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Does Vick Deserve a Second Chance?

Do you agree with the New York Times' William C. Rhoden in "The Case for a Second Chance for Michael Vick?" And I'm not just referring to Vick here.

Let's deconstruct the concept:

  • Do you think that people who have spent their lives harming animals by eating them, just like I did and much of my family still does, deserve a second chance?
  • Is fighting and killing dogs the same thing?
  • Is Vick a special kind of creep for what he did?
  • Is what he did like hunting?
  • Like skinning a mink?
  • Like clubbing a seal to death?
  • Like "producing" foie gras?
  • Like eating foie gras?
  • Is it the dogs that are at issue? If they were pigs, would anyone care?

Do you have a personal spectrum of use and abuse or some kind of line in the sand that makes a certain use really deplorable? Do you distinguish at all among the various uses, or are they all as bad as the next in your mind?

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Michael Vick is no different from the average consumer of animal products. I think the best thing that could possibly come out of the Vick fiasco is that 99% of our society see its hypocrisy and moral schizophrenia. Alas, most people have a real hard time lookin' in the mirror when it comes to these things. To everyone who's not already vegan as a minimum standard of decency (not a maximum standard of purity): Learn about what happens in slaughterhouses; learn about what happens to the innocent beings whose body parts or fluids end up on your plate; learn how to go vegan – there are dozens of excellent vegan food blogs with great recipes. Go vegan and eliminate the similarities between yourself and Vick.

    May 17, 2009
  2. To me, all uses are about the same.

    I completely agree that a vegan lifestyle is a minimum standard of decency, not a place to draw the line and then stop.

    What do you mean by deserving a second chance? I don't see any point in looking down on people for past behavior (unless their present behavior is the same!), but I do think it's important to hold people accountable once they know better, or should know better, but continue to contribute directly to animal harm.

    May 17, 2009
  3. I don't think it's about whether he *deserves* a second chance, it's about whether a second chance would be *effective* — would he repent and stop dog fighting, or would he relapse (and relatedly, would giving him a second chance make other dog fighters feel like they might as well go ahead and keep doing it).

    And whether a second chance would be effective is not about how deplorable his actions were, it's about his mental state at the time of the act and now. I don't know much about Vick's particular case, but I think it's reasonable to imagine that the mental state involved in dog fighting, which is illegal and widely understood to be immoral in our society, is different from the one involved in eating meat or many kinds of hunting, which are legal and widely regarded as morally neutral. It's less likely that someone would reform after knowingly (actually knowingly, not you-oughta-knowingly) doing something bad than after unknowingly doing something that happens to actually be bad.

    May 17, 2009
  4. I don't have any serious opinions about the NFL at all, let alone what they should do about people who break the law or people who abuse animals.

    I do however think virtually everyone deserves a second chance. I also think everyone (including animals) deserves safety from dangerous people. And I think it makes some sense to sacrifice some prominent people's liberty in order to make a strong statement about society and morality. But where all the lines get drawn and how to make sure those ideas work more with each other than against… I don't know.

    May 17, 2009
  5. I think that any form of animal use where the animals are made to fight each other is worse than other forms where we simply kill them. In my mind, the fighting makes the animal less of an innocent victim, and that loss of innocence can be laid at our door, compounding the immorality of the killing already laid at our door.

    As for second chances, I hesitate to say someone should lose their job if they have fulfilled the sentence imposed on them by the court system. None of us can truly judge another's contrition.

    Lastly, I agree with Stentor, above, saying "it's reasonable to imagine that the mental state involved in dog fighting, which is illegal and widely understood to be immoral in our society, is different from the one involved in eating meat or many kinds of hunting, which are legal and widely regarded as morally neutral."

    May 17, 2009
  6. yovegan #

    The real story here is that there is too much emphasis being placed on one animal… the human one. Whether or not Mr Vick gets his job back is all down to social hypocrisy in line with media coverage. I don't care about him, he can speak and fight for himself.
    All exploitation, torture and killing of non-human animals for human uses is deplorable and unnecessary. I agree with everything Dan has said.
    There are no degrees of acceptable exploitation, torture, or killing – no humane way to do any of these things… even when they are legal, it is always wrong. Thinking there is any difference between those who enjoy dogfighting and those who enjoy a milkshake or a frozen yogurt is a very blind moral standpoint.

    May 18, 2009
  7. Dan #

    How something is 'regarded' in any given society has absolutely nothing to do with its morality.

    May 18, 2009
  8. I can certainly understand the ideas behind "vegan lifestyle is a minimum standard of decency" but I also feel this view can be limiting where there are good farmers that treat their cows, sheep, goats and chickens with more than humane conditions, enriched happy environments, respect, integrity, healthy and not in a state of continual pregnancy. I feel that as a consumer it is my responsibility to educate myself before purchasing goods. I do not want to support abuse of animals but do consume milk, cheese and eggs and know where they come from so that I can do so in good conscience.

