Jemima Harrison is the founder of the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat-Faced Animals (CRUFFA). It started in December 2015 with the aim, as I understand it, of stopping the breeding of flat-faced companion animals. The two paradigms are the contemporary Persian cats and the French bulldogs. They both suffer from the same inherited breathing problems and in the case of the Persian from other inherited illnesses such as tear duct overflow and polycystic kidney disease. It would be a simple step by the cat fancy to set a new breed standard for the Persian to ensure that the face was not ‘in vertical alignment’ as currently demanded.
CRUFFA lobbies businesses and organisations to stop using these examples of extreme breeding in their media and branding. The objective is to reduce exposure of the public to these breeds to make them less desirable which in turn might help to reduce their demand. In the long term it is hoped that the breeding of these animals will stop.
The problem with Persian cats is that the cat fancy has been involved in ‘refining’, as they see, the flat-faced Persian since the 1950s and so this attitude is deeply entrenched. They actually think that these are attractive animals looking like pansies i.e. a flower. They equate the prettiness of this flower species with a domestic cat! And they justify flattening the face on that basis. In doing so, the cat fancy ignores their overarching rule that they should not breed animals which are unhealthy.
The French bulldog’s popularity surged during the coronavirus pandemic because people were at home a lot more and they took the opportunity to adopt a dog and as Jemima Harrison states the media promoted this small dog by constantly writing about it and therefore among all the dog breeds that were available the French bulldog topped the list. No doubt these first-time dog adopters will learn that the inherited diseases of this dog increase the chance of going to the vet resulting in unwanted veterinary bills.
I just want to thank Jemima for starting this campaign. It appeals to me. CRUFFA is also the repository for science on brachycephalic cats and dogs. “Brachycephalic” means round-headed in my language. Interestingly these animals are round headed but they are flat faced.
A recent story in The Times newspaper brought CRUFFA to my attention. It concerns a dog but it might just as well concern a cat. Tesco make a French bulldog cake and Jemima Harrison wrote to Tesco condemning the company for using this breed of dog. She said: “It may seem like it’s arguing over a cake, and you could say this dog looks like a cat. But many French bulldogs are suffering.”
Also, Daniella Dos Santos, the senior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) said that the breed should not be used in promotions. The BVA is also lobbying companies and organisations to stop them using flat-face breeds on merchandise and in advertising. It is part of their “Breed to Breathe” campaign.
She said that French bulldogs and pugs can suffer from life-limiting health issues including breathing difficulties and eye and skin conditions. As I have stated, she said that many people adopt these dogs not knowing about their health conditions. People should do due diligence before adopting. Interestingly, Lewis Hamilton, adopted a British Bulldog and he has commented in the news media about how his dog overheats and is not very mobile. This is probably due to breathing difficulties.
Tesco said that their Frankie and French Bulldog cake is one of a range of animal-inspired cakes which is popular and they always welcome feedback. Comment: yes, they are popular. The real thing is popular too but people don’t know about the health issues. My research indicates that people are unconcerned about the illegal importations of these dogs, which is worrying as it implies that they are only focusing on appearance. The dog breeders know this. When a person adopts a dog the number one criteria should be health. You want a healthy animal in the interests of your wallet and the welfare of your companion animal.