It's Crufts o'clock again - that time of year when thousands flock to the dog show held in Birmingham's NEC. Three days of being surrounded by beautiful dogs sounds like an animal lover's dream, but is this really the case? Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Crufts doesn't place much importance on the welfare of dogs who take part - and it sends some pretty dubious messages to the millions who tune in every year.
Last year, a German Shepherd with a 'deformed' back won Best in Breed, despite the fact that she appeared to experience pain when walking. There was outrage from the public, as well as the RSPCA, who stated that they were 'shocked and appalled' at the incident.
Caught in the media glare, there was talk from Crufts of removing the breed from 2017's show - but this has not happened. There is a distinct lack of commitment from Crufts in terms of ensuring the health and wellbeing of the dogs on show.
However, removing one specific breed from the event would not be enough to solve the problem. This issue seems to be fundamental to pedigree dogs, who have been specifically bred to have exaggerated features. This can result in severe health issues, as pedigree dogs often lack the genetic diversity needed for optimum health. Many are a result of inbreeding, which is used to ensure the 'purity' of a line.
A whole range of issues are common to pedigree breeds. Breathing difficulties are rife in the types bred to have extremely short muzzles, such as pugs, whereas bulldogs often struggle to give birth without surgical intervention, due to their large shoulders and narrow hips.
According to the RSPCA, other issues include a predisposition to heart disease, serious eye problems which can result in pain and blindness, and serious skin problems which can lead to infections and allergies. Studies show that purebred dogs will often die earlier than crossbreeds.
It is completely bizarre - and quite ominous - to prize particular animals higher than others based on such arbitrary factors as the exact length of their legs, their numbers of face folds or the precise flatness of their heads. All dogs are deserving of loving homes, even if they don't conform to such ridiculous standards.
Surely the most desirable traits should be health and longevity. This would likely mean the end of certain pedigree breeds - but this can only be a good thing, if, for these breeds, living equates to suffering?
We shouldn't be breeding dogs at all - pedigree or otherwise - as there were almost 50,000 dogs abandoned in the UK last year. According to Dogs Trust, local councils put down an unwanted dog every two hours. For those who want to share their lives and homes with a dog, adoption is the way to go.
And then there's the bizarre circus-like spectacle of the show itself. Is it really in the best interests of the dogs involved to spend hours getting their fur blow-dried and tied in ribbons, and to be paraded around in front of crowds and judges?
The tide seems to be turning on how the general public view shows like Crufts. The BBC has stopped airing it over concerns about animal welfare, the RSPCA has withdrawn its backing, as has Dogs Trust. But still the show continues - but it can only do so when people keep attending, and keep tuning in. Withdrawing our support would send a clear message - that no animal should exist for our pleasure and entertainment, including dogs.Suggest a correction