The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

6May/136

The Immorality of Perpetuating Certain Dog Breeds

dogs
Dogs descend from wolves. As wolves have an average lifespan (in captivity) of 13 years it's no surprise that large breed dogs' average lifespan is 13 years.  I would argue that anyone creating or perpetuating a breed which is significantly below this average is being extremely selfish. The decision to do so requires a human thinking, "My desire for a dog with a particular look or nature is more important than the dog's right to its full share of years on Earth." Consider some of the dog breeds with the shortest average life spans: Irish Wolf Hound 6.2 years, Bull Dog 6.7 years, Bernese Mountain Dog 7.0 years. These breeds have half the normal lifespan of the dogs (and wolves) from whom they are descended. That seems to me like a monstrously horrible thing to do, to gradually over many decades craft an animal with a shorter and shorter lifespan just so it can possess certain qualities that nature is doing its best to insist (through manifested defects) should not be possessed by a single breed.

In my view, breeding dogs with unnaturally short life spans can only be immoral.  Perpetuating the market for such dogs by buying them from professional or hobby breeders can only be immoral.  How can it be right to perpetuate this cruelty?  If you love these breeds rescue one from a shelter or a rescue group, do not buy them.  I accept that people have strong appearance and temperament preferences, but too many people fail to realize there are many pure bred dogs to be had at shelters (25% of shelter dogs are pure of breed) and countless others to be had rescue groups, including breed specific rescue groups.

For those who don't see this as a moral issue I'll share an analogy...  Lets say you and your spouse want to have children and discover in a routine health screening that you possess a gene that virtually guarantees any child you might conceive in the future would have a lifespan half normal, only 38 years.  Would this not cause you to seriously reconsider intentionally bringing a child into the world knowing the result (when you could adopt or use a donor sperm/egg)?  If you love dogs and feel a connection to them, how can you not respond similarly?  You can't adopt a dog and fix its lifespan, but your adopting one will remove the financial incentive from those breeding dogs and reduce the number of dogs dying prematurely for breed-specific reasons.

I'll be the first to admit that my argument may not sway a single life-long pedigreed bulldog fancier, but hopefully it might cause some more open-minded people to rethink some the questionable decisions we make on behalf of dogs.

^ Q

P.S. - Gaddy wrote in to raise the extremely valid  point that, "beyond just longevity, there is the issue of quality of life. ... Some dog breeds are so far removed from their wolf ancestors, that they become prone to infections, or can no longer move or breathe normally."  I couldn’t agree more and just wanted to explain that the only reason I focused exclusively on longevity in this post was because I sometimes like to try and reduce a more complex topic down to what feel to me like less arguable fundamentals. While some people might argue whether a particular bred-in feature is bad/unhealthy/painful/etc. few can argue the evil of a halved lifespan. And if they do argue it then the argument goes in a direction which I think is more easily countered (as well as being philosophically more interesting).

How can one justify a Bulldog living only half the lifespan of its wolf relative?

1) They can say that animals don’t know how long they are supposed to live so therefore it doesn’t matter if they live shorter lives, they don’t feel robbed of anything or suffer more. But if that were true and valid then would these people be in favor of engineering dogs which lived conveniently short lives? What about a dog that lived for exactly one year, dying just after it’s puppy-ness began to wane, just in time to buy another limited-lifespan puppy? How could this be wrong and half-lived Bulldogs not be wrong?

2) They can argue that a Bulldog has a different perception of time which makes its 6 years *feel* like the norm of 13 and so they are not cheated out of anything. The argument would presumably fall out of the observation that animals have radically different lifespans and we don’t feel like any of them are cheated out of longer ones. But of course the flaw here is that most animals lifespans and presumably their perceptions of them seem to relate to the fundamental rate at which their life is lived. Humans have a 77 year lifespan, great sea tortoises have a 250 year lifespan, and humming birds have a 3-4 year lifespan, and a casual observation of each shows that there’s clearly some connection between their perception of time and their lifespan. Hummingbirds clearly process and react to information far faster than humans can, their movements and reaction times prove the point. Sea tortoises clearly process and react to information far slower than humans do, their movements and reaction times prove the point. So, it seems likely that one’s sense of time and perception is tied to heart rate and some sort of rhythm of the brain. So for this argument about a Bulldog’s altered perception of time to work you’d really need to show that Bulldogs are radically different medically from wolves (in heart rate, brain rhythm, or the external manifestations of cognition/reaction time) and I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.

And I’m sure there are other arguments they could make as well, but those are the first two I could imagine.

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  1. I complete agree with your argument, Quinxy. Moreover, beyond just longevity, there is the issue of quality of life. The wolf (dog) is said to have incredible variety, but that’s not entirely true, because only some of that variety is actually healthy. Some dog breeds are so far removed from their wolf ancestors, that they become prone to infections, or can no longer move or breathe normally. It is immoral to alter an animal so much as to intentionally decrease its health and longevity. If you look at historical representatives from some of these extreme breeds, you’ll see that they were not so extreme. Dachshunds used to have longer legs; bulldogs use to have longer muzzles; giant breeds used to be smaller and healthier; tiny breeds used to be larger and less vulnerable; and so on. There are many wonderful breeds of moderate size and build that, as long as they are not inbred, tend to be quite healthy and have a high quality and quantity of life. But as for these extreme breeds … frankly, I don’t see how any dog lover can in good conscience promote them.

  2. This blog reminded me of some dialogue from the movie Bladerunner. These are
    excerpts from a conversation between between replicant Roy and his creator Tyrell:

    Tyrell: What– What seems to be the problem?
    Roy: Death.
    Tyrell: Death. Well, I’m afraid that’s a little out of my jurisdiction, you–
    Roy: I want more life, f****r
    ……………………….
    Tyrell: …………… all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.
    Roy: But not to last.
    Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You’re the prodigal son. You’re quite a prize!
    ………………………………..
    Roy:…………….Time to die.

