August 21, 2007
Victimized by dog violence?
Now that Michael Vick has agreed to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, animal advocates are hoping the NFL and others take action to continue working against dog violence.Dog violence? (Yes, the term is in use!) What is being condemned here by this phrase? Michael Vick's acts of cruelty? Apparently not. The larger issue is dogfighting:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it is offering a reward for tips leading to the conviction of those involed in dog fighting. And other groups said they hoped the Vick case brought more attention to the practice.Bear in mind that it is apparently still the position of this group that pit bulls (the animals which were so cruelly treated by Vick) should all be exterminated. So naturally, I worry that when the complaint is made of "dog violence," they're not just talking about acts of violence committed by humans against dogs, or dogs against humans, but they're judging (and in a rather strange manner) the "violent" acts of dogs!
If we place the cruelty of Vicks aside for the moment, I'm wondering philosophically whether it is possible for an animal of any sort to engage in what we normally call "violence." I mean, my yard is filled with birds who devour crickets and earthworms, and which are in turn preyed upon by a large hawk which has been raising fledglings in a neighbor's tree. Are these acts of "violence"? If two dogs in heat tie up, that cannot be called rape, any more than a man who sexually abuses a dog can be called a rapist.
HSUS's Wayne Pacelle, while not quite calling Vick a victim of dogfighting, certainly doesn't single him out as might be expected considering the horrendous underlying facts:
The president of the Humane Society expressed sympathy for the damage that may have been done to Vick's life.Today's Inquirer did a good job of reporting, and does not leave out details which show that what Vick did went well beyond dogfighting:
What's being obscured here by the talk of dogfighting and "dog violence" is that that there are degrees of cruelty -- and the cruelty to which Vick is apparently pleading guilty goes well beyond watching two dogs fight. While I don't mean to psychoanalyze animals, I want to look at this from the perspective of common sense. If two dogs go at it and neither one of them displays a desire to run away, it is cruel to sit there and watch, especially for purposes of entertainment, or to make money. But common sense suggests to me if one dog is clearly trying to escape, then it becomes even more cruel, because while it's tough to judge whether anything an animal does is voluntary in nature, trying to get away indicates that the animal does not want to fight. Thus, while it is cruel to allow two pit bulls that are raring to go to actually fight (because we humans are entrusted with their care and owe them better), it is more cruel to sit there and watch one of those same dogs chase down and tear into someone's lapdog which happened to be walking down the street. To not recognize this distinction is, IMO, to abandon logic.
Thus, if Vick singled out an animal for torture simply because that animal displayed an unwillingness to fight, he did something far worse than dogfighting. Yet instead of complaining about that, the animal rights activists are carrying on about "dog violence." This makes me suspect an agenda.
There is a problem in using logic with these things, though. If it is more cruel to sic a dog on a dog that wants to get away than to watch two dogs that desire to fight, then that makes coon hunting and fox hunting (which are both done to animals that want to get away) more cruel than dogfighting. This is something few people want to entertain as an idea, because society deems dogfighting inherently more cruel than coonhunting, foxhunting, boar hunting with dogs, or probably bullfighting. (When topics are driven by hysteria and popular prejudices and beliefs, applying logic is a good way to ask for trouble.)
I see very little logic being applied to Michael Vick. The focus should be on his cruelty to animals, not on "larger issues" which tend to minimize his culpability or even make him look like a victim.
MORE: Speaking of relative cruelty, Michael Silence links an interesting post reminding people that abortion is more cruel than dogfighting. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who won't go so far as to call it a defense of Michael Vick. It really isn't. And again, what Vick did was worse than dogfighting.)
posted by Eric on 08.21.07 at 10:12 AM
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