Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vickkampf: What Else Would We Discuss?

Paul Campos provides an ounce of reality as various members of the media attempt to outdo one another in expressing outrage of the local professional football collective's signal-caller. The same people who are bloviating about Vick being one step removed from Pol Pot are likely also having a nice Porterhouse for dinner, ignoring (or willfully unaware of) the fact that a cow was likely slaughtered in conditions at least as inhumane as the dogs at Moonlight Road. There is a real element of hypocrisy here (and I'm part of it as much as anyone else, since I eat meat and still responded to reading the indictment by saying that I could not root for a Falcons offense with Vick under center). We like dogs and keep them as housepets, so they apparently have more rights than a cow or a pig (and pigs are fairly bright animals, so yay for me being kosher). I had similar thoughts (admittedly without a snappy intro referencing George Orwell or an interesting reference to the class angles involved) during the initial stages of the story:

Is it really rational to make dog-fighting a felony, but then to permit the slaughter of cows and pigs in oft-inhumane conditions? I suppose that the distinction is that cows and pigs provide food to humans, so there is some utility in their killing, but dog-fighting provides no utility other than base-level entertainment. And is the possibility of eating venison the reason why hunting is legal, but dog-fighting is not? There is probably also a distinction that dog-fighting is inevitably very painful for dogs, whereas a deer being shot by a hunter or a cow being slaughtered in a meat-packing facility creates less suffering for the animal, although I suspect that in practice, the difference is not too great. Finally, there is no reason why protection of some animals is illegitimate because we don't protect all animals in the same way.

All that said, after reading the indictment, there is a distinguishing factor between generic cruelty to animals in the meat-packing industry and what Vick is accused of. When Vick was supposed to be a passive investor and/or a guy who went to a couple fights, but didn't have significant involvement in running the operation, then the analogy made sense. Vick was participating in a cruel enterprise, but meat-eaters are sitting in a glass house when they throw around those charges. Now, assuming that the facts in the indictment are true (and the Feds are typically zealous about not throwing around accusations that they can't prove), Vick participated in every aspect of the operation. He didn't just pay for the facilities at which the fights happened; he tested out young dogs for aggression and then bludgeoned, electrocuted, or shot the ones who didn't perform. That goes beyond being a passive participant/meat eater into someone who can perform inhumane acts without batting an eyelash. There's a psychopathic element there that pushes Vick down the continuum of moral culpability. (Insert standard caveat that Vick has not been convicted of anything yet and he could just be guilty of keeping the wrong company, blah blah blah.)


Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to how you know about the inhumane treatment of animals in a meat processing plant. Do you work in a meat packing plant or have you toured a meat packing plant? I'm pretty certain the standard methodology is to not let the cows fight each other for an hour and then electrocute them. To say we cannot criticize dog fighting if we eat meat sounds like quite a stretch (believe it or not, the human body is designed to eat meat and it is actually beneficial when done in appropriate amounts). I always feel quite guilty eating carrots because I walk across my yard (and it really hurts the grass). And I dare not criticize the guy passing me at a 120 MPH in the emergency lane because I did 60 in a 55 MPH zone last week.

Michael said...

I "know" about what goes on in a meat-packing plant the same way that I "know" about the indictment against Vick: reading.

As for the rest of your argument, it sounds exactly like the argument I made in the final sentence of the post that I put in block quotes. My point isn't that we forfeit the right to criticize Vick when we eat meat. Rather, the point is that there is a continuum of animal cruelty. Hyperventilating about Vick when we condone practices that are not that far removed is a little hypocritical. We should at least acknowledge that before proclaiming Vick to be Pol Pot.