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Selective breeding of dogs (pedigrees) is eugenics by another name

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2015 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 826 times Debate No: 72036
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




Eugenics is a dirty word which most sane, morally upright people have long dispensed with. No one is better or worse than anyone else and thankfully, ideas of 'blood purity' and superficial distinctions that once rendered one race superior to another have long been void of support. Yet, we still continue to breed pedigree dogs and will very often shun crossbreeds for being 'lesser' dogs. We breed for function over form, simply to maintain breed purity, and ignore all the problems (health and otherwise) that come with it. We breed for 'superior' qualities and will cull dogs that don't conform to these. How is this not eugenics? And how is it still acceptable?


"Eugenics" has its root in the Greek words "eu" (good) and "genos" (kin, offspring, race, gender, type). The essence of the word can be captured in the phrase "good birth". It is not a dirty word (such as F***, S***, C***, N*****, etc.) because people may use the word freely without social opprobrium; it is no more a dirty word than are "fascism", "racism", "communist", "Nazi" or "bloodlust"... all of these words refer to concepts which may win opprobrium for their adherents, but none of them is inherently dirty and one will not be berated for their appropriate use. Most sane, morally upright people hold the word a useful label for a distasteful concept.

I couldn't agree more with Pro that ideas of blood purity and racial superiority have long been devoid of support; further, I couldn't agree more with Pro about the implication of the word "thankfully" in Pro's opening gambit; it is most pleasing to me that the consensus moral judgement is that racism is both scientifically untenable and morally objectionable.

Whilst on the subject of my agreements with Pro's position, I'd like to make it plainly clear that I find many aspects of our selective dog breeding programs to be objectionable... from the designer handbag dog that is epileptic, through the wolf hound that is so large that it suffers heart problems to the King Charles Spaniel suffering the consequences of brachycephaly, mankind's selective breeding of dogs has many negative consequences; I am neither ignorant nor uncaring about these issues.

Returning to the word "eugenics", I'd like to point out that according to any definition of the modern word that I have yet found, there is an absolute implication that we are talking about the good-breeding of humans when we use the word "eugenics". Thus, the title of this debate asks us to consider whether it is correct to say that {selectively breeding humans} is equivalent to {selectively breeding dogs} in all but name. It is this essential concept that I will address in this debate, unless Pro can convince me that this is an incorrect interpretation of the debate at hand.

So, I say that there is more than a technical semantic difference between breeding humans and breeding dogs. Here are what I see as the key points of difference:

1. Eugenics was a social movement which took on a life of its own. Spreading from the UK to Europe and beyond, it was used to support a political ideology which saw its culmination in the Holocaust.
2. Eugenics has elements at its heart that are undeniably attractive (the ideal goal would be, in theory, the betterment of all mankind).
3. Humans are not dogs.

I'll elaborate on each of these points, then wait for Pro's response before perhaps treating one or more in greater detail.

1. Eugenics is different from dog-breeding in its ability to raise support from whole populations of people who believe that they are adopting positive ideals. I very much doubt that this is analogous to dog-breeding, in which I see the support coming from (historically) a desire for useful working dogs and (latterly) a desire for aesthetically pleasing dogs... I don't see anybody ideologically arguing for selective breeding of dogs in the same way... and I suspect that most people who are pro highly selective breeding are either unaware of the health consequences for dogs or consider the ends to justify the means; perhaps offensively (and I guess Pro will agree with me), I suspect many breeders or users of dogs to simply not care. This is fundamentally different from the issues surrounding eugenics.

2. If one accepts the moral precept of seeking the greatest good for the greatest number, Eugenics can seem to, at least in theory, fit the bill. When looking at the welfare of dogs, dog breeding could only be argued to be in the best interest of the dogs themselves in an anthropocentric way. The issue, therefore, is clouded by the reality of the power relationship between dogs and humans.

3. There is a moral perspective which I personally adhere to against my emotional instincts: when morally comparing the importance of humans and dogs, I will consider the subjects' relative capacity to suffer. Whilst I'd (instinctively) love to extend the inclusiveness principle of all people being equally "valuable" to dogs, I cannot in all conscience do so: dogs suffer, certainly, and I consider it our moral imperative to mitigate that suffering to the best of our ability... thus I happen to be staunchly against the particular selective breeding programs that dog breeders perpetuate... but... I consider the forced sterilisation of a human to be a quantitatively (almost qualitatively) different thing from the forced sterilisation of a dog; consider it this way: a human who had endured forced sterilisation may become so depressed as to commit suicide; no dog who has been sterilised has suffered to this palpable degree.

Thus I conclude that dog breeding and eugenics differ in more than semantics.
Debate Round No. 1


hannahd91 forfeited this round.


In the spirit of a fair debate, I shall not steal this opportunity to have more of a say!
Debate Round No. 2


hannahd91 forfeited this round.


I can't resist at least a brief summary of this non-debate.

Whilst I agree that selective breeding of dogs has severely negative aspects that require careful moral consideration, I think that it's simply rhetorical device to compare it to eugenics; eugenics is a complex ideological issue with a history that has caused us to have a visceral response to even the word (as Pro seems to concede in calling it a dirty word). So, I don't think it's fair to win political points by "borrowing" our disgust at eugenics to use for a quite different (if superficially similar) moral issue.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Ragnar 2 years ago
The moral judgement against it would be a whole other debate, such as 'Presuming selective breeding of dogs (pedigrees) is eugenics, than it should stop on ethical grounds...'
Posted by hannahd91 2 years ago
Yes, but that doesn't explain why it's acceptable or why people continue to do it.
Posted by dsjpk5 2 years ago
It is eugenics. It's acceptable because they're dogs, not.humans.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by YoshiBoy13 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct to Con: Double forfeit COMBO! Massive damage! // Arguments to Con: Rebutted the points that Pro made effectively.