Esther Woolfson was at a street corner waiting for the light to turn when she noticed that the young dog being walked by the man next to her was wheezing. Might have been a pug or French bulldog, "but he’s one of those that now form a widespread, snuffling, breathless band of canine respiratory distress," she writes in the Guardian. And the sight prompts a question she raises in an article that might not sit well with pet owners: "What made this man and others seek out and pay for creatures who may live shortened, suffering lives?" To be clear, she's not just speaking about these breeds or even about dogs alone. Woolfson runs through a laundry list of afflictions suffered by all kinds of dogs and cats in the name of selective breeding.
If you're thinking, well my dog or cat isn't a special breed so this doesn't apply to me, that's not Woolfson's point. She raises questions about the whole concept of pet ownership, and the "casual cruelties" humans inflict on animals that have become wholly dependent on us for their survival. Take spaying or neutering. Lots of pet owners choose that as the right, even moral, thing to do, "but while it may be convenient for owners, there may be future health consequences for the animal, such as obesity, cancers or joint disease," writes Woolfson. Not to mention that it's a "denial of the natural right of another being." (Read the full piece at the Guardian, or a longer version at Granta.)