    In Vick's case, anyone that gains pleasure on behalf of an animal suffering should endure the suffering that they were/are responsible for. After that, if he can still play in the NFL, go for it (I'm assuming he would not be able to do so.) I think it is a shame that the NFL does not promote morality when supporting criminals and allowing them to participate in the sport. Like it or not, these are family icons and role models for mainstream society. It seems to me that the more people see criminals not being held accountable for their own actions, the more likely they will continue to be desensitized and engage in equally disgraceful and inhumane behaviour.

    May 19, 2009
  9. "I do not want to support abuse of animals but do consume milk, cheese and eggs and know where they come from so that I can do so in good conscience."

    Do you consider unnecessary death "abuse"? Because, you know, no matter how flowery-nice the free range organic farm is that you get your dairy and eggs from is, those animals are still going to have their throats slit and be sold for meat when they're no longer financially beneficial to the farmer.

    Sorry to be blunt, but I think too many people are kidding themselves about eating dairy and eggs with "good conscience." It may be a different set of blinders you're wearing comparing to the average consumer, but they're still blinders.

    May 19, 2009
  10. Beaelliott #

    It's true that entertainment that involves violence and obvious bloodlust are much more difficult to criticize when they involve traditional "food animals", as in cockfighting or bullfighting. After all in spectators minds these animals were meant for the plate anyway. How they get there offends only a few.

    I think holding Vick as an example of what society won't tolerate just furthers a speciesist view. It helps numb meat eaters of crimes committed as a matter of routine. I'm all for forgive and forget… if Vick were to go vegan. For then, he surely will have cured his thirst for brutality. Other than that, he's just a typical law breaker, whose main lesson is paying a fine… for an arbitrary infraction.

    If someone is presented a reasonable argument that dog fighting, eating animals, wearing minks, etc. is wrong but chooses to ignore the information – then "no", there is no second chance. Second chances are earned only when there is appropriate change in behavior. My line in the sand isn't limited to a particular use of an animal but is drawn at a person's deliberate dismissal of the harm done… whether they choose to think or not.

    May 19, 2009
  11. Dan #

    Thank you, Ryan.

    Stephanie, they all end up in the same slaughterhouse. All the male chicks are discarded, often cruelly, in all egg operations. I could go on and on. But really, you should look into the 'humane' industry yourself.

    If you really believe that "anyone that gains pleasure on behalf of an animal suffering should endure the suffering that they were/are responsible for", do you really believe you should be treated as a thing, milked, etc, and then, after you're "used up", sent to slaughter? That's what logically results from your statement. In the end, the moral difference between Vick and consumers of 'humane' animal products is trivial.

    Quite honestly, I think you should go vegan. But if you don't, you should purchase your milk, cheese, and eggs from wherever you can purchase them cheapest, because there is no such thing as 'humane' animal products.

    May 19, 2009
  12. Sorry, I didn't mean to double post, but I just ran into this and thought it would be interesting to see how a representative of animal agriculture views Vick's behavior:
    "How about the cattle working dogs that are born with the natural desire and further trained to chase cows, biting them on the legs and risking a swift kick to the head. How humane can that possibly be in the eyes of these radicals? My point is that all of these actions, including dog fighting, are natural behaviors of dogs. Yet the public outcry is coming because Vick has not been treating his dog like a kid."

    Trent Loos is closely affiliated with CCF and that says it all…

    And I'm glad Ryan spoke up first… about "good conscience" dairy and eggs. It struck me as impossible when I read Stephanie's comment. I think "eggs" might be the exception. But so many conditions would have to be met to fly without objection. And even so, the best conditions one could procure eggs: "free range", rescued hens – that are pets (who would never be killed) might be a best case scenario. But even the existence of these birds/eggs had a beginning rooted in exploitation.

    But unlike eggs which are expelled without choice by a chicken… milk must directly be "taken". I just don't see how this secretion is gotten without harm to the calf it was intended for… So many conditions would have to be met here too to validate "no harm"… If it was a rescued cow… who lost her calf… who was in pain from not nursing… and who also would never be killed (or mated) even after her milk dried. Maybe then – but still, where did she come from originally? No doubt a result of some form of exploitation.

    There are so many hoops to jump through to make eggs/cows milk "less" unethical… And in the long run – neither are necessary, nor are they healthy. So why all the fancy dancing to do such?

