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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Crufts dogs' beauty pageant ..... and criticisms !!

There are beauty pageants aka Dog Shows for canines and it cannot get bigger  or important than Crufts. Crufts is an umbrella term for an international canine event held annually in the UK. Crufts is centered on a championship conformation show for dogs but also includes a large trade show of mainly dog-related goods and services and competitions in dog agility, obedience, flyball and heelwork to music. The event is organised and hosted by the Kennel Club. It is held over four days (Thursday to Sunday) in early March at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England. It is the largest show of its kind in the world, as declared by Guinness World Records.

Crufts consists of several competitions occurring at the same time. The main competition is for the Best in Show award, which is hotly contested by dogs and their owners throughout the world.  Crufts was named after its founder, Charles Cruft, who worked as general manager for a dog biscuit manufacturer, travelling to dog shows both in the United Kingdom and internationally, which allowed him to establish contacts and understand the need for higher standards for dog shows. In 1886, Cruft's first dog show, billed as the "First Great Terrier Show", had 57 classes and 600 entries. The first show named "Crufts"—"Cruft's Greatest Dog Show"—was held at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, in 1891.

After Charles' death in 1938, his widow ran the show for four years until she felt unable to do so due to its high demands of time and effort. To ensure the future and reputation of the show, she sold it to The Kennel Club.  It was also at the Centenary celebrations in 1991 that Crufts was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest dog show with 22,973 dogs being exhibited in conformation classes that year. Including agility and other events, it is estimated that an average 28,000 dogs take part in Crufts each year, with an estimated 160,000 human visitors attending the show.

Crufts was formerly televised by the BBC; this ended after the 2008 event and the 2009 event was only shown via the Internet. Since 2010 the show has been broadcast on the commercial channel More4.  The BBC stopped broadcasting Crufts following the airing in 2008 of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which revealed the suffering of pedigree show dogs. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has stated that dog shows “actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals”. About one in four purebred dogs is afflicted with serious congenital defects, such as hypothyroidism, epilepsy, cataracts, allergies, chronic ear infections, hip dysplasia and other ailments that have been handed down through generations of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features. Dogs don't care whether they measure up to judges' arbitrary standards – yet they are the ones who endure the pain and misery of humans' pursuit of the “perfect dog”.

The criticism is that even dogs who never set foot in the Crufts show ring lose because of breeders' pursuit of ribbons and trophies. All the new puppies breeders bring into the world in the hope of producing a “Best in Show” contender will either fill homes that could have gone to dogs languishing in shelters or end up homeless themselves. And many of these puppies will go on to have litters of their own, bringing even more dogs into a world that doesn't have enough homes for those who already exist.  Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a “beauty” pageant.    
      
After hours of being paraded, posed and prodded by judges, one dog will be declared “Best in Show” at Crufts next week - there are no “winners” in the appearance-obsessed world of dog breeding and showing. The Kennel Club's “breed standards” – against which dogs at Crufts are judged – call for dogs to be born in shapes that nature never intended, with devastating results. The excessively wrinkled skin that judges prize in the Chinese Shar-Pei is a breeding ground for bacteria, and many of these dogs suffer from recurring skin infections.  Dogs among breeds with long necks and large heads, such as Great Danes, often have compressed spinal cords in their neck vertebrae, which can cause them to wobble and fall over – a malady known as “wobbler syndrome”.  To increase the odds of passing on certain traits that are favoured by show judges, breeders resort to orchestrating canine incest, that  increases the odds of passing on recessive genes which can result in offspring with debilitating afflictions such as hypothyroidism, epilepsy, cataracts, allergies, heart disease and hip dysplasia.

The Kennel Club was criticised on the BBC programme ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ for allowing breed standards, judging standards and breeding practices which are said to compromise the health of purebred dogs. The programme led various sponsors to withdraw. The BBC dropped Crufts 2009 from their coverage after being unable to agree to terms with The Kennel Club.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Mar 2015.


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