The Indian wing of animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals – better known as PETA – has urged Vodafone to stop using pugs in its advertisements. In a letter to Vodafone India Chief Executive Officer Sunil Sood, PETA said pugs are “not normal dogs” and are “always in pain” because they are a genetically compromised species with exaggerated features developed through breeding.

“These dogs have become popular in India, thanks largely to your commercials, and are purchased by people who are usually unaware that they’re severely compromised genetically by being bred for unnatural traits, such as tiny flat noses, bulging eyes, and folds of skin,” PETA CEO Manilal Valliyate said in his letter.

Vodafone used nearly 30 pugs in its last advertisement.

Animals like pugs are used in the entertainment business even though they are visibly frightened in such environments and overwhelmed by the chaos and shooting schedules. In his letter, Valliyate highlighted the breathing problems the dogs constantly suffer from, apart from spinal deformities, skin infections and eye irritations, among other health problems. They have “an especially hard time in the India’s climate”, PETA said.

“As a veterinarian and the CEO of PETA India, I’m writing to you on behalf of our more than 10 lakh members and supporters to urge you to stop using pugs in your advertising,” he said in his letter. “They face physical deterioration, neglect, abandonment, or even death when their guardians fail to recognise medical issues, can’t afford to pay their veterinary bills, or refuse to provide them with the care that they require.”