DawnWatch: Michael Vick case spurs comments on other animal cruelty 8/22 — 8/26/07

August 27th, 2007 5:36 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Aug 25, 2007 9:51 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Michael Vick case spurs comments on other animal cruelty 8/22 — 8/26/07

It has been another of those weeks in which I was unable to focus on DawnWatch, so I now find myself playing some catch-up on the weekend. I start by noting that on Wednesday, Aug 22, the Los Angeles Times published five fabulous animal advocacy letters in response to last week’s front page story on the random killing for kicks of farm animals. The letters discussed various aspects of animal cruelty, including dogfighting, the circus and the meat industry. The following letter, from Pat Sommer, reminds us what can happen when we close our hearts to the suffering of others:

“I do not fear evil; I fear apathy. For a decent society to overlook base cruelty because it is directed at those we consider unworthy of our pity shakes me to the core; I am German and live with the legacy of that mind-set. May God forgive us.”

I send a huge thank you to all who wrote and were therefore part of the effort that resulted in a block of five pro-animal letters to the editor on the Los Angeles Times editorial page.

Michael Vick has remained in the spotlight this week. The headline on the front page of the sports section of the Saturday, August 25, New York Times announces, “After Plea, Vick Is Barred Indefinitely By the N.F.L.”

The article opens:

“The National Football League suspended Michael Vick indefinitely without pay yesterday after he admitted in court papers that he paid for dogfighting bets and helped kill underperforming dogs.

“The 27-year-old Vick, the Atlanta Falcons’ star quarterback, will be out for at least the 2007 N.F.L. season and probably much longer. If he serves a year in prison — the sentence recommended in the plea agreement — he will probably not be eligible to play again until 2009.”

The article tells us that Vick said he did not gamble on the dogs but “he said that he was present when his co-defendants placed bets.” And it tells us, “Vick said that he agreed to the killing of ‘approximately 6 to 8 dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions,’ adding that ‘all the dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning.”’

The following from that article is of interest, given the current debate over the fate of the confiscated dogs:

“He agreed to pay restitution for the costs associated with the 53 pit bulls that authorities have held as evidence since they were seized from his property in April. The costs, the plea agreement said, include the ‘long-term care and/or the humane euthanasia of some or all of those animals as may be directed by the court in this case.”’

You’ll find the whole article on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/25/sports/football/25vick.html.

And you can send letters to the editor at letters [at] nytimes.com.

The no kill sanctuary Best Friends, in Utah, dismayed by reports that groups such as PETA and HSUS had suggested Vick’s pitbulls could not be rehabilitated and should be “euthanized,” has published an offer to take in the dogs. You can read it on line here.

I generally view the rescue of media-hyped animals partly as publicity stunts — there are fifty equally deserving pitbulls at my local shelter who are due to die next week and who nobody is offering to take in. But if Vick’s plea agreement includes restitution for the confiscated dogs, including long term care, I cannot understand why anybody would call for their death. They could be given a decent life at a sanctuary, presumably kept far from toddlers and poodles, and the cost of their care would come from Vick’s pocket rather than from animal advocacy funds that would otherwise save equally desperate dogs who don’t need to be rehabilitated. A letter, by Joseph Pastore, to be published in the Sunday August 26 New York Times calls for the dogs’ permanent care at Vick’s expense — you might consider a similar letter to your own paper.

The upside of the Vick case has been that dogfighting has finally received the negative attention it has deserved for years. A recent development is the attention the case has brought to other areas of animal cruelty, generally more accepted in our society. A few weeks ago I shared a letter published in the Los Angeles Times in which activist Sharon Hall reminded readers who were saddened by the suffering of Vicks’ dogs, that billions of animals suffer similarly on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. This week, various articles published in leading papers have pointed out the disconnect between our concern for Vick’s dogs and our lack of concern for other animals.

The Wednesday August 22 Washington Post included a piece by Courtland Milloy headed, “Animal Cruelty Isn’t Judged on a Level Playing Field.” (Pg B1)

Milloy opened with:

“While eating a porterhouse the other night, I began to see the steak for what it was: a hunk of meat, blood and bone. I managed to disgust myself even more by imagining that a charbroiled piece of pit bull would not have looked much different from the gristle of beef on my fork.

“Then I came back to my senses and continued to enjoy my meal.

“Too bad for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick that people like me love dogs more than cows. Or, to put it another way, I prefer the taste of Angus and Hereford to Rottweiler and pit bull. Otherwise, the federal agents who recently charged Vick with dogfighting would have to arrest nearly all of us for participating in far worse acts of animal cruelty.

“Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney is credited with having said: ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.’ Well, they don’t — and most of us are carnivores. We’ll kill a duck, deer, turkey — name any meat — for the sheer entertainment of our palates or for the fun of the hunt.

“And yet, Vick, 27, must take the fall. On Monday, the star athlete agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy. The admission could put him behind bars for more than year and all but end his football career.

“Make no mistake: I have no particular affinity for Vick. You just can’t defend a guy who apparently gets his kicks watching dogs mangle each other and risks losing a hundred million dollars in NFL earnings and endorsements to boot. It’s just that all the hullabaloo about dogfighting seems a bit hypocritical.”

He goes on to discuss society’s attitude to horses and horseracing quoting the HBO Barbaro special in which we heard, “And when we ask them to — they run.” Milloy responds, “And when they don’t, well, they die.”

