In Harold Herzog's excellent essay "Human Morality and Animal Research: Confessions and Quandaries," Herzog asks "What were the relative roles of logic and sentimentality underlying the moral confusion" of particular uses of animals for scientific experiments. It's a necessary distinction that needs to be presented again and again when we discuss morality in human treatment of animals: what is based on emotion and what is based on reason?
In order to get at the relationship between sentimentality and logic on this issue, I've devised a question. I'm not attempting to frame this question in judgment; I'm not trying to accuse anybody or find fault with anybody. I think it may be a question that can help us get to the line between sentimentality and logic in outrage over dog fighting. Here is the question:
What would be the reaction if Michael Vick were accused of raising dogs, killing them humanely, and then eating them?
What do you think? Would the reaction be better or worse? Why? What would your reaction be? Is this reaction based on emotion or reason? Does this question relate to arguments over the morality of animal consumption? Does it relate to particular outrage over treatment of dogs?
Is this a useful question? Michael Vick is accused of forcing dogs to fight each other: would the reaction be different if he were accused of killing dogs and eating their meat?
Other bloggers have been making points similar to the one I've tried to make on this blog: in the big scheme of humanity's treatment of animals, how bad is dog fighting and why does dog fighting draw such outrage? Serious Dismay Sports explains "Why the Coverage of the Michael Vick Scandal Ticks Me Off as a Vegan and as a Woman." At Sports Law Blog you can read "Professor Darryl C. Wilson on Reaction to Michael Vick's Indictment," where Wilson talks about the outrage in context of "a country that kills dogs and other pets by the millions daily, grinds them up with other junk, and feeds them to livestock that people will ultimately eat."
My point is not that we shouldn't be outraged by dog fighting (we should), but that we should put that in context and look at other treatments of animals for which we could also direct outrage.
I don't know that we'll continue to follow the Vick dog fighting story as closely as we have thus far. For us, following sports is about the fun. We love seeing the performances on the field. We love participating in fantasy football. We love watching the games and rooting for teams and players. We love talking about the players and the games. We love collecting the sports cards.
It's the fun of the games that matter to us. We don't get much pleasure from following the legal and personal exploits of players off the field. We usually avoid these stories in order to read the fun stories about sports, and to follow commentary on the actual games on the field. We're growing weary of this Vick dog fighting story as it is growing bigger and bigger; as the NFL season approaches, we don't want the top story to be federal indictments. It's time to start hearing what's happening at training camp, what people think will happen this season, who's ready to break out and why. We want to follow football for the love of the sport, not to read as much news and commentary as possible on one player's legal issues.
And with that, you may enjoy Cold, Hard Football Facts' "Nice guys finish last? Not always." CHFF reminds us that there are a lot of very good people in the NFL, and that we should be following and praising the exploits of players like Warrick Dunn. There are too many really good people in the NFL, doing really good things, and doing really exciting things on the field, for us to get bogged down analyzing the legal and moral aspects of dog fighting.
We love football, and we want to ensure that football is this blog's primary passion for the next six months and more.
(To direct your attention to another animal rights issue when mentioning the Vick dog fighting story--as I promised--I'd ask you to consider the morality of animal testing and vivisection. Even if we concede that we should use animals for medical research--a position I'm relatively comfortable with--we should work toward only using animals when absolutely necessary, devising alternative experiments that require no use of animals, and making conditions for the animals that are used as comfortable and happy as possible--the latter an argument Jane Goodall makes particularly well in "A Plea for the Chimps").