Four days of competition had winnowed the 21,000 contestants to six finalists on Sunday at the famed Crufts dog show in England. The Gremillet champagne already was laid out on the podium next to a silver cup as tall and filigreed as a wedding cake.
With television cameras beaming the final moments across live television, the judge paced the floor in Birmingham, eyeing the contestants one last time, then threw a finger at Tease, a sleek two-and-a-half year old whippet. She was the best in show. As cheers echoed in the hall, her owner, Yvette Short of Edinburgh, Scotland, lifted the dog up onto the podium, her face lit with joy.
Then it all went crazy.
As the event's live feed broadcast across the globe, Short's features suddenly clenched. She quickly bundled Tease in her arms and ran for safety. Two individuals were running across the field, unfolding a sign reading: "Crufts: Canine Eugenics." The runner-up, a pointer named Kanix Chilli, nervously chewed treats from a trainer's hand while security personnel swarmed the field. The staff eventually piled on top of the intruders like NFL defensive backs smothering a touchdown run.
The protesters were hauled off. Short and Tease returned to their interrupted moment of glory from the podium.
"Well done, you as well, for reacting so quickly," the announcer told Short. "Your instinct was to protect Tease."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) later took responsibility for the incident. It's not the first time Crufts - one of the largest and most high-profile dog shows in the world - has fallen into the crosshairs of animal activists.
"Crufts glorifies pedigree fetishists' twisted pursuit of the 'perfect' dog'," Elisa Allen, Peta UK's director, told the Independent on Sunday. "There's nothing natural about breeding dogs with extreme and debilitating physical traits, and PETA urges everyone to stay away from this cruel beauty pageant."
Activists take issue with the breeding of pedigree dogs, which can produce health problems and physical ailments.
"Many bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese and other brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs cannot even breathe properly - let alone go for a walk or chase a ball without gasping for air - because of their unnaturally shortened airways," PETA UK stated on their website in 2015. "Almost all pedigree dogs suffer from abnormally high rates of disease and have much shorter life spans than their mixed-breed cousins do."
The 2018 action echoed the Crufts 2015 best in show announcement. That year, a 25-year-old law student named Luke Steele rushed onto the floor in protest. "Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a beauty pageant," Steele told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
In 2008, the BBC stopped broadcasting the event after 40 years following public outcry over health concerns with the animals, the HuffPost reported. The response was triggered by a BBC One investigation called "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" that focused on the health concerns of show dog breedings. In response, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the country's largest animal welfare charity, boycotted the event.
The Kennel Club, the organization behind Crufts, pushed back against the documentary, calling the program "biased and selective," the Guardian reported. But in 2009, the club agreed to revise the breeding standards for 209 dog breeds, changes that aimed to limit the exaggerated features sought in pedigree breeding practices, according to the BBC.
"The description of each breed's physical attributes in a way that will prevent unhealthy exaggeration . . . is only one part of every breed standard," the Kennel Club said in a February 2009 statement. "Equally importantly, these include information on the importance of each breed requiring to be healthy, fit for function and of the ideal temperament."
After Sunday's demonstration, a Crufts spokesman told the Independent that the organization would review its security protocols.
"It appears that protesters from PETA gained [unauthorized] access to the ring in the main arena at Crufts, and in doing so scared the dogs and put the safety of both dogs and people at risk in a hugely irresponsible way," the spokesman said.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)