DEAR DR. FOX: I understand your opposition to people buying French bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds, but what makes them so popular in the first place? -- B.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR B.K.: The science of ethology has long recognized that certain physical features, like the large, round heads of these animals, make them especially appealing. Their faces tend to release an instinctual caregiving/nurturing response in people. Studies have shown such reactions are triggered by pedomorphic (infantlike) features. Their rising popularity is, I believe, exacerbated by the use of these dogs in TV shows and advertising, which should be curtailed.
Indeed, perception is reality, and as I see it, the challenge is to change this perception. These dogs are not “cute and appealing,” but rather deformed. They are likely to suffer a life of semi-asphyxiation, along with other health problems, and require C-section deliveries -- often after artificial insemination, because many of the male dogs have difficulty breeding. And while these dogs' facial expressions are perceived to be smiles, that is an illusion: They have difficulty breathing normally, and engage in open-mouthed panting much of the time.
The challenge is to use education to override the innate emotional response these dogs provoke in people. There is no denying that people love these dogs, but what is love without understanding and responsible breeding to improve their health and well-being?
On a different note, here in Minnesota, where I live, during the increasingly hot and humid summers, there are short-distance dog races held between horse races. Groups of bulldogs, corgis, basset hounds and dachshunds are raced, an activity for which they were never bred. What does the crowd of thousands see: suffering dogs ill-suited for racing, or an amusing scenario of physically compromised dogs showing pluck and endurance? I am disgusted by this evident lack of empathy.
TIME TO OUTLAW CRUEL MOUSE GLUE TRAPS
The most horrible way to catch mice and other small rodents is with glue traps, in which they essentially struggle to death. The use of glue traps calls for a total inhibition of empathy for these fellow mammals. Their nervous systems, pain-sensitivity and emotional reactions of fear and terror are closer to our own than they are different.
Now the British Veterinary Association, of which I am a member, along with animal protection organizations in the U.K., have succeeded to get an act banning glue traps passed with cross-party government support. Only licensed pest controllers will be allowed to use them under special permit.
Such a humane initiative is long overdue here in the U.S., which has yet to take a leadership role in addressing many issues of animal cruelty and exploitation. The craven dollar gets in the way, and cultural traditions blindside compassionate action.
ENLIGHTENED COURT DECISION RE: ROUNDUP HERBICIDE
Please see the following encouraging news release from the Center for Food Safety, originally posted on June 17:
"In a historic victory for farmworkers and the environment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with Center for Food Safety (CFS) and its represented farmworker and conservation clients by overturning the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision that the toxic pesticide glyphosate is safe for humans and imperiled wildlife. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto-Bayer's flagship Roundup weedkiller, the most widely used pesticide in the world. The 54-page opinion held the Trump administration's 2020 interim registration of glyphosate to be unlawful because 'EPA did not adequately consider whether glyphosate causes cancer and shirked its duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).'"
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