Gary L. Francione
Rutgers Law School
A Note About Michael Vick
Posted by: Gary L. Francione in Blog
There has been an enormous amount of coverage of the
alleged dog fighting operation sponsored by Atlanta Falcons quarterback
Michael Vick. Vick and three other men were indicted on federal felony
charges claiming that Vick had sponsored illegal dog fighting, gambled on dog fights and permitted acts of cruelty against animals on his property.
The talk shows are filled with talking heads from the "humane
community" condemning dog fighting and calling for Vick to be punished if he is, indeed, guilty. Nike and Reebok have suspended products endorsed by Vick.
Please let me be very clear: I think that dog fighting is a
But I must say that the Vick case is rather
dramatically demonstrating what I call our "moral schizophrenia"
about animals. That is, if one thing is clear, it is that we do not think
clearly about our moral obligations to animals.
In this country alone, we kill over ten billion land animals
annually for food. The animals we eat--even those
supposedly raised "humanely"--suffer as much as the dogs that
are used in dog fighting. There is no "need" for us to eat meat,
dairy, or eggs.
Indeed, these foods are increasingly linked to
various human diseases and animal agriculture is an environmental disaster for the planet. We impose pain, suffering, and death on these billions of sentient nonhumans because we enjoy eating their flesh and
the products that we make from them.
There is something positively bizarre about condemning Michael
Vick for using dogs in a hideous form of entertainment when 99% of us
also use animals that are every bit as sentient as dogs in another
hideous form of entertainment that is no more justifiable than fighting
dogs: eating animals and animal products.
Ed Note: It's
not bizarre because the folks who are condemning the actions don't fully
understand the pain they are inflicting on animals when they purchase them. If
you doubt it's true, simply ask them. It should give ARA's hope that once they
understand they will stop eating meat.
There is something positively bizarre that many
"animal lovers" sit around eating meat that has the Certified Humane
Raised and Handled label endorsed by The Humane Society of the
United States while HSUS tells us what a bad guy Michael Vick is.
HSUS and PETA are demanding that Vick be suspended from the NFL.
As far as I know, neither organization demanded that Michael Jordan
be suspended from the NBA because he promoted Ball
Ed. Note: HSUS and PETA try to get
the world riled up about every animal abuse, but they don't continue to fly
flags up flag poles if nobody cares or is watching. It wouldn't make sense. The
world is watching the Vick case, so a big deal will and should be made.
There is something bizarre about Reebok and Nike,
which use leather in their shoes, suspending products endorsed
by Vick. They're not going to allow a guy who allegedly tortures dogs
to endorse products that contain tortured cows.
Ed. Note: Again, it's not bizarre if
you understand that Reebok and Nike are not taking a stand that animal abuse is
wrong. They are taking the stockholders stance that Vick is no longer a good
spokesperson. Like Kobe Bryant or Pete Rose or Barry Bonds. The corporations
aren't making moral judgments, only business judgments.
In Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the
Dog?, I introduced Simon the Sadist, who derived pleasure
from blowtorching dogs.
We would all regard such conduct as monstrous because we all agree that it is wrong to inflict "unnecessary" suffering on
animals and pleasure, amusement, and convenience cannot count as
satisfying the "necessity" requirement. But then I asked the further
question--how are those of us who eat animal flesh and animal products any different from Simon?
He enjoys blowtorching dogs; we enjoy the taste of
flesh and animal products. But we and Simon both kill sentient
beings (we may pay others to do the dirty work) because we derive
enjoyment from it.
Ed. Note: Again, most folks would see
the difference as the difference between blow torching an elderly person or
letting them die in their sleep. They don't believe food animals suffer when
they are killed.
According to reports, the authorities removed from
Vick's property a "rape stand" used to hold dogs for
mating. And "rape racks" are used to hold cows for impregnation. When a dog is involved, we are troubled; when a cow is involved, we ignore it.
Michael Vick may enjoy watching dogs fight; someone else may enjoy
eating an animal; an animal who has had endured a life as full of pain and suffering as much as the lives of the fighting dogs.
It's strange that we regard the latter as morally
different from, and superior to, the former. How removed from the
screaming crowd around the dog pit is the laughing group around the summer steak barbecue?
We are all Simon. We are all Michael Vick.
Gary L. Francione
(c) 2007 Gary L. Francione