    May 19, 2009
  13. Dan #

    Also Bea, chickens in the wild and in sanctuaries, such as Peaceful Prairie, eat the vast majority their own eggs (they lay one a day in their prime), replenishing the nutrients they lose in producing them. When humans take the eggs, the hens become malnourished. Some hens in free-range production, already weak from losing so many nutrients, die in the 10-14 day starvation process called “forced molting” (an imitation of winter-spring transition to get about 6 months more production from hens.

    May 19, 2009
  14. Hoofenhoffer #

    I thought Vick should have received a harsher sentence at the time he was convicted. Then as time went on, I realized there was no difference between endorsing dog fighting and eating a piece of meat (cruelty and oppression is inherent in both actions).

    But lately, I get this vague sense that Vick's indictment is a consequence and representation of an intersection of oppressions. Just a small example and symptom of an oppressive socio-economic structure that dictates, influences, and pervades all aspects of the lives of beings.

    We can choose to only buy animal-free products. We can influence one or more people to become vegan and swap recipes. We can shut down a factory farm. We can speak out against welfarism. Etc.

    But none of these things are the root of the problem. They are simply actions that correct some of the symptoms of the overarching system.

    The ultimate root of the problem is not about you, me, or Vick and how any one of us individually chooses to treat or view animals. Vick's imprisonment (or whether or not he is given – or deserves – a "second chance") is inconsequential. I used to believe that it would simply take a certain accumulation of individuals switching to veganism to turn around the ills of animal exploitation. Now I believe the problem goes deeper than that – insidiously deeper.

    David Nibert's book Animal Rights/Human Rights is the first book that I have read in a long time that has given me an enlightening perspective on the origins and root of why humans treat others so horribly. I have for some time been pondering the bigger picture of exploitation/oppression and feel almost upset that I am only getting around to reading Nibert's works now (the book was published in 2002, and I was only able to recently acquire it through an interlibrary loan). Bob Torres' book Making a Killing touches on (and repeats) some of the socio-economic issues that Nibert originally covered, but Nibert authentically hits the home run. His writing is provoking fresh new thoughts in my mind – I'm still processing many of them.

    But as I think about Michael Vick's situation now, I look beyond him being just a famous football player who intentionally hurt and killed dogs. And though it doesn't excuse his behavior, I also see him as a man who is (just like you and me) a victim of a culture that is formed and perpetuated through the greed and gain of the rich/powerful who dictate the fate of those oppressed. Here you have a man of color who grew up in the projects and went on to become famous through playing sports (mindless diversion for the masses) and make millions of dollars by selling himself as a product through endorsements with Nike, Kraft, Coca-Cola (and other mega-corporations). After Vick pleaded guilty, the latter two companies let their contracts with him expire and Nike suspended their contract (I have read that at this point all of Vick's former contracts have been terminated). The sick irony. These companies have doled out more oppression around the world than is almost conceivable. Yet, they feel smugly justified in disassociating themselves with one man of color who promoted dog fighting. Same thing happened with Kobe Bryant – mega-corporations pulled their contracts after he was charged with rape. While these companies destroy the many lives of humans and other animals around the globe, unapologetically exploiting anything and anyone to put more money into the pockets of the rich, THEY get to decide that what Vick did was wrong and inexcusable? And treat him as if he is untouchable? It's mind blowing. And my point is not that what Vick did should be excused – what he did was horrible. But while the average American Joe puts all his focus on vilifying one man for dog fighting, the chicken sandwich with melted Kraft cheese he's chowing down, as well as the Coca Cola he is drinking, is courtesy of companies that are involved in exploitation on massive levels. Those who not only cause and perpetuate oppression for profit, also get to play God and decide who is good and who is evil as if they themselves are blameless and unaccountable.

    This business of oppression is so seemingly inextricably complicated and wrapped up tightly in the reigning socio-economic system that it's going to take something far bigger than all the usual routes of vegan advocacy(combined or not) to overcome it. I'm starting to believe that if the world ever miraculously goes totally vegan (before we wipe ourselves out), the cause of it will have had nothing to do directly with the good intentions and tireless works of the veganism/animal rights movement itself. There will probably be a combination of many other economic, political, and/or environmental factors and forces driving the outcome (poverty and the ever increasing gap between rich and poor; famine; depletion/pollution of natural resources; overpopulation; the uprising of the restless natives to develop a better, more egalitarian alternative to capitalism – the mother of all current oppression).

    If you're still focusing the blame of the individual's hypocrisy/moral schizophrenia for the plight of animals you're putting on another set of blinders to the bigger picture.

    May 19, 2009
  15. Brandon Becker #

    I too was greatly affected by Nibert's Animal Rights/Human Rights when I read it earlier this year. Absolutely brilliant book.

    If anyone is interested in learning about Nibert's perspective, but does not have time to read the book right now, check out this interview:

    May 21, 2009

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