying people shouldn’t have their own children until all orphans are adopted.
    Sloppy journalism.

  • Annie Marie Self

    This article is written by an uneducated, small minded idiot.
    If you are going to write an article focussing on a certain breed at least do in depth studies rather than generalising the breed .

  • Sally Ann Cracknell

    I am part of a campaign called Proudly Pedigree- fit for life! Which was set up to attempt to stem the tide of negative, incorrect articles like this. It’s so easy to scan some of the literature withought really understanding these dogs and their breeding. Whilst it is true that some of these dogs do have some problems the vast majority do not, especially when they have been carefully bred for health by ethical breeders. I implore you to contact me, I will personally show you photographs and provide invites for you to meet some wonderful healthy Pugs. I will show you the stunning work done by the Breed Health Council to improve the health of Pugs. The advice should never be do not but these dogs. They are wonderful family pets, it should be find an ethical breeder who only breeds from healthy dogs, who carries out all health testing and who offers advice and support. Finally never buy a puppy without seeing it with its Mum. You can find us on fb, or twitter @proudlypedigree or Instagram
    If you read this and agree join our group and please sign and share our petition.

  • Petula Humphrey

    Rehashing poorly researched anti brachy news. Not all brachy dogs are unhealthy . Also, with the move from country to city living and longer working hours for many there is a need for companion dogs which will ultimately be smaller and require less exercise. Not everyone has the space, time or health to go for miles with dogs. Pedigree dog owners do love their dogs and do care about their welfare. Responsible breeders carry out health tests and only breed from those dogs which achieve the highest of health standards. If you are going to write articles please contact responsible breeders, ask them what is being done, don’t just follow the lead of others

  • Katrina Goble

    I completely agree. Ignore all the people who aren’t paying attention. I did animal management in college including health and genetics and learned all the issues associated with pugs and bad breeding. 10,000 pugs from a gene pool of 50, they’re so inbred that they are prone to recessive genetic disorders but no one can see That! They have soft palate issues and can’t breathe or run, that isn’t fair or ethical.
    Stop being blinded for your love of the dog and think. This is a scientific and factual article that my university professor would surely verify. Get your head out of your ass people .

  • crimson chin