Hypocrisy on cruelty, and the album

Just a quick link today, Diane.  ESPN Page 2’s Gregg Easterbrook (a.k.a. Tuesday Morning Quarterback) is an interesting fellow.  He is an avowed Christian but loves science.  He writes about football for a living but he also likes to devote column inches to explaining plot holes in “Star Trek” episodes.  And he works for what is basically a conservative medium (sports media), but interrupted his column today with this thoughtful breakdown of the hypocrisy in the public reaction to Michael Vick’s indictment and plea agreement.  Don’t read the football parts if you don’t want to, but do treat yourself to an intelligent omnivore making a pretty good argument for vegetarianism (or something closer to it than not, anyway).  You have to scroll down to the section titled “Atlanta Falcons.”  Or just look for the picture of the hot, bosomy cheerleader.  Whoever said that huge bosoms and vegeterianism didn’t go hand in hand?

In unrelated news, I am inches from finishing the Sizzla/spaghetti western mix project I’ve been working on.  Here’s the cover (click to embiggen):

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Gotta love Photoshop, the bestest piece of software there is.  When I finishing mastering this thing I’ll probably throw a track or two up here.  Or the whole thing, ’cause I’m generous.

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9 Responses to Hypocrisy on cruelty, and the album

  1. JimPanzee says:

    I am not at all impressed with Mr. Easterbrook’s argument. For one he starts his essay with the tired and specious argument that “animals fight in nature.” I understand that he is contrasting natural fighting human additions to dogfights, but even if humans didn’t sharpen the dog’s teeth or starve them, their involvement as spectators and gamblers is what makes it disgusting _and_ illegal. To imply that the only difference between a fight in nature and a orchestrated dogfight is to mislead the reader.

    The thrust of his article is that Vick’s punishment is overkill. One to two years imprisonment (less than half the maximum sentence for the crime) is not overkill and Easterbrook even says himself, “Racketeering can lead to jail terms even for nonviolent first-time offenders not involved with drug sales, such as Vick.”

    So what’s the overkill? The 75 million in once and future payments? According to Easterbrook, yes. Would I have lost 75 million if I was a convicted dog-killer? No. So it does seem like overkill, but Easterbrook fails to emphasize the reason that Vick will lose so much is because that’s what he was paid….that was what he (presumably) cost the people that paid him that money by violating his contract (by gambling, breaking the law, and being an all-around disgusting moron). Seventy-five million is not his court-ordered recompense as part of the criminal proceedings. It is what he will lose to the NFL and his endorsers as part of separate civil proceedings. It is, in other words, exactly the right amount of money this crime cost his employers and therefore is not overkill but is exactly the right level of punishment…that is…not for violating the law but for breaching his contract. Other convicted dogkillers would be lucky to, for one day, enjoy the kind of wealth Vick had and wasted if only for the time of reckoning when they would be forced to pay it back.

    And furthermore, the fact that some people do get away with animal cruelty, legal or illegal, is no reason that Vick should get away with his. He was caught and convicted of one of the few animal welfare laws we have. But the argument he presents is not whether Vick was moral in his actions or that we are moral in ours. His essay is about whether or not his punishment is overkill. He seems to be arguing, although unclearly, that if the law allows some animal cruelty then it should allow all of it…and therefore Vick’s 1-2 years and his lost 75 million are overkill. But that doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, there are plenty of examples of acts being illegal when similar acts are not. Like drug use. Cigarettes and booze: yes. Marijuana and heroin, no. Sometimes the legal logic that supports those laws is faulty. Sometimes, it’s not.

    And in for the argument that Vick doesn’t deserve the public decrying because we are all complicit in acts of animal cruelty he errs again. His overgeneralization of our dietary habits aside (and not to mention that legimitate animal rights activists, a bastion of vegetarians if ever there were any, led the charge here) he makes another illogical comparison that unfairly weights his argument. Simply, even if animal slaughtering is cruel there is still a difference between slaughtering animals for food and slaughtering animals for entertainment…in the similar (but not identical) way that having sex is (generally) legal but prostitution is not.

  2. I agree with your points about the “punishment of Vick being overkill” argument. That wasn’t the part that I found interesting; and I think, as you suggest, that his argument here is wrong – he’s going more off of his gut feeling about it than anything else. There is an element of hypocrisy in the public reaction to the charges, but that doesn’t = Vick’s punishment is too great. I’m not a fan of those types of arguments – they fail right out of the gate.

    What interests me more here is the large middle section that deals with the lack of reform (and general lack of interest, to the point that it seems like we deliberately turn a blind eye) for the cruelty of the meat business. It is situated in an argument about how Vick is being overly punished, but Easterbrook seems to conclude that there should be more punishment for (or at least legal reform of) cruel methods of killing in the industry. And whether I think Vick’s punishment is out of proportion or not, I definitely agree with this as a separate conclusion, and find it interesting that it popped up in a football column… in so far as football is most traditionally a red state and red meat type of activity.

