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ENVIRONMENT

Norway bans breeding of bulldogs and cavaliers

In a recent ruling, the Oslo district court banned the breeding of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Bulldogs on the grounds that it inflicts harm on them, in violation of Norwegian animal protection laws.

King Charles spaniel
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which along with the Bulldog will be subject to a breeding ban, is pictured on February 7, 2022 in Oslo. Photo by Petter Bernsten

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known for their tiny heads, English bulldogs for their smushed wrinkled muzzles — traits their owners love. But in an unprecedented move, Norway has banned the breeding of these dogs because being cute is causing them suffering.

In a recent ruling, the Oslo district court banned the breeding of the two purebreds on the grounds that it inflicts harm on them, in violation of Norwegian animal protection laws.

Hailed by animal rights activists and criticised by breeders, the verdict comes amid a growing debate: is the quest for cute pets going to extremes at the expense of the animals’ well-being?

“A lot of our breeds are highly inbred and have a massive burden of disease,” Ashild Roaldset, the head of the Norwegian Animal Welfare Society, told AFP.

Her organisation brought the legal case against dog breeding companies and individuals.

 “We need to change the way we breed dogs,” she said. “The way we breed dogs was maybe acceptable 50 years ago but is not acceptable anymore.”

Inbreeding has caused the two breeds to develop a “disease guarantee”, a long list of hereditary illnesses that affect most individuals, if not all.

Fierce-looking but gentle — and since World War II a symbol of British tenacity — the English bulldog has developed respiratory difficulties due to its flattened muzzle, as well as dermatological, reproductive and orthopaedic problems.

More than half of all bulldogs born in Norway over the past 10 years had to be delivered by Caesarian section.

“The race’s genetic inability to give birth naturally is reason alone for bulldogs not to be used for breeding,” the district court judges wrote in
their ruling.

As for cavaliers — which have won the hearts of many over the years, from Queen Victoria to Ronald Reagan and Sylvester Stallone — they often suffer headaches because their skull is too small. They also have heart and eye problems.

Roaldset said these diseases cannot be bred away with other purebreds from abroad due to an overall lack of genetic diversity.

The two breeds will eventually be led to extinction, she said.

“And it’s going to be painful for them because they’re just going to get more and more diseases,” she said.

‘Puppy factories’

The January 31 court ruling has been appealed and has therefore not come into force yet. But it delivered a shock to professional breeders.

“In the judgement it was said that the dogs are born with headaches, I cannot understand that,” says Lise Gran-Henriksen, who has been a breeder for 25 years, as she watches five of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels frolic on the ice outside her Oslo home.

“If so, they would not be so happy. They are happy dogs that run around and look very healthy, and that’s what I think they are,” she insisted.

 Professional breeders readily admit that the two breeds do pose “challenges”, but say these can be overcome by selective breeding of individuals that meet certain requirements.

In addition, they note that the court ruling does not ban the ownership, sale or import of bulldogs or cavaliers — only their breeding.

Walking her English bulldog Oscar in an Oslo park, Anne Grethe Holen fears a rise in “undocumented dogs” from “puppy factories” abroad.

“Demand will not decline. And the dogs that are sold will be more sick,” she said.

“They won’t be subjected to any veterinary requirements and you won’t know anything about their pedigree,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Animal Welfare Society says the future of the two breeds lies in crossbreeding them with other types of dogs to get rid of their genetic flaws.

“If the cavalier gets a slightly larger skull to fit their brain, it’s still… going to be the cutest dog in the world,” Roaldset said.

“And if the bulldog gets a little bit less wrinkly, a little bit longer snout and a better skeleton, it’s not going to be a horrible dog.

“It’s going to look a little bit different, but you can still call it a bulldog.” Roalset said

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CLIMATE CHANGE

OECD criticises Norway’s climate efforts

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that Norway is not in a position to achieve its climate goals and is set to only cut 20 percent of emissions by 2030 rather than the 55 percent the government promised, NRK reports.

OECD criticises Norway's climate efforts

This is the fourth time the OECD has conducted a major review of Norway’s efforts for climate and the environment.

Norway is in many areas a pioneer in climate and environmental issues. The take-up of electric vehicles is among the highest in the world and Norway has extensive hydropower. Around 50 percent of Norway’s energy supply is renewable.

However, the report concludes Norway is not doing enough to achieve its own goals and obligations, according to NRK. Among the findings, the report said:

  • Norway is on course towards cutting 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, not 55 percent as the government has promised. However, the Norwegian Parliament has since adopted a climate plan with measures to reduce emissions further.
  • There isn’t a comprehensive and adequate plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.
  • Norwegian exports of oil and gas contribute to large emissions.
  • The number of endangered species is increasing in Norway, partly due to land use for agriculture, forestry and development for roads and buildings.
  • Norway has one of the world’s highest material consumption and a high material footprint per capita.

Norwegian oil and agricultural policy in particular is criticised in the report. The OECD is now asking Norway to get an overview of all the subsidies the state provides directly and indirectly for the extraction of oil and gas, and to base oil investments in line with the goals in the Paris Agreement.

Norway should also make a plan for how to phase out the production of fossil energy, according to the report.

“The OECD does not say that we should come up with an end date. What they remind us of, is that we must prepare for the fact that oil and gas demand will fall in the long run. We are fully aware of that,” Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide told NRK.

In agriculture, the OECD calls for Norway to spend less money on income and production in agriculture, and more on support schemes for farmers who want to make agriculture more climate and environmentally friendly.

Regarding waste, the report states that Norway is not on the right track when it comes to having economic growth without it leading to similar growth in the waste that is created. In 2019, Norwegian waste production reached a record high of 12.2 million tonnes, according to NRK.

The OECD proposes stronger incentives to reverse the trend of increased waste production. 

“Norway has the capabilities and financial means to be able to accelerate a transition both within its own borders and abroad. Despite progress in many areas, the country faces a number of challenges, including in terms of sustainable consumption and diversity protection”, the report states.

Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide calls the OECD report a useful tool in the work of achieving the Norwegian climate and environmental goals.

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