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The problem with pug-verts

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

Advertising has a lot to answer for. Americans never ate bacon at breakfast until a US firm decided to increase the sales of bacon and it became a breakfast staple, 80% of bacon sales now are for breakfast, even here in the UK.

We are heavily influenced by what we see in adverts. That handbag will cost you a month’s rent, yet for many it’s worth it as it buys you an image and a status that suggest you have a much more luxurious lifestyle than you do. The need to portray that image is sold to us from advertising.


Pets have long been used in adverts and they were often the family friendly advertising option. As our family demographics have changed, we now see cat food advertised for the successful young professional. The pedigree cat being fed in a warehouse apartment that won’t have a garden, let alone a cat proof balcony, sends a message that all cats are happy as indoor cats if they are fed a certain brand of food. Repeated messages normalise activities, so it may be time to take a long hard look at what we are shown and its effect on us and our pets.


But they’re cute?

The problem we see with flat faced dogs and pugs seem to be the most obvious at the moment - they are everywhere. Mugs, t-shirts, cushions, TV adverts, magazine adverts - even Tatler are using them.

Why is this an issue? They are a popular breed, do the adverts not just support what is going on in pet ownership? Well, they may be, but what does almost constant exposure to similar things do for our views and acceptance and desires? We “covet what we see everyday” (with thanks to Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs).

The more we are exposed to images, the more we normalise and accept these images. There are many examples of this:

  • Size 0 human models
  • Dogs at the extremes of normal ranges of conformation - large and small
  • Dogs wearing floral garlands


Normalising pain

The extreme features of flat faced breeds of dogs, cats, rabbits (and now even horses) are now ‘normal’ and thus more extreme versions are bred. The issue of their health and welfare isn’t captured in that cute picture. You don’t see the breathing issues, the eye problems, the joint pain and more. The image tells us this pet is acceptable like this and, as we see the message in so many places, our brain accepts it.

I have written on this subject before and will again, but for this time I wanted to highlight how powerful marketing is and how it can normalize thoughts and change behaviour, which hasn’t been great for pigs or pugs! If you see a Pugvert then please send the company this link for the BVA animal welfare in advertising guidelines and be a voice to defend the welfare of our animals from the behemoth that is the marketing world - find the info here.

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