August 19, 2009, 1:29 pm
Michael Vick’s Apology
By Gail Collins AND Ross Douthat
Matt Rourke/The Associated Press People protested outside the Philadelphia Eagles N.F.L. practice facility on August 15. Two days before, Michael Vick had signed a contract with the Eagles after serving 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
Gail Collins: Ross, since this is our last week of conversing I wanted to show my appreciation by not making you talk about health care again. So — how about Michael Vick, the dog-abusing football player who was just signed by the Philadelphia Eagles?
A lot of fans are angry that he’s being given this chance, because they either A.) feel Vick hasn’t proven his remorse or B.) just believe that what he did — underwriting a dog-fighting ring in Virginia — is unforgiveable.
(Before we go on, here’s a shout-out to whoever made up the T-shirts saying: “Vick’s an Eagle, hide your beagle.”)
We seem willing to overlook grisly deaths and extreme suffering when the being in question isn’t particularly adorable.
I have seen many, many athletes, politicians and movie stars apologize for bad behavior and when it comes to believability, I’d say Vick is definitely up there in the top 10 percent. When celebrities apologize, you have to watch out for depersonalization ( “then, the gun went off and shot her”) and attempts to blame the whole thing on the angry public ( “if anyone is offended by what I said, then I regret that”). But on “60 Minutes,” Vick took responsibility for his behavior and expressed his shame for what he had done so effectively that I wondered if he had hired an apology coach. And he’s making anti-dog-fight speeches for the Humane Society of the United States.
What he did was horrible. The dogs weren’t only put in a ring to fight; the ones that failed were brutally killed. I’m not clear how much of this he did himself, but he knew what was going on, bet on the games and observed a lot of the sadism. The whole dog-fight spectacle is meant to brutalize the people who watch it, just as it did Vick, who said he began going to fights like that when he was 8.
However, all animals feel pain. But we seem willing to overlook grisly deaths and extreme suffering when the being in question isn’t particularly adorable. If we agree that it’s immoral — and illegal — for a dog to be made to suffer unnecessarily, shouldn’t that rule be applied across the board?
I was struck when Daniel Rubin, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer asked Peter Singer, the bioethicist and author of “Animal Liberation” about the Vick case. Singer said he thought people might have “rushed to judgment because he did something awful to dogs.” He pointed out that pigs suffer in the conditions where they’re being kept as they’re raised and then killed for food. But nobody cares much even though “there’s every reason to believe that pigs are as sensitive and intelligent as dogs.”
So here’s my bottom line:
Although professional athletes are not universally the smartest or best-educated guys in the universe, they have great sway over kids and should be held to a high standard. So the ones who beat up their wives or get drunk and run people over ought to get the same kind of mass repudiation the animal-abuser got.
We should channel some of our concern for dogs and cats toward factory farms that keep masses of animals in a state of permanent discomfort until they’re slaughtered.
But you do not have to invite a pig to sleep at the foot of your bed. Read More
This New York Times reporter is comparing hog farmers to the dogfighter, Michael Vick. How insulting! Hog farmers work hard everyday to make sure that their animals are well taken care of, that they have a balanced diet, clean water and protection from inclement weather. Vick intentionally hurt dogs for nothing more than entertainment. The pigs that are raised by our family farmers are respectfully harvested and then utilized as a food source that nourishes the body with important nutrients. It’s quite apparent that the reporter hasn’t even been on a hog farm. If so, the story would be written quite differently.