Senator Byrd’s Impassioned, Troubling Speech About Dogfighting
Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) loves cats and dogs. I won’t deny that. But his presentation of the dogfighting issue, for me, is exactly what’s wrong with animal welfare. Watch his speech and you’ll notice that it appears the reason dogfighting is so terrible is because dogs give us so much. It’s cruel because they’re of use to us, and repaying them by making them fight to the death (or worse) is atrocious.
Let’s deconstruct. Byrd says:
- "The mere petting of these social creatures can lower blood pressure in humans."
- "The affection that a dog provides is unlimited, unqualified, and unconditional."
- "Dogs protect us, assist those of us with afflictions, and provide hours, hours, hours of enjoyable companionship."
- Something about being happy that "if the people allegedly involved are found guilty, they’ll have to answer to our judicial system. . . and may God help their souls!"
- "The hottest places in hell are reserved for the sick and brutal people who hold God’s creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt."
- And my personal favorite: "One is left wondering: Who are the real animals: the creatures inside or outside the ring?"
Look, I know the 89-year old Senator means well. But behind his impassioned words is a spectacularly speciesist message that’s very, very troubling.
- Dogs are worthy of our care and sympathy, largely because of reciprocity. They give us health benefits, companionship, protection, love and joy, therefore we owe them kindness in return.
People who willingly harm God’s creatures are evil and going to hell. I ask Senator Byrd, are cows not God’s creatures? What about fish? Chickens? People willingly harm farmed animals, by the billions and billions, and I don’t hear him being upset about that. They may not be bred to kill each other, but they are bred to live a torturous existence and be brutally killed for the enjoyment of their delectable flesh. Might God help the souls of the farmers who stuff thousands of chickens in sheds and sell their flesh and eggs at a premium with "cage-free" stamped on the packages? What about truly free-range farms, where the farmers love and care for the animals, while stealing their reproductive control, taking their eggs and milk, and building trust only so they can betray that trust and kill them for profit? Should we not pray for their souls, too?
Dogfighting is hideous, yes. And fortunately we have a law that supposedly is going to dispense some kind of justice and punishment. We’ll see.
To everyone enraged about animal cruelty, I ask: what’s in your refrigerator? What’s in your closet? What’s in your car? I’m not sure Michael Vick is that much more "sick and brutal" than anyone else who uses animals for food, clothing or sport. Clearly, culturally, dogfighting is fine with him. For much of the country it isn’t fine, as dogs hold a special place in the culture of many Americans. Not so special that they shouldn’t be used in potentially "life-saving" medical research, though, which I find disturbing. So some uses of dogs are horrible, yet others might be horrible yet they’re more socially acceptable.
Finally, Senator Byrd provides an answer to all of my queries with:
- "One is left wondering: Who are the real animals: the creatures inside or outside the ring?"
Implicit in that profoundly-unfortunate query is his definition of animals as cruel, brutal, lacking in conscience and vicious, right? And that humans who fight dogs have become just like dogs: cruel, brutal, lacking in conscience and vicious, right? So then dogs, who are protective, loving, and lower the blood pressure of people through their mere petting, are really behaving like people? This is absurd. It may have made for a dramatic moment on the Senate floor, but it’s rife with problematic assertions and hypocrisy.
When Senator Byrd realizes that though 60 odd dogs were treated brutally and are likely to be euthanized while over 10,000,000,000 are treated brutally only to be slaughtered, and he damns the people responsible for the latter to the hottest place in hell, I’ll be impressed with his commitment to "God’s creatures."