I'm in the car listening to sports radio because I want to hear the score of the ball game. Loud talk-show-host guy's ranting about the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal: '... and you can talk about rape or child molestation or whatever terrible thing you can think of, you know, and I think this is just as bad, if not worse! And I'm not downplaying these horrible crimes, but I'm just saying the level of outrage over this is just incredible!' And then a minute later: '... I mean I love dogs, and I grew up with dogs, and this, it just hits me in the heart!'
The day before, in the break room at work (not CityBeat, I mean my rent-paying job), I'm reading The New York Times out loud to my co-workers-who haven't opened a newspaper since making piñatas in grade school-and the Michael Vick story has them riveted, shocked, outraged! We should do to Vick what he did to the dogs! Hang him! Drown him!
Get the picture? Everybody's really, really pissed off at Michael Vick for (allegedly) running a dog-fighting syndicate.
All except for one brave guy who dares to confess what I wish the others would admit. Our company has brought us to Del Mar for the races, and I'm in the beer line with Robert from finance, and he asks me what I'm writing about this week. I tell him it's the Vick thing and he says, 'You know, I don't feel the same way everybody does about it. Some of these people think dogs are the same as people, but I don't. It's an animal. People are at a higher level than animals. I mean, I think it's wrong what this guy did to these dogs, but-'
'But the level of outrage, right?'
'Yes, the outrage seems overboard.'
Now, some of you are probably thinking Bob is one cold bastard for downplaying the Vick scandal. Vick (allegedly) hosed down a dog (loser!) and then electrocuted it to death. Outrageous. I see where you're coming from. But what I also recognize in Bob's position is a lack of hypocrisy. Because whether you're troubled or not by animal abuse, you should try to be somewhat consistent, for Dog's sake.
I mean, the same mob-thinkers demanding Vick's removal from the face of the Earth one day are standing right there at the track lusting over horseracing the next. And while they cheer away for this ridiculously cruel 'sport'-in which the animals are whipped, sometimes doped, sometimes injured and too often shipped off to slaughterhouses when their racing days are over-the hypocrites are chomping away on the barbecued carcasses of murdered animals that were just as cute and smart as pets before they were mutilated, drugged and slaughtered. Bob doesn't think Vick's alleged behavior is heroic or anything, but he's not gonna get his skivvies in a twist over a couple dumb pit bulls. Me, I'm just at the track to rain on everybody's parade and drink the free beer.
For the sake of this discussion, I must point out that I'm a bleeding-heart animal-rights guy, so of course my views on dog fighting and dog abuse in general are more in line with the views of those I'm criticizing. And I completely disagree with the Bobster: Not only do I think animals are 'on the same level as people,' I think they are people. They have feelings, thoughts, babies, fear, language, faces, love. Sure, they're pretty damn different from us, but they exist for reasons of their own, in my humble opinion, and those reasons don't include being tortured, de-beaked, pumped with hormones, locked in boxes or cages, force fed, beaten, doped, whipped, executed or eaten.
What makes Bob's position logical to me is his consistent philosophy: He is not outraged, and he knows why he is not outraged.
But the outrage of the selective animal lovers confuses me. Some of these people eat veal Parmesan! Do you have to read more than a menu to know veal comes from cute little tortured baby cows (aaawwww)?
You do? Well, OK then, let's read. How baby cows get transformed into breaded cutlets, according to the good folks at Farm Sanctuary (www.noveal.org): The cute little babies are taken from their mothers immediately after birth and raised to be deliberately borderline anemic. They're denied basics like access to their mother's milk, pasture, exercise, often any movement whatsoever, which leads to the pale-colored flesh that selective animal lovers love to consume.
These baby cows are confined in two-foot-wide veal crates so they can't turn around, stretch their limbs or lie down comfortably. Being all crammed into these crates chronically stresses them out, so they have to be all shot up with medication so they won't completely flip. The abused babies display all sorts of abnormal coping behaviors associated with frustration, like head tossing, head shaking, kicking, scratching and chewing. They also suffer leg and joint disorders and an impaired ability to walk. It sucks to be veal. And veal production is just one particularly egregious example of the status quo de-personization of non-human animals our outrage regularly elides.
So tell me how this is so much better than dog fighting. Is it the scrumptious use value of the babies? Solitary confinement and torture is better than having to fight for your life? Maybe people should just eat the losing dogs so they can stop pitying them and enjoy 'The Battle of the Canines' on ESPN.
Look, I don't know if Vick is guilty or innocent, but if he's guilty, I hope he gets what's coming to him. But why is it that the disgrace of a celebrity so often has to act as the magnetic locus onto which we psychologically project and reject the things about ourselves that we're least proud of? If you go for barbecue at the track, there's a little bit of Michael Vick in you. At least grow a pair like Bob from finance and admit it.