Sunday, May 10, 2015

Guinea Pig Pageants: Cute, but Controversial

We read a crazy news story recently about how several guinea pigs were stolen from their owner. Yes, we're very cute animals, but we're also not difficult to find in guinea pig rescues across the country (and the world). So why would someone want to steal guinea pigs instead of just adopting them? Apparently, it was because these guinea pigs were frequent winners at guinea pig pageants.

We should point out that there are different types of guinea pig pageants. There are some that are put on by guinea pig rescues that are just for fun. There was an interesting account of a guinea pig pageant on the Useless Critic that was put on by a guinea pig rescue in Phoenix, AZ. According to their account, it sounds like it was largely a costume contest that was done for fun. The grand prize was a bag of peppers. It sounded a lot like the costume contest that we saw at the PIGSTRAVAGANZA! Pignic 2013.

On the other hand, there are guinea pig shows like the Bradford Championship Show that take pageantry a lot more seriously. At these shows, guinea pigs are judged according to some pretty strict standards. For example:
source: Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA)
Here are some videos that show what goes on at these sorts of pageants:

We found it noteworthy that the woman in the first video said: "I like perfection in flowers, and animals, and people, and all sorts of things. And it's just achieving perfection." This quote really illustrates the difference between the two types of shows: one is more about fun, while the other is about competing to achieve "perfection." If you ask us, we're perfect just the way we are, regardless of what some chart about breed ideals says!

Here are some of the problems that have been pointed out with guinea pig pageants:
  • Trying to achieve the sort of perfection expected in pageants like the Bradford Championship Show can encourage breeding to meet those characteristics. Most likely, those who breed their guinea pigs as show guinea pigs will want to take good care of them so they'll have the best shot at winning, so it's unlikely there will be the same sorts of bad conditions with regular breeders who supply pet stores. Still, there are a lot of guinea pigs in shelters who need good homes, so many would say there's an ethical problem with breeding more guinea pigs when so many need homes.
  • Shows held outdoors can be uncomfortable for guinea pigs if the temperature is too hot or cold.
  • Guinea pigs are not social animals, so participating in these pageants can be stressful for them.
We're generally fine with having casual costume contests with other piggies outdoors as long as the temperature is right, and the piggies aren't forced to participate when they are obviously not comfortable with it. We haven't completely made up our minds about things like the Bradford Championship Show yet, but we have to admit that we are suspicious of them. We would want to know more about how the guinea pigs who participate in these shows are treated. If these shows are detracting from the quality of guinea pig lives somehow, then we would be against them.

Have you had any experience with guinea pig shows, either the professional or the amateur/casual kind? What are your thoughts on them? Let us know in the comments section!

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