20 July 2007

Dog-fighting: A Capital Offense?

A tremendous furor has been raised over NFL Quarterback Michael Vick's alleged involvement in dogfighting in South Carolina. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) went into a murderous rage over the subject, in effect saying that Michael Vick should be executed. From Radar Online:

Byrd, 89, said he'd witnessed one execution in his life—a man put to death in the electric chair. "It's not a beautiful thing," he said. "I could say I could witness another one if it involves [long pause] ... this cruel, sadistic, cannibalistic, business of training these vulnerable creatures to kill."

Many other people have jumped on this bandwagon. In response to this news story, Facebook groups have sprung up with thoughtful titles like "Michael Vick should be put in a ring with 50 rabid pit bulls," "All Those In Favor for the Injection of Rabies into Michael Vick!!," "Americans for the Death by Wild Dog Mauling of Michael Vick," and "All Those in Favor of Drowning Mike Vick and Then Electricuting Him!"

Well, before we re-institute lynching, perhaps people should really think about what they are saying.

So if you will indulge me, read the following step-by-step analysis and tell me when and why you disagree:

1. Dogs are sweet, fun, playful, loyal pieces of property.

2. An owner should enjoy full discretionary use of his own property, so long as he doesn't violate anyone else's right to do the same.

3. Michael Vick is not alleged to have stolen, vandalized, or otherwise violated any one else's property. He is not alleged to have committed any act of violence against any other person.

4. Highly sought after professional athletes frequently spend their money lavishly, and are the subject of envious resentment. This is the outlandish behavior that Vick chooses to spend time and resources on, while on private property and out of uniform.

5. None of the people criticizing athletes for their pay level have (a) the innate talent, (b) physical ability, and (c) internal drive to satisfy the public demand for star-quality performance in the extremely competitive professional sports leagues such as: NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS.

6. Get over yourself and realize that people come from different cultural backgrounds, at least some of which celebrate dog fighting, cock fighting, bull fighting, and other completely legitimate, if arguably immoral, past-times that involve the injury or death of "sweet, fun, playful, loyal pieces of property." (And actually, a lot of them aren't that sweet.)

7. Consider that unless you are a vegan (which I think is a stupid, but consistent position) you are effectively making an arbitrary moral distinction between dogs, cats, horses (animals to which people try to impute quasi-personhood because they are cute) and pigs, chickens, cows, minks, etc. (animals that we usually don't keep as pets in the US and thus don't care as much about). Animals from the latter group are subjected to pain all the time, with electrocution, drowning, boiling, and other fairly painful means used to harvest them. If you aren't willing to say that is evil and immoral, but somehow Vick's habit is, well, you are just being a namby-pamby, wussified, mamma's boy (or girl) whose feelings get hurt by the fact that we live in a world where there is pain and death all around us, and where at least some of that pain and death makes our lives as humans more enjoyable.

If you want to punish Michael Vick, work to get him fired. He is an entertainer, and if he fails to entertain, or creates a net loss for his team organization, they will have to get rid of him. Do not threaten violence against a man for using his own property as he saw fit. That is just envy and tyranny. I am loyal to humans over all other creatures. No matter how much animal suffering might be alleviated by a human's death, I strongly believe that

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