  3. Great points, couldn’t agree more!

    The only reason I focused exclusively on longevity in this post was because I sometimes like to try and reduce a more complex topic down to what feel to me like less arguable fundamentals. While some people might argue whether a particular bred-in feature is bad/unhealthy/painful/etc. few can argue the evil of a halved lifespan. And if they do argue it then the argument goes in a direction which I think is more easily countered (as well as being philosophically more interesting).

    How can one justify a Bulldog living only half the lifespan of its wolf relative?

    1) They can say that animals don’t know how long they are supposed to live so therefore it doesn’t matter if they live shorter lives, they don’t feel robbed of anything or suffer more. But if that were true and valid then would these people be in favor of engineering dogs which lived conveniently short lives? What about a dog that lived for exactly one year, dying just after it’s puppy-ness began to wane, just in time to buy another limited-lifespan puppy? How could this be wrong and half-lived Bulldogs not be wrong?

    2) They can argue that a Bulldog has a different perception of time which makes its 6 years *feel* like the norm of 13 and so they are not cheated out of anything. The argument would presumably fall out of the observation that animals have radically different lifespans and we don’t feel like any of them are cheated out of longer ones. But of course the flaw here is that most animals lifespans and presumably their perceptions of them seem to relate to the fundamental rate at which their life is lived. Humans have a 77 year lifespan, great sea tortoises have a 250 year lifespan, and humming birds have a 3-4 year lifespan, and a casual observation of each shows that there’s clearly some connection between their perception of time and their lifespan. Hummingbirds clearly process and react to information far faster than humans can, their movements and reaction times prove the point. Sea tortoises clearly process and react to information far slower than humans do, their movements and reaction times prove the point. So, it seems likely that one’s sense of time and perception is tied to heart rate and some sort of rhythm of the brain. So for this argument about a Bulldog’s altered perception of time to work you’d really need to show that Bulldogs are radically different medically from wolves (in heart rate, brain rhythm, or the external manifestations of cognition/reaction time) and I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.

    And I’m sure there are other arguments they could make as well, but those are the first two I could imagine.

    Q

  4. Mark, great quote… I really need to watch that movie again. I think I watched it when I was too young and to me it was just another sci-fi movie. But it seems pretty clear judging by the opinions of friends/etc. that it was more than that.

    If I believed bulldogs “burned twice as bright” then I’d be less concerned. But my limited experience with bulldogs, bernese mountain dogs, and wolf hounds has been that they are pretty ordinary dog-wise. (Of course there is that one skate boarding bulldog from the commercials, his light seems to burn much brighter, but I suspect that’s a fluke… 😉 )

    Q

  5. Interesting point regarding /Blade Runner/, and burning “twice as bright.” However, I think that if anything, extreme breeds of dog burn less brightly than normal dogs. Wild and domestic wolves are active, agile, intelligent beings, with exception stamina and resistance to the elements. This applies to gray wolves, as well as primitive spitz-, pariah-, and shepherd-type dogs. Even somewhat more derived breeds like sight hounds, some (but not all) scent hounds, and sporting dogs are still rather wolf-like, and capable of active work, play, and self-defense. Now, let’s look at the extreme breeds mentioned above.

    Bulldog:
    Incapable of normal locomotion, hampered breathing, skin folds prone to infection.

    Bernese mountain dog:
    Yes, exceptional strength and endurance. However, speed has been curtailed. Not to mention a host of inbreeding-related disorders, including joint problems. It’s a similar story for some related mastiff-type breeds, such as the English mastiff, Leonberger, St. Bernard, and a few others.

    Tall breeds:
    Today’s tall breeds (Irish wolfhound, Scottish deerhound, Russian borzoi, great Dane) are a shadow of what they once were. Today, they are nearly 3-feet high at the withers, and weigh around 120 lbs or more. However, even as recently as a century ago, they were more like 2-feet high at the withers, and weighed around 90 lbs. At that size, they were indeed powerful, agile hunters with great stamina. Today, they are clumsier and have less endurance.

    In short, these animals do not burn “twice as bright.” Sadly, their flame begins to flicker long before it is prematurely snuffed out. And why? Just because some breeders and buyers like really big or bulky dogs? That’s not a good enough reason. It’s wrong.

  6. I had a beautiful and wonderful natured bulldog,he did not act like any other dogs I have known or seen. We namedo him Boobaby. What a name for a 130lb dog.The place I got him was a dog farm for pits.I thought I knew the guy but, when I saw how he treated them, it broke my heart. It was the first time I have ever seen any thing like that. I donated what I could for food. I took a puppy but,I often wished I would have taken all three.
    I didn’t have much to do with him after that. I thought it was so immortal and he responsible of him to treat those dogs the way he did. However the puppy I brought home grew into a beautiful dog and became my best friend he lived just over 9 years and when I had to let him go it took a piece of me that is still gone and I think him every day ,it was like my child dying. And it was probably my fault, I shower him with love and treats and he probably should know better, and I guess you could say I really actually kill him with love with good intentions. It was a very hard lesson to learn. He was mixed breed or what I don’t know. The vet told me that he probably wouldn’t have lived very much longer to live anyway but ,one never knows. However I am in agreement with you about trying to make an animal look the way a person wants them to. Robbing an animal of a long life. It is immoral irresponsible and a people should be held accountable for it. We can reason ,we know what we are doing, those animals the dogs I called them little four-legged angels rely on us for everything. But in return we get the love and loyalty that you will find nowhere else. Chief, Dog Lover and Proud of it.


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