I Was the Man Who Disrupted Crufts – Here’s Why I Did It
Guest post by Joel Cessio
I grew up feeling a burning rage at injustice. When I see suffering, I feel compelled to act. That’s why I’ve jumped into bullrings in France, Spain, and elsewhere. I wish I could prevent the bulls from being stabbed to death with a sword, but I’m only one person – I can’t fight off all the matadors, security guards, and spectators. So my aim is to give audiences pause, to get them to stop and consider, perhaps for the first time, how archaic and shameful bullfighting is. I hold up signs that read, “This Is Not Culture – It’s Torture,” and I know that because people’s eyes are beginning to open, the violent spectacle will one day end.
Perhaps the cruelty at Crufts isn’t as obvious as it is in the bullring, but it’s still there. The dogs are bred to have unhealthy folds of skin or sloping backs or extremely flat faces or skulls – which cause them an immense amount of pain – for no reason other than arbitrary aesthetics, profit, and prizes. And since animal shelters are overflowing with homeless dogs, there’s no justification for bringing more dogs into the world anyway – and certainly not ones who can barely walk, see, or breathe.
PETA has been campaigning on this issue for years – it has handed out leaflets, written letters and opinion pieces, and produced videos – but many people still make excuses and keep on buying pedigree dogs. So I thought it was time to take the issue to a live television audience. I waited for the security guards to turn their heads just as the “Best in Show” winner was announced, and then I ran into the ring. I was soon tackled to the floor, but by the time I was on my feet again, PETA’s phones were already ringing. Everyone wanted to know why the show had been disrupted, so we told them: breeding dogs for their looks, at the expense of their health, is plain wrong. Some of the security guards shouted at me (I don’t have a strong enough command of English expletives to know what they were saying, but I can guess), and I ended up with some scratches and scrapes, but I don’t care. In the bullrings, it’s worse: I get kicked, punched, and spat on. I’ve had my fingers intentionally stepped on and broken, all for saying, “Please don’t hurt these animals.”
Predictably, Crufts’ organisers have tried to deflect the criticism directed at them by saying I put the dogs at risk. The same thing happens when I disrupt bullfights. But of course, it’s not true. I was there to speak up for dogs who cannot defend themselves and whose suffering is ignored. I was no threat to the animals in that arena, but undoubtedly they did feel threatened by the thousands of people, bright lights, music, and loudspeaker announcements in the ring and by being yanked around by the neck, even while wearing choke collars. They were made to prance around in front of the judges, followed by being poked and prodded. And when they weren’t being forced to perform, they were being sprayed with products or confined to crates – all weekend long. Yes, they were put at risk but not because an animal advocate entered the ring holding a paper sign. Being bred with “pushed-in” faces and weak hips is what puts them at risk.
This is not about winning a popularity contest – it’s about using peaceful but eye-catching means to wake people up, initiate discussion and debate, and ultimately end another form of injustice. That’s the way all social movements have progressed, and it’s how we evolve as a society.