While those of us incensed by animal cruelty are thrilled to see the response to Vick’s activities, Milloy’s piece points out the odd inconsistencies and is worth reading and responding to. You’ll find it on line here OR http://tinyurl.com/2ukvmd.

The Washington Post takes letters at letters [at] washpost.com.

Wednesday’s Boston Globe included a wonderful piece by Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson, focusing on the horrors of the greyhound racing industry. It is headed, “Michael Vick isn’t alone.” (Pg A11)

It opens:

“As Michael Vick plummets from celebrity to our national symbol of animal cruelty, there is an unsettling question unanswered in all of the press coverage. Was he uniquely brutal or merely a spectacular outlier for canine atrocities we allow every day?

“This is not an apology for Mr. Vick and his accomplices in his dogfighting ring. The act of hanging, drowning, electrocuting, and shooting pit bulls, just because they did not win, easily calls for prison, penance, and other impoverishment, not to mention many therapists.

“But the national outrage rings a bit hollow. It feels a bit too easy to condemn only this fool sick enough to throw away a 10-year, $130 million football contract with the Atlanta Falcons and his residual millions in endorsements for his mad dashes as quarterback.

“It feels a bit easy because I am a former owner of a rescued greyhound.

“You can go down last month’s 18-page federal indictment against Vick and his codefendants and see plenty of snippets such as these: ‘train and breed … for… competitions’; ‘destroying or otherwise disposing of dogs not selected to stay’; ‘executed at least one dog that did not perform well’; ‘executed at least two dogs that did not perform well’; ‘Vick possessed… approximately 54 American Pit Bull Terriers, some of which had scars and injuries.’

“Of course, you can apply the same phrases or similar ones to greyhound racing. Yet dog tracks operate in about a quarter of our states, including Massachusetts. In 2000, animal rights activists were able to place a ballot question before the Commonwealth’s voters to ban greyhound racing. Supporters of racing outspent the activists by nearly 4 to 1 and barely beat back the proposed ban, 51 percent to 49 percent.”

Jackson describes the dark side of the greyhound racing industry and closes with:

“There is no difference between this and what Vick did, other than that dogfighting is illegal and greyhound racing remains legal in many states. For his depraved hobby, Vick will be shamed with prison stripes. Greyhound racing, despite its primitive exploitation of dogs, remains a $2 billion business even today.”

You’ll find the full piece on line here OR at http://tinyurl.com/258zz3.

It deserves some appreciative letters to the editor. The Boston Globe takes letters at letter [at] globe.com.

The San Diego Union Tribune, also on Wednesday August 22, published a piece by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, headed, “What Vick should do about animal cruelty.” She urges Vick to use this experience to speak out against dogfighting. And she writes:
“The rock mogul Russell Simmons, who is a spiritual person, thinks Vick will become enlightened because of this experience. Others who advise and guide Vick say that he is a person who has shown love for animals but who somehow compartmentalized his feelings for animals into those he cares for at home and those he uses and abuses in his gambling enterprise. Before we cast the first stone of skepticism, we should remember that all of us are capable of compartmentalizing our thinking in order to excuse bad behavior.

“If we truly acted as if we believed what we are now shouting from the rooftops – that cruelty to animals is just plain wrong – we would all think of what goes on in slaughterhouses and become vegetarians. We would race home at lunchtime or pay someone to be there for us to make sure our dogs didn’t have to sit with their legs crossed, waiting to relieve themselves. We would turn away in disgust from animal circuses because in our hearts we know that elephants want to be with their families in the wild, not forced, through the use of bullhooks, to stand on their hind legs while wearing a silly costume.

“But Vick’s failure to recognize animals as sentient individuals who were harmed needlessly is the issue now in the spotlight. Now that he has admitted his guilt, he needs to speak out against dogfighting, if only to stop youngsters from thinking that their football hero’s only ‘crime’ was that he got caught.”

You’ll find her piece on line at: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070822/news_lz1e22newkirk.html.

The San Diego Union Tribune takes letters at letters [at] uniontrib.com.

Gary Francione’s piece on the Philadelphia Daily News website, headed “We’re all Michael Vick,” is the hardest hitting. Francione suggests that the Vick case demonstrates our “moral schizophrenia” about animals.

He writes:

“In this country alone, we kill more than 10 billion land animals annually for food. The animals we eat 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.”

He notes a character named Simon the Sadist from one of his books , who derived pleasure from blowtorching dogs. Francione comments: “He enjoys blowtorching dogs – we enjoy the taste of flesh and animal products. But we and Simon both kill sentient beings (although we may pay others to do the dirty work) because we derive enjoyment from it.”

He ends with:

“Michael Vick may enjoy watching dogs fight. Someone else may find that repulsive but see nothing wrong with eating an animal who has had a life as full of pain and suffering 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.”

You’ll find the piece on line at http://www.philly.com/dailynews/opinion/20070822_Were_all_Michael_Vick.html and can comment on it on that page. Or please consider a letter to the editor. The paper has so far printed just one glib comment, today, on the piece, stating, “True, there is no ‘need’ for us to eat meat, dairy or eggs. There’s also no need to write an op-ed whenever you have a new book.” The bold piece deserves considerably more. The Philadelphia News takes letters at http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/contact_us/feedback_np2/.

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

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One Response to “DawnWatch: Michael Vick case spurs comments on other animal cruelty 8/22 — 8/26/07”

  1. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » True justice for Michael Vick would involve his own pit bulls ripping him limb from limb… Says:

    […] * DawnWatch: Michael Vick case spurs comments on other animal cruelty 8/22 — 8/26/07 […]

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