Downton Abbey actor and animal rights activist Peter Egan said dog show Crufts has been “tarnished” by its inclusion of purebred competitions.
Thousands of canines of all breeds have descended on the Birmingham NEC to compete in the world’s most prestigious dog competition.
However Mr Egan criticised the ‘Best in Show’ competition as encouraging owners to “mould” dogs away from their natural state.
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Speaking to talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright, Mr Egan said: “If you put a dog in for Best in Show you are moulding the dog into the kind of ideal performance look and shape.
“The dogs are overtrained and really the fun of the experience for them is just the fun of pleasing the trainer, which is what happens with circus animals.”
The RSPCA distanced itself from Crufts a decade ago over concerns the competition encouraged unhealthy breeding pattens and competition organisers have since taken steps to ensure prize-winning dogs are healthy, such as by placing mandatory vet checks on high-risk breeds.
However Mr Egan said he did not believe breeding dogs in order to win Best in Show competitions could ever be ethical, which he said was a “Victorian perception” of how humans treat animals.
“We believe we can do what we like with animals and I believe that’s wrong, and part of that belief is we should not breed animals to such a perfect degree that they can be put for best in show,” he added.