First things first, let me confess that as it relates to discussing Michael Vick’s crimes against animals I cannot be considered unbiased. I have an 8-year-old pit bull who has been with our family since he was two months old and the thought of Baloo, or any other dog, being tossed in a fighting ring to win or die trying is beyond disgusting–it is just plain evil.
Having said that, let me also confess that I am an avid fisher-woman. There are few activities that bring me more peace of mind, excitement or satisfaction than sitting on a boat from sunup to sundown casting my bait and fighting those fish who are desperately trying not to end up on my plate. The bumpersticker “I’d rather be fishing” was created with me in mind.
There are some members of PETA who will call that just plain evil.
Now, if you think I’m equating dog fighting with fishing, I’m not. I don’t think they’re the same–not even close. Dog fighting is about violence, ego and money. Fishing is about… Um, well, hmm… many people do fish for food.
No, for real. The creator obviously intended for fish to be eaten by other animals. Am I not one of many predators who kill fish for food? (And, I bet grizzly bear claws cause the fish a whole lot more suffering than my little hook.) Besides, I never catch more fish than I will feed to my family, and I do not catch and release. Once I’ve caught enough fish to eat (or to give away to friends or family who will eat it) I quit fishing. Just between us, when I’m impaling a worm or bait fish on my hook I apologize to it, and once I’ve landed a fish and got it into the boat, someone else has to kill it for me because I can’t bring myself to do it. (I have no problem, however, rolling it in some cornmeal and frying it up afterwards).
All of that “justifying” my violence against fish is the result of a little voice in my head that doesn’t want to feel bad about making the fish suffer–it’s called “empathy.”
EMPATHY : “Understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”
Most humans have empathy for other humans, and many have it for animals, but empathy is an easy thing to lose when you are desensitized to violence from a very young age. I can remember being taken fishing when I was a small child and refusing to participate because to me it looked like they were torturing defenseless creatures. Over the years, the more I witnessed the adults around me doing it, and the more I saw the benefits of catching fish, the more desensitized I became–until I eventually grew to love the sport myself.
I will never understand how a person could get pleasure from electrocuting an animal or how they could throw their family dog into the fighting ring and laugh as their pet suffers (which Vick reportedly did), but I can understand how over years of being exposed to that kind of violence, your empathy voice might get silenced until you just don’t hear it anymore. It appears that after years of exposure to violence against dogs being perpetrated by people Mike loved and admired, he not only shut the voice off, he developed an appetite for the violence himself.
Michael Vick is now an ex-convict who served time for torturing dogs, and he is using his experience to prevent other young people from going down that same violent road.
“God sent me to the bottom. And I’m a firm believer in karma, and I think it happened because of what I did and what I allowed to happen to those animals, so I was stripped of everything, stripped me down to the bone of everything and, you know, I think I took for granted the position that I was in in my life, all the blessings that I had, and that wasn’t my purpose in life to be doing what I was doing and it was wrong,” -Michael Vick
There are thousands of little boys out there right now who have been taught that dog fighting is a sport. They have never had a high profile “role model” tell them otherwise. Now they do.
Unless you’ve been hiding from television and Internet news for the last 24 hours, you have probably heard that President Obama recently called the Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, and praised him for giving Michael Vick a chance to revive the career he lost when he was thrown in jail for operating a dog-fighting ring. Obama said the Eagles giving Michael Vick a second chance was important for society.
Obama’s message gives hope to ex-convicts who want to work and become productive members of society, and it also uplifts a high profile spokesperson against cruelty to animals to whom kids will pay attention.
I believe thousands fewer dogs will suffer as a result of what Michael Vick is now doing. How could that be bad?
By the way, I really would appreciate
any arguments you all have
for or against fishing.
After writing this piece,
I think I’m on the fence.