Posted on February 26, 2010

A Master Race for Dogs Is Wrong

Poorva Joshipura, Guardian (London), February 17, 2010

The demonstration by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) US outside the Westminster Dog Show–in which two Peta US members dressed up like KKK members to make the case that the KKK and the American Kennel Club (AKC) are in some ways two peas in a pod–understandably raised a few eyebrows. But it also raised a good point: the AKC is all about the perverted idea of a master race and so is the KKK.

Seeing people in white capes is deeply uncomfortable. But only someone with an axe to grind about Peta US’s work to stop animal exploitation in all its forms, or someone with no idea about its principles, would dare suggest that it set out to offend people of colour. As an Indian woman who grew up in the American south, I’m well aware of the very real struggles that minorities face, and as a long-time Peta Europe staffer, I can assure you of Peta US’s abiding support for all struggles and its courageous position in going beyond what is comfortable to those who wish to preserve the status quo.

We want people to see that if they are outraged–as they should be–by the way the KKK arbitrarily labels certain people “inferior” simply because of the way they look, they should also be outraged that the AKC does the same thing to dogs.

In its quest for “pure bloodlines”, the AKC requires breeders to put twisted ideas about what they think dogs should look like–when traits are deliberately exaggerated by breeding–before dogs’ health. As a result of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features, about one in four purebred dogs is afflicted with serious congenital defects. For example, Labrador retrievers–America’s most popular dog–are prone to bone disease, haemophilia and retinal degeneration, and nearly 60% of golden retrievers suffer from hip dysplasia. The British bulldog is prone to breathing difficulty, hip problems, skin problems and premature death.

In response to public outcry, the AKC’s British counterpart, the Kennel Club, has at least issued new breed standards in an attempt to stop “encouraging features that might prevent a dog from breathing, walking and seeing freely”, but breeders are fighting this. Yet the AKC continues to encourage breeding for features that cause dogs pain and, often, early deaths.

The AKC’s standards also require many breeds to endure painful, unnecessary cosmetic mutilations that are condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association, including having their ears and tails cut off. Some breeders even kill puppies that are born the “wrong” colour.

Worst of all, the AKC and the Kennel Club knowingly contribute to the millions of dogs who are dumped and/or euthanised in shelters every year for lack of homes by encouraging breeders to keep producing litter after litter of puppies in hopes of winning show titles. Many of the dogs breeders produce will go on to have litters of their own, further contributing to the overpopulation crisis. Every single puppy born to a breeder takes away a home that could have gone to a dog in an animal shelter. And when shelter dogs aren’t adopted, they pay with their lives–or sometimes worse, like lifelong confinement in a cage or kennel.

Perhaps Alice Walker said it best when she wrote: “Blacks aren’t made for whites, women aren’t made for men, and animals aren’t made for humans.”

Like humans, all dogs are created equal, and all dogs deserve good health and loving homes, regardless of their “heritage”. Please, say “No” to breedism. Boycott breeders and save lives by adopting homeless dogs from an animal shelter or rescue group.