Monday, July 23, 2007

More on Dogfighting and Animal Cruelty

We received this comment on the topic of Michael Vick and his bad dog stewardship:

The question isn't why we protect animals and children. It's why haven't we? Since the mid to late 1990's dog fighting (to include dog on on on cat ect ect) has grown by 300%. And more and more, becoming a family event. The attention getter for this specific incident by the higher authorities was the money exchanges. Animal torture with gambling and drugs to enhance the serial abusive mindset and, here we are with yet another so called athletic hero setting example for a very large culture of people.

I think that humans have a finite capacity for absorbing ugliness. Once our "ugly" bank is full, it's hard to embrace yet another thing that we should feel compassion about. Child labor, AIDS babies in Africa, political prisoners at Guantanamo, Iraqi villagers (and American soldiers) caught up in bloody civil war...our bank is full. It takes some high profile scandal to make most of us think, "Oh, yeah. There's more. There are still people who think animal cruelty can be entertainment."

In a way, Michael Vick and his dogs have been a handy teaching tool. He put this week's atrocity on the map by being a respected athlete, and simultaneously engaging in a cruel and barbaric activity for amusement. I don't have any illusions that dogfighting and animal cruelty will stay front and center in the news, but I suspect it might get more people thinking and talking about the subject. I know that's been the case for me. And thinking about something is frequently a stepping stone to actually doing something.

So maybe it takes a public slap upside the head to shift X units of our attention from one affront to our humanity to the next. I don't have any idea how you actually keep people engaged. Remember how whipped up we were about starving children in Africa twenty years ago? Michael Jackson We Are The World-ing on the radio, news stories about the history of politically-induced famine, pictures of UNICEF workers passing out gruel to round-bellied children, celebrities beseeching, money flowing... right up until the time that the phrase "compassion fatigue" caught on, and our attention drifted away, to rest up for the next heart-wrenching story of unspeakable inhumanity. It's hard to stay focused when another Great Tragedy is right around the corner, clamoring for our attention.

Which, by the way, is probably why I'm so intrigued by one of my favorite blogs, "Axis of Evel Kneivel", subtitled Another day, another pointless atrocity. He starkly drives home the point that heinous cruelty has always been around, in various degrees of heinousness.

Maybe the trick to achieving change on a large scale isn't just to point out the things that seem so obviously wrong, but to see if we can create a consensus about them. We mostly eschew child labor (except for the dishes...nice try Katie), slavery, domestic violence, and miscegenation laws...but it took many years of debate. The majority of Americans oppose animal cruelty, but we don't yet agree on what the definition of "animal cruelty" looks like. This is our chance to have that conversation.

Quick...before we move on to the next Horrible Thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... I too late? I am only as significant to the human race as is a drop of water to the ocean. Why do we feel a need to always fix something? Don't we have enough to contend with? Do we never put things into perspective? We get such a charge out of standing up against the mutilation of little girls over in those third worlds that we never realize that female circumcision might just be a right of passage that gets them tickets into the choice of their worlds. We never think for a second that preventing such things might just be as good as a death sentence for those people. Same goes for foot binding that went on for centuries with the women in China--it increased their value as women in a society that placed absolutely no value on women at all in the family or society. So what does this have to do with Dog fighting in our society you might ask? Dog fighting is a reality that just is. You and I might think its cruel but by the standards of the majority of the rest of the world, it is a normal and respected sport. Do we or should we want to change the entire world to one that is acceptable to only our own views? Gotta give the devil his due... :)