FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Breeding Immorality

by JP SOTTILE

Once again this year, the Westminster Dog Show attracted millions of viewers eager to see which dog will garner the bluest of ribbons.

Also once again this year, millions of discarded and unwanted dogs will be executed in overcrowded shelters, far away from the glaring lights of cable television.

Yes, “executed.”

Softened, palatable euphemisms like “put down” and “euthanized” serve only to assuage our guilt and placate our vanity. Even the term “destroyed” offers a clean escape. It depersonalizes the “destroyed” by implying it is just a thing, and not a being.

When we are talking about the staggering numbers killed annually, perhaps we must concoct semantic exit clauses, or else we risk facing the stark reality of our own complicity.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates 4 million dogs and cats are executed each year. It has to be an estimate because the numbers are so large, the process so widespread and the reporting so minimal. That works out to a dog or cat killed every 8 seconds. Of the approximately 6 million dogs and cats that enter shelters yearly, 60% of dogs and 70% of cats will be killed.

This is the dark side of animal breeding.

Meanwhile, the lights shine on breeders parading their prized “stock and trade” around the floor of Madison Square Garden. The eye is fooled, heart strings tugged and our vanity caressed. But complicity is the problem. The grinding machinery of death found at shelters around the country is inexorably linked to the vainglorious displays at the Westminster Dog Show, and at hundreds of lesser dog and cat shows held nationwide.

Those shows, and the breeders they help to sustain, condemn millions of unwanted dogs and cats to a short, distressed and ignominious stay in a crowed county or municipal lock-up before the gas or needle is finally administered.

For each specially bred dog and cat, sold for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, another dog and cat is condemned. For each time a pet is paid for from the dog and cat breeding industries, that is a shelter pet’s hope quickly dashed—hope for a rescue and a family and, at long last, a home.

It is easy to point the finger at the breeders. Particularly vile are those callow profiteers running the gulag-like puppy mills that feed consumers’ insatiable desire for animal accessories, fad breeds and future drop-offs at the local pound. According to a startling exposé by the New York Times, the venerable American Kennel Club often sells off its “A.K.C.” seal of approval without much in the way of oversight or concern for the welfare of dogs. Their primary concern is the business of breeding, which is not surprising. Dogs are often kept in horrific conditions, stuck in small cages and never allowed to run, their sicknesses untreated and their lives reminiscent of livestock at factory farms. There is a reason they are called “puppy mills.”

Of course these are the horror stories and some A.K.C.-certified breeders work hard to be known as “responsible breeders.” But the question remains: Is it possible to be a “responsible” breeder when millions of unwanted dogs are killed each and every year?

The small, caring breeder is, just like the “high-volume breeder,” plying his or her trade to meet growing demand and, despite periodic stories of shocking mistreatment and abuse, that market grows and grows as dog shows and celebrities parade around the latest  in “cute” and “cool” and cuddly. A dog carried by a celeb or a touted at Westminster is little more than a consumer product meant to appease the style and preferences of the impulse buyer.

Breeders and buyers must face facts. Simply put: each dog purchased is taking the place of a dog that can be rescued. It is a one-for-one proposition. A dog bred and sold condemns another dog to death.

The same applies to cats, their breeders and the shows they also indulge in. Feral cat populations swell each mating cycle and, because many cats are free to roam their neighborhoods without being spayed or neutered, millions of unwanted kittens and cats are also executed, their short, brutal lives often punctuated with a sad disposal at a landfill. There are cats languishing at your local Pet Smart right now. But still people breed and inbreed hairless catsbecause they are “cool” and quirky.

If, indeed, the desire is to acquire a companion, is there any justification possible for buying a bred animal? A strong case can be made for “working dogs,” those breeds best suited to herding, guiding the blind, police and rescue work. However, beyond that specialized need, there is no good, ethically-sound reason for buying a dog or cat when so many are about to die. Right now. Today.

All else is mere vanity.

A dog or cat acquired for some ephemeral, esoteric or stylistic reason is nothing more than a vanity plate for a car, the latest handbag or some other banal consumer expression of “who I am as a person.” Chihuahuas, bulldogs and pit-bulls all sit atop the list of the latest “in” things. But down at your local shelter there are dozens upon dozens of dogs who also sit atop a list—a list of those about to be killed and discarded with no one to mourn their passing. Some are from the very “in” breeds that saw their “novelty” quickly wear off as the realities of upkeep and responsibility rendered them unwanted and disposable.

Once again this year millions will cheer on the latest “champion” of Westminster, its owner and breeder ready to reap the rewards of a dog well-bred. But there will be no reward for those dogs without “papers” or hope. They will wait in vain for a home until the inevitable arrival of the reaper.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail