When they hear the word “painful breeding”, many immediately think of dog breeds like French Bulldogs or Chihuahuas. Cruel breeding of rodents, birds, fish and reptiles is much less common. They all suffer the health consequences of unnatural human interference.
They can barely breathe, suffer from eye and joint problems, or develop cancer at an astonishing rate as more and more animals are bred to certain human ideals—and suffer the health consequences of unnatural breeding.
The unhealthy breeding of animals that we humans keep as “pets” within our own four walls has now become a highly questionable trend. The dilemma of modern breeding is related to the clientele. Like clothing or furniture, the demand for attractive animals depends on fashion.
If the supply is still limited, breeding becomes a lucrative business in which interest in whether breeding results are healthy fades into the background. This is how the so-called torture breeding occurs in domestic and small-scale animal husbandry. Torture breeding is prohibited under Section 11b of the Animal Welfare Act. But what exactly defines torture breeding has been so vaguely defined by the legislature that torture breeding can rarely be prosecuted under the law.
Many people think of dog breeds such as the French Bulldog when they hear the word “painful breeding”. But besides dogs, other animal species are also increasingly being bred and reproduced according to human ideals and therefore fall prey to increasingly absurd ideals of beauty and whim. Six examples.
Among the rabbit species, there is an astonishing number of breeds that should be considered torture breeds. This also includes the popular dwarf rabbit, which is systematically and purposefully bred for genetically determined weakness of growth with a generally proportional underdevelopment of the whole body, which can be detected at birth. Rabbits weighing less than a kilogram are considered a torturous breed.
According to the “Expert Group for Animal Welfare and Breeding” of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), a small stocky body and shortened head often lead to dental problems. Narrowing of the nasolacrimal duct and difficulty breathing are also common complaints. Stillbirths are not uncommon.
They look like cute soft toys and are therefore at the top of many children’s wish lists: angora rabbits. The long-haired breed of rabbit, whose fur has been re-bred into permanent wool, was originally bred for wool production. Meanwhile, the angora rabbit is also a popular pet.
Angora rabbits have to be sheared four to five times a year due to their strong hair growth – a procedure that is pure stress for flying animals. However, shearing is necessary for the survival of animals, otherwise the risk of heat build-up is constantly increasing at high temperatures.
Another health problem, sometimes fatal, caused by long hair is the formation of so-called bezoars – swallowed hairballs that stick together with food debris in the stomach and thus lead to life-threatening constipation. Angora rabbits swallow a lot of very fine wool during cleaning, so the animals are typical emergency patients in veterinary practice.
In addition to rodents, various types of fish also suffer from the consequences of unnatural reproduction. Ornamental fish, in particular, fall prey to man-made fads and are bred accordingly: huge fins, dazzling colors and rare skeletal shapes are sought-after features.
Some aquarium fish can no longer swim normally due to changes in the fins, skeleton, and sometimes internal organs caused by reproduction. For example, in the Berlin guppy, a genetic mutation ensures unhindered fin growth throughout life. As a result, when the fish is fully grown, it can only move through the water with twisting, unnatural movements because the rear fin is too large compared to the rest of the body.
Today, reptiles are also becoming more and more accommodating to humans’ desire for conspicuous appearance. As “Working Group on Diseases of Amphibians and Reptiles” of the German Society for Herpetology and Terrariumology e. V., in recent years, there has been a clear trend in terra art towards so-called morphs – animals with a changed color or structure of the skin.
This dubious trend gives rise to the so-called colored breeds, which, for reasons of “design”, are deliberately enlarged by variations in color, pattern, and shape, which are sometimes very different from the wild form. The most commonly affected species include king pythons, corn snakes and bearded dragons, most notably the conspicuous Enigma leopard gecko.
Some of these colors go hand in hand with the obvious physical defects of the animals. The absence of color pigments in the skin makes reptiles much more susceptible to ultraviolet radiation. Meanwhile, it has been proven that ball pythons of the delusional coloration of the “Spider” form have serious damage to the balance organ. Apparently, similar problems with the organ of balance are observed in Enigma leopard geckos. .
Persian cats are short-headed cat breeds. Her round and wide muzzle with a very short nose, large eyes and round ears covered with tufts of hair make her one of the most prominent representatives of the feline kingdom. The muzzle and jaws were so short that Persian cats suffer from shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing all their lives due to the constriction of the upper airways.
The tear ducts are also often affected, leading to persistent eye discharge and conjunctivitis. Another problem: Cats often can’t navigate their environment if they don’t have whiskers.
Many Persian cats, approximately 38 percent worldwide, suffer from kidney disease (polycystic kidney disease), which can lead to kidney failure and death. White Persian cats also have an increased risk of deafness.
There are also a number of bird species in the bird world that can now be described as torture breeding. An example is high-bred farm pigeons, which stand out among other types of domestic pigeons for their exaggerated showmanship. Pigeons use air to inflate their crop to the size of two tennis balls.
Result: According to BMEL, the so-called “onlookers” often suffer from recurring inflammation of their hanging crop as a result of improper fermentation, acidification and putrefaction in the contents of the crop. A late consequence may be a rupture of the goiter, an extremely painful tearing of the wall of the goiter, sometimes ending in death.