Actor and activist Peter Egan has criticised the Crufts dog show for using pets “as circus animals”.
The animal rights campaigner and star of Downton Abbey has attacked the selective breeding enforced on competition dogs, and damage to animals in the search for perfect specimens.
Egan has also criticised the pageant format which he sees as harmful to women and children who also compete to fit a physical ideal.
He has branded children’s beauty pageants abusive, and the adult competitions degrading to women.
The actor believes that Crufts perpetuates pure breeding, which leads to harmful genetic conditions, with the dog’s health secondary to its appearance.
Writing in Radio Time magazine, Egan said: “We are so used to seeing these shows and it is so traditional that we don’t even stop to consider whether it is right or not.
“How long are we going to continue to use our pets as circus animals?
“For me, the problem with Crufts is that it offers the pursuit of physical perfection in a way that is damaging, and one that I would compare to child beauty pageants and beauty contests.
“Beauty contests, in my opinion, do a disservice to women, while child beauty pageants are literally a rejection of childhood and a form of parental abuse that does emotional as well as physical damage to the child.
“In my view it’s the same with Crufts.
“The dogs suffer the physical degenerative decay that inbreeding creates in order to achieve the perfect specimen imposed on the poor participants.
“If Crufts were a trade fair for the best and latest model in the car industry it would fail at every turn.”
The Crufts dog show is held each year in Birmingham, with fierce competition from owners to secure the Best In Show award.
The full opinion piece by Egan can be read in Radio Times magazine, out on Tuesday.