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I want to preface this particular post by saying I expect I may get some push back on this one.  Some people may think my views here are a little extreme, but I feel what I feel and I am not going to apologize for it.

I am a football fan.  I have been for the better part of my life.  My father and grandfather taught me the game while we watched the Redskins back in the early ’80s.  I was a huge Bears fan when I lived in Chicago and even owned a cassette of the Super Bowl Shuffle during the ’85-’86 season.  I swore off he Bears after they proceeded to dismantle the team.  These days the Carolina Panthers are my boys, and they have been since their first season, through good times and bad.  My wife on the other hand is an Eagle fan having grown up in central Pennsylvania.

Another thing I am is an animal lover.  I’ve had pets that have been close companions all my life.  I’ve shared joy and happiness with them and shed copious tears of mourning when they passed on.  The entire animal kingdom fascinates me.  I can spend hours at well run and designed aquariums and zoos just watching the animals and enjoying the grace of their forms and behaviors.

These two passions of mine were involved in a head-on collision a few years ago when it was revealed that then Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick had been financing a dog fighting ring.  As if the cruelty of dog fighting wasn’t bad enough, it was learned that the people running this ring would routinely torture and kill dogs who did not perform up to expectations.  To call the incident a tragedy is a gross understatement.  It was nothing short of monstrous.

As I’m sure everyone in America knows by now, Vick spent two years in prison, did some time  under house arrest, lost his fortunes, and is now trying to put the pieces back together by rejoining the NFL in a Philadelphia Eagle uniform.  Yesterday, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL handed down his final verdict on the punishment being imposed by the league.  Vick will be suspended until week three of the NFL season.

While, there is a great deal of argument to be had on the merits of Vick’s return to the NFL, that is not really where I want to go here.  That issue has been talked to death in every venue of sports and legal news up to now.  I don’t know that I have anything substantial to add to the argument that hasn’t been said a thousand times already.  The reason I detail the Vick situation is that it has, in my mind, shed a stark light on a fundamental moral failing that human society has had for as long as we have shared our lives with animals.

The problem as I see it is that we, as a general society, treat the animals that are part of our lives, whether they be pets or livestock, more as things than as beings.  Now, I am not someone that i running around expecting the whole world to go vegan and the like.  I am smart enough to recognize that the biology of our teeth and our digestive systems indicates that humans are omnivorous and that eating meat is a natural part of our diet.  I don’t begrudge vegetarians or vegans their lifestyle, I only ask that they respect mine as well.  This, however, does not change my feelings on the objectification of animals.

Raising of animals such as cattle or fowl for food purposes is not in and of itself objectification.  However, when you hear the stories about how some chickens are raised, or how some food animals are otherwise mistreated it should give us pause.  There is no reason a creature has to suffer through its life simply because it is intended for consumption.

By the same token, our laws, and our manner of thinking in too many cases, lead us to treat even our companion animals like dogs and cats as mere objects.  I never considered myself as having owned my dog Colby.  He was a family member, a dear friend, and a boon companion.  His recent passing was a painful blow that my wife and I still struggle with.  He was my friend, not my property.

There are countless examples of cruelty in the world.  From the dog fighting ring financed by Vick to the inhumane puppy mills or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to underground bear baiting rings.  The list seems almost endless.  Perhaps, we should take a step back and look at animals.  Look at the unconditional love a dog will give its master despite abuse.  Look at the mother robin protecting her nest, something any human mother can, I’m sure, relate to.  Look at the way that almost any animal flees at the mere hint of human presence.

What does that say about us as a species?  When are we going to look at what we have become and realize that the animals of this world aren’t our property, they are our fellow citizens of this small, blue planet?

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One Comment

  1. Danny and I actually talk about animal rights a lot. He’s pretty radical on the topic, actually, and would definitely agree with you. He sometimes says that punishment for animal abuse is never severe enough, as it takes a certain type of person to harm an animal, in particular a pet, that relies on you and trusts you completely.

    Interesting post!


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