Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

The Vilification of Vick

IMG_2332 In my recent post about Manny Ramirez, I tried to question some of the underlying assumptions that cloud the mind of the American sports fan. But performancing enhancing drugs is a tame conversation starter compared to Vick’s premeditated and ritual abuse of America’s favorite pet. That it was for sport only serves to increase the stigma. It doesn’t help matters the media seems fixated on perpetuating the that same stigma.

On his blog Tony Monkovic compares the official statements from PETA and the Humane Society. Vick seems to have become the whipping boy of PETA. Vick’s crime aside, I’m uncomfortable with the double standard that the media has applied to this story. From the beginning to the (no) end (in sight) of this story, Vick has become a symbol for cruelty. PETA has gone so far as to say that they “will not take anything off the table when it comes to any team or league that may sign Michael Vick.”

What he did was cruel. No question. Vick subjected harmless animals to pain; he put them to death for the sake of sport. Waiting for his moment But I’m tired of the double standard. Every year folks head out into the woods armed with rifles, bowie knives, and bows and arrows to hunt down innocent animals for sport. Tell me that bow hunting is something other than subjecting animals to pain and death for the sake of sport. Tell me that the ritual slaughter of often docile and helpless animals that takes place every year in America for the sake of sport is something drastically different from dog fighting.

I understand that what Vick funded and particpated in was a different degree of cruelty. And don’t forget, he suffered two years in prison for it. But what I’m interested in is the arbitrary cultural dichotomy between hunting for sport (legalized killing) and dog fighting (illegal killing).

As much as we want to make it black and white (no pun intended), it’s simply not that simple.

I hate that innocent animals suffered at his hand. I also hate that innocent animals suffer for the sake of legalized sport. But neither of these questions interest me in Vick’s case. They just represent the larger cultural milieu that has to be named before we can talk about the interesting stuff.

For instance, after the media has created such a $%@& storm for Vick, it’s fascinating to read Adam Ostrow’s take on using media to reinvigorate Vick’s career.

And perhaps the biggest question that remains (aside from the obvious: will Goodell reinstate Vick?) is: can Vick still play? He never was a great passer. Never had great vision. He was always just the most freakish athelete on a field full of freakish athletes. After two years of life in the slow lane, can he still fly? I hope to see this question answered on the field. So Goodell, PETA, NFL teams, get it right. Get over yourselves and let the guy play.

3 Comments

  1. I was a past member of PETA. I quit after I realized that not only were they anti-anything involving animals (what!? no wool? Are we only supposed to wear polyester? or pesticide sprayed cotton? No milk? So over production of soybeans?)they were in fact killing millions of trees to send me weekly and monthly newsletters and money requests.

    However, PETA aside, I’m definitely pro-animal equality. And yes I eat meat (some of them eat us). I wear leather (however, you couldn’t pay me enough to wear fur). And I own pets (subjecting them to living in a much more confined space than they would if left to their own devices).

    So where is this going. I guess my problem with dog fights as compared to hunting would be the equivalent of saying an abused child has the same quality of life as someone who dies of a heart attack. Those dogs are raised to be emotionally imbalanced. They know only hate and evil. Wild animals that are hunted at least have the possibility of living a happy peaceful forest life before they are so abruptly taken from it.

    Not only did this man take the biological lives of these dogs, he took the emotional lives of these dogs too. And while I don’t condone sport hunting (if you take the time to kill something please take the time to cook it and eat it), I do think that there is a definite difference.

  2. I appreciate your identification of a general cultural boundary:
    hunting = OK; dog fights = horrendous. It’s also important to note how the media serves as the territory upon which this boundary gets mediated. In other words, individual opinions on this subject will be all over the map, but major media sources can give us a false sense of consensus. At the very least, they serve to frame the issues that enter into the flow of capital.

    However, les non dupes errent. We can’t just address a societal inconsistency by calling it arbitrary. Instead it becomes important to identify why this inconsistency exists. I don’t pretend to know the answer offhand. It may be bound up with the respective symbolic roles played by domestic animals and by wild animals. It may have to do with the privileged place given to dogs. I also agree with both you and pebble that it has to do with degree of cruelty.

  3. As an avid fisherman from the land of 10,000 lakes, I must profess the moral dilemma I deal with on a regular basis. Fishing is a way of life, ingrained in the ethos of Minnesota culture, and I have had to try to separate myself for long enough to truly think through this dilemma.

    What I am essentially doing, especially as a bass fishermen (Bass fishermen usually don’t eat their catch but practice “catch and release”. (This phrase strikes me as problematic.)), is tricking a fish into thinking a piece of plastic is a living piece of meat (so Big Mouth Billy ain’t so inocent himself!). I trick it enough for it to indulge, whence a hook drives through its mouth, then pull it through the water as it fights for dear life. The more the fish struggles, the more pleasure I get out of the event.

    How do I reconcile the morality of this whilst engaging in its practice? I don’t know…and I think its silly to suggest, that I am doing something so different than Vick and his posse (though I resonate with Pebble and willwindow nevertheless). I often find that I psychologically separate myself from the Minnesotan hunting culture. I perceive the sport that uses artillery as more barbarous and cruel. But whether hook or bullet, the transaction of physical harm for pleasure transpires.