Tesco has stirred up a cake row after a leading vet said brands should not use flat-faced dogs to promote their goods.

Daniella Dos Santos, senior Vice President the British Veterinary Association (BVA), has criticised the retail chain for using Frankie the French Bulldog as the character for a new celebration cake.

She insisted that a breed that suffers from severe health problems should not be used to promote any goods including this cake.

The controversial £11 French Bulldog Celebration Cake is part of a new bakery range for the country’s biggest supermarket.

It depicts a cute-looking puppy made from Madeira sponge with buttercream, raspberry jam, icing and edible decorations.

But Ms Dos Santos has called on Tesco to dump the French bulldog and in future “to think health over looks”. 

The BVA, which represents some 18,000 vets, and animal welfare charities, is campaigning to persuade companies and organisations to avoid using flat-faced dog breeds – known as brachycephalic – on merchandise and in advertising.

Ms Dos Santos said: “Some might argue that Frankie is more frosting than Frenchie, but we believe that brands and retailers have a responsibility not to popularise flat-faced breeds within their merchandise and advertising, especially products which will be popular with children.

“Sadly, breeds such as French bulldogs, pugs and bulldogs, can often suffer from life-limiting health issues, including breathing difficulties and eye and skin conditions, and vets are increasingly concerned that many owners are taking on these dogs without knowing about or considering these problems.”

She said many brands had been receptive to the BVA Breed to Breathe campaign and pledged to use healthier breeds and cross breeds when developing new products and media campaigns.

“We’d really like to see Tesco following suit and thinking ‘health over looks’ in the future.”

The cake row started this week when Andrea Fletcher, who works at a Belfast Veterinary practice, posted a photograph of the Frankie cake in Facebook with the caption, “We didn’t know whether to eat the cake or start the corrective surgery. Shame on you, Tesco.”

Others, however, greeted her post in the pages of the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat Faced Animals (CRUFFA) with derision.

Karl Bonney remarked: “Let’s remember it’s a cake”, adding “It’s an absolutely ridiculous post over a cake”, while Jodie West posted: “I totally get you guys take on unhealthy Frenchies. But a cake? Pointless being angry over a cake.”

Anna Day criticised Tesco for “normalising the abnormal and healthy”, while Ziggy Drezera stated: “The glorifying of deformed dogs continues.”

Canine health campaigner, Jemima Harrison,  founder of CRUFFA, has written to Tesco rebuking them for use of the French bulldog.

“It may seem like it’s arguing over a cake, and you could say this dog looks like a cat,” she said. “But many French bulldogs are suffering.”

There were 40,000 French Bulldog puppies registered with the Kennel Club last year and thousands more outside the organisation.

“It adds up to a lot of suffering. And we know from recent tests that even Frenchies bred from conscientious breeders have a high risk of developing life threatening issues, and 50 per cent have significant breathing issues. We need to reduce their popularity.”

Tesco in a statement said: “Our Frankie the French bulldog cake is one of a number of animal inspired cakes in our range and has proven popular. However, we always welcome feedback.”

The puppy sponge cake, which can feed 14, is part of a bakery line which also includes Lucky the Llama and Sammy the Sloth cakes.

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