  3. Also wanted to mention: I think something Easterbrook is guilty of here is conflating several points that are related, but should be kept mostly separate. In the first part where he talks about the excessive punishment of Vick, what he’s actually talking about is three things: the general public and media reaction to the charges (which was negative on all fronts, and not just from the PETA/vegetarian/animal welfare crowd); the result of the legal process; and the suspension handed down by the NFL There is some cross-pollination between these concepts – mainly since public opinion informs law in many cases, and certainly informs how the NFL punishes its miscreant players – but an ideal argument would approach them separately, at least to start. Easterbrook handles them both in passing and as if they are all one and the same, when clearly they are not.

    I don’t want to get into an in-depth review of all three of these points. Hopefully it will suffice to say that NFL policy is very much subject to the whims of the commissioner as influenced by public outcry and the perceived fiscal bottom line, and therefore should not surprise anyone as being extremely arbitrary (and “hypocritical” as a result – if you can even talk about hypocrisy in an arena clearly not governed by morality). The judgement of the law has been well-addressed by Jim above. Where I think Easterbrook has a leg to stand on is in the media and public reaction to the charges, which does smack of hypocrisy – as does the typical response you’d get if you brought up eating a dog or a horse to a guy halfway through a Big Mac. These reactions are most commonly emotional/moral and not at all legalistic, and as such, it’s worth exploring whether we should be having the same reaction to the way chickens are processed for food, or the way circus animals are treated, etc.

  4. I didn’t know Gregg Easterbrooke was a vegetarian. That just raised my level of respect for him….

    If there is anything good about the Michael Vick story, it is that there is an emerging increased awareness about animal cruelty and animal fighting. There is so much anger about this issue. If we channel it into a positive direction, hopefully, something good can come of it. However…

    I watched Vick’s public apology with my little son who USED TO wear Michael Vick jerseys to school. It is disturbing to think a certain percentage of the population is honestly going to be swayed by Michael Vick’s “enlightenment” carefully crafted by his overpaid attorneys. Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe a man who has been allegedly torturing animals since childhood coincidentally has a religious epiphany as a result of getting caught and losing his job. I hope I am wrong.

    I think it is a sad commentary that we, as a culture, are using the Vick story to compare “What’s worse?” “What’s worse”, we ask, “carelessly fathering illegitimate children, or dogfighting?”. “Dogfighting or gambling?” “Dogfighting or rape?” “Dogfighting or racism?” “Dogfighting or hateful nationalism?” “Dogfighting or (fill in the blank)….?” The comparisons to dogfighting have been endless.

    Dogfighting is one more piece of evidence our country is in need of a spiritual transformation (please note I said spiritual and not necessarily religious). Animals are sentient beings – they feel pain, and they suffer, just like we do. They are not more important, or less important than human beings, but like human beings, they are important, too.

    Dogfighting pits one dog against another until one of them dies. The survivor gets his flesh torn off, ears ripped off, eyes pulled out, etc., and the reward for being “a winner” is to writhe in pain until the next fight. Enough said. The pictures make my flesh crawl. The losers are tortured, beaten, starved, electrocuted or drowned. For what? Because these poor creatures were unlucky enough to be born a dog!

    Every major faith teaches its followers to be responsible stewards of animals and the Earth. Please help us get the word out that caring for animals, just like caring for people, is an important part of just being a decent person and citizen. If we make this a priority, there will be no more dogfighting horror stories, and no more pointless comparisons of evils. Let us all rise, together, to be better people than we are today, shall we?

    Chaplain Nancy Cronk
    Founder, http://www.AnimalChaplains.com

  5. To clarify, Easterbrook is not a vegetarian, but he makes an argument in favor of being one here – and more or less says outright that vegetarianism is the morally superior choice of diet, due to the way animals are treated in the meat industry.

  6. gin rickey says:

    Jim – even if there is “… a difference between slaughtering animals for food and slaughtering animals for entertainment” that does not completely absolve one if he finds it cruel for a cow to be “hit in the head with a powerful piston” as Easterbrook states.

    The point he makes in that section is: You are contradictory if you denounce dogfighting and eat meat (on some level). Although his argument is “unfairly weighted” it still stings me. Your response didn’t remove that sting of my own contradictions.

    The are several ways I see out of this (feel free to combine):
    • You find the treatment of animals for food to not be cruel
    • You don’t participate in it (not eating meat, only eating meat that was killed in a way you didn’t find cruel, etc)
    • You consider it a necessary cruelty
    • You’re comfortable with the occasional contradiction in your own life
    • You don’t denounce Michael Vick (or dogfighting)

    I like puppys more than cows.

  7. JimPanzee says:

    Dale: You’re right, that part is interesting.

    Gin R: You are also right. You are not absolved. Continue eating your sin meat at the risk of your salvation. I do not, I repeat, do not recommend either a cessation of your Vick denunciations or picking up intramural dogfighting.

  8. That monkey with a gun is one of my favorite pictures of anything doing anything.

  9. JimPanzee says:

    ¡La revolución continua siempre!

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