Saturday, August 15, 2009

Things about Michael Vick I don't understand...

As I write this Im fully confident that I will be misunderstood by at least a few people who will then get pissed off. So here goes....

Im not in favor of dog fighting. Never been to one, wouldn't go if I could, don't understand why anybody does it, likely don't know anyone who has ever gone to one, thinks they shouldn't, assumes people who do it are dumbasses compensating for little penises. But I don't understand why the state asserts an interest in prohibiting it.

Stay with me now.

As things stand currently I can go to jail if I fight dogs. But if I raise chickens say and kill them in huge factories designed for that purpose I likely qualify for a government subsidy. Somethin' aint right. I don't get why the government feels like it has a moral interest in the case of one species but not another, or why it just doesn't assert the same interest in the case of both species.

Dog fighting is undeniably cruel the argument might go, and while I don't want to demonize ag producers its fairly obvious that many aspects of factory farming are cruel as well. I suppose then one might say that dogs that fight suffer a great deal of pain but cows slaughtered for beef are killed instantly. True enough, but while I wouldn't be qualified to speculate on the mental state of bovines I've read many accounts of the animals beginning to wail and exhibit extreme stress as they smell the blood of their recently slaughtered comrades. And before they are even lead to their doom they spend the last several weeks of their lives crowded into feeding lots and fed corn which their bodies cannot digest properly which requires massive amounts of antibiotics to ward off the attendant infections. Is that cruelty? I think most people would say it was or at least be hard pressed to explain why it wasn't, but I cannot then parse why we have no issue with that but then cannot abide dog fighting.

It gets worse. Consider that Im perfectly within my rights as a hunter to go out and shoot an animal in a way that might just wound it. The animal will likely then run off and take hours to find before I can deliver a kill shot or I may never find it and the animal will lie in extreme pain for many hours as it slowly bleeds to death. Suffering? Uh, yeah, but its perfectly legal and the state takes an active interest in promoting hunting and fishing. What's the deal?

Well, I've heard people say that since animal slaughter is utilitarian whatever degree of harm or suffering is outweighed by the benefit and the cruelty inherent in dog fighting produces no legitimate benefit. Okay, good point. In fact its why Im not a vegetarian. But lets consider some other wholly frivolous activities that frequently work against the long term welfare of the animals involved. Not every greyhound or horse that races spends their golden years frolicking
in some kind farmers alfalfa field. Im not aware of any retirement plans for circus animals either. The analogy isn't perfect here, horses aren't raced for the purpose of killing them, but to the extent that any of these animals suffer pain or cruelty they do so to advance nothing more than our leisure so clearly we're willing to tolerate, legitimize, and promote a certain degree of suffering for pursuits that are entirely non-utilitarian.

It seems to me that we have some decisions to make here culturally because the contradictions are massive. Either we step up and expand our conceptualization of animal welfare or we step way back and tolerate some very stupid behavior. Im not sure which direction is the right one but I don't think we should continue to tolerate a system that legally vilifies Mick Vick but passes out a license to bow hunt.


  1. I am a vegetarian who easily ate meat of animals that I participated in the killing of when I was growing up -- they were well treated and lived in good conditions. It was factory farming that changed that.

    Riffing off of your Cheney comparison post earlier, when we rationalize cruelty in any way, either by saying it's "utilitarian" or "for country" (and won't go into the accuracy of information obtained by torture), we create human beings who don't respect life.

    I know it's unrealistic to hope for the world to turn vegetarian, but I hope your meat-eating readers consider animal products that are humanely raised -- they're out there.

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  3. It's being hypocritical.

    A similar hypocrisy exists with vegetarians who do not believe in eating animals with faces like theirs. But studies have shown plants react in alarm and terror also, just as animals (when electrodes are placed on plants they exhibit measurable reaction to negative stimulus, such as fire and loud, chaotic rock music; unfortunately, one cannot eat on planet earth without harming or killing something).