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On Vegan Athletes and Vick’s Dogs

Over Thanksgiving a client of my husband’s started a conversation about Michael Vick’s dogs. She was appalled that they were going to Best Friends and other places to be rehabilitated and adopted out. When I asked what was so upsetting to her, she replied that "all this money" (vague, I know) "is gonna be spent on these dogs who might not be able to be rehabilitated, when it could’ve gone to care for animals whose chances are much better."

It was a sort of fiscal responsibility argument, I guess, but she was operating under several misconceptions, one of which was the origin of the money. It should be coming from the nearly $1 million Vick was ordered to pay in restitution for the care of the dogs (although it will probably cost more).

Here’s an update on the 22 of Vick’s dogs who were given to Best Friends to rehabilitate. They are now known as the Vicktory dogs (boy that was a gimme). Twenty one of dogs given to Best Friends are considered sanctuary dogs, and one was determined to be highly adoptable. The stipend awarded for their care was $388,775.

What I was most impressed with was that despite PeTA and HSUS basically dooming them to death, Best Friends always stood by the dogs as victims, with their general counsel filing a legal brief detailing assessment and rehabilitation. The judge in the case followed many points in the brief and appointed someone to represent the interest of the dogs, and that person recommended 22 be placed with Best Friends.

Next, and e-mail the story to all the football-lovin’, beer-guzzlin’, hot dog-eatin’ guys in your life, is the story of NFL star Tony Gonzalez, The 247 lb. Vegan. With the Super Bowl around the corner (right? isn’t it? Don’t ask me who’s playing, though), there’s no better opportunity for vegan education than reminded people (or telling them for the first time), that though there are plenty of endurance athletes who are vegans, there are also football players, basketball players (Atlanta Hawks’ Salim Stoudamire is one I know by name), Ultimate Fighting Champ Mac Danzig, and of course, Martina Navratilova.

Here’s what was annoying:

It’s fine to be a vegan, says sports nutritionist and dietician Nancy Clark, if you’re willing to work at it. "It’s harder to get calcium, harder to get protein, harder to get Vitamin D, harder to get iron," she says. "You have to be committed."

I don’t know about you, but I run outside four times a week, mow my lawn once a week, and garden (aka, pull weeds), and I don’t even think about Vitamin D. Harder to get iron? Harder to get protein? How is this woman a dietician? How difficult is it to eat plants rather than animals? But I digress.

Okay, one more annoying tidbit:

The Chiefs’ team nutritionist, Mitzi Dulan, a former vegetarian athlete, did not believe that was enough. With the team’s prospects and Mr. Gonzalez’s legacy at stake, she persuaded the tight-end to incorporate small amounts of meat into his plant diet. Just no beef, pork or shellfish, he said; only a few servings of fish and chicken a week.

Riddle me this, Batman, what do you call a man who eats fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables? A vegan? No. An omnivore.

Well, there’s always Pamela Anderson to help convince the guys . . .

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. I've already received some backlash for calling this article positive overall, partly because the article is about strict vegetarianism (dietary veganism), not about "real" veganism. Fair enough. I still think it's positive overall.

    Though, I was confused by the description of him as vegan, since clearly he is only eating a plant-based diet. While annoying, it's not a torpedo. For anyone confused about whether he was actually persuaded to loosen his vegan approach, this dietary comparison seems to make it pretty clear:

    January 26, 2008
  2. Scott Jurek is the record holder and consecutive seven-time champion of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, two-time champion of the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 mile race from Death Valley to high on Mt. Whitney in California), two-time champion of Spartathalon, and course record holder and two-time champion of the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run. Scott has been vegan since 1999 and he considered his vegan diet one of the contributing factors to his amazing success. His quick recovery time from his vegan diet allows him to train harder and run more races per year.

    Carl Lewis was vegan when he dominated the world in the sprint distances, and he was vegan specifically BECAUSE he wanted to maximize his performance.

    Personally, I’m a mountain climber, ski mountaineer, and long distance runner and engaged in those activities a long time before going vegetarian or vegan. Since going vegan over 4 years ago, my performance has increased. I believe that avoiding dairy products in particular has allowed me to avoid much lactic acid build-up, leading to much quicker recoveries after long days climbing or running. Where it used to take two or three days to recover from a 10-hour day on a mountain, I now recover in one day as a vegan.

    As a vegan, I also performed beyond my expectations a few years ago at the Breckenridge Crest Mountain Marathon – a rugged 25.5 mile trail race starting at 9,600 feet elevation with ups and downs and a high point at 12,500 feet and a total vertical gain of 5,500 feet (a little over a mile of vertical gain). I’m certainly no Scott Jurek, but I did perform better than I would have if I was not vegan in training for and running that marathon.

    Finally, I find it very easy to get vitamin D, calcium, protein, and iron on a vegan diet. Apparently, Nancy Clark just doesn’t know much about actually being vegan. It seems like she just knows what she has read about it.

    January 26, 2008
  3. Tiare #

    I couldn't agree with you more about the annoyance of the way the article was written, making a vegan lifestyle look as if its the hardest thing a person could do. i am however glad that he took the time to try and become a dietary vegan, i just wish that the writer and the people whom the writer quoted, would have choosen their words a little better or at least researched more into how easy it could be. i think personally, people are too lazy to learn new ways of living, so they try to come up with excuses not to change their lifestyles of what they would consider a ''normal way of life''. hopefully in the future this outlook will change.

    January 26, 2008
  4. kim #

    Hi Mary-

    You could provide a link showing where you got the information about "PeTA and HSUS basically dooming them to death." Thanks.

    January 27, 2008
  5. Hi Kim,

    I the Best Friends article I link to is the following:
    A spokeswoman from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called them “ticking time bombs,” and said that “rehabilitating fighting dogs is not in the cards.”

    The Humane Society of the United States agreed with PETA. “Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country,” HSUS president and chief executive officer Wayne Pacelle told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in early August. “Hundreds of thousands of less-violent pit bulls, who are better candidates to be rehabilitated, are being put down. The fate of these dogs will be up to the government, but we have recommended to them, and believe, they will be eventually put down.”

    The government ignored HSUS’s recommendation.


    In addition, last August I wrote about the NPR interview with Wayne Pacelle (, which sounds like he either has the dogs or has something to do with them. The dogs were allegedly days away from being euthanized. Here's the interview.

    Then there's the reality that PeTA has no problem killing healthy animals who weren't trained to kill each other. (Although check out their response to their 97% kill rate here: If it were up to HSUS and PeTA, the dogs wouldn't have had a chance.

    January 27, 2008
  6. kim #

    Thanks Mary. Looks like they need to explain how they got is so wrong.

    January 27, 2008
  7. Yeah, Kim.

    I was so confused back in the summer with all the groups using the Vick case as an opportunity to raise funds (although they say they didn't. And Best Friends didn't as far as I know. Meanwhile, I received at least one fundraising e-mail from the ASPCA, HSUS and PeTA that mentioned dogfighting and the Vick case and as far as I know only the ASPCA was actually involved in the case. ). It appears that we have the American (and probably international) public to thank for speaking up and influencing the fate of the dogs. I guess this is one instance when all of our calls and letters made a big difference, and possibly were responsible for dozens of dogs getting another chance.

    January 27, 2008

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