[Atlanta Journal Constitution - opinion]
As a strong advocate of animal welfare, I despise dogfighting. I have
worked in dog rescue for many years, and know firsthand that pit bulls
are among the sweetest, most devoted animals on earth. The pit bulls
used in the dogfighting ring operated from property owned by Atlanta
Falcons star Michael Vick deserved a far better life.
Yet, I find what's happening with Vick, who pleaded guilty Monday to a
felony charge, alarming.
We need to face the fact that dog fighting is not the only "sport"
that abuses animals. Cruelty also occurs in rodeos, horse and dog
racing (all of which mistreat animals and often kill them when no
longer useful). There are also millions of dogs and cats we put to
death in "shelters" across the country because they lack a home, and
billions of creatures we torture in factory farms for our food.
Dogfighting (and cock fighting) used to be "sports" enjoyed by the
upper classes in the United States and were, then, perfectly legal.
In the last 50 years, however, they have become the domain mostly of
blacks, Latinos and poor whites -- and were ruled illegal. Now, while
white middle and upper classes continue to watch horses run to the
point of exhaustion and risk breaking their legs, they regard
dogfighting as something that only low-class "thugs and drug dealers"
find entertaining. Indeed, a reading of many of the Vick news stories
indicts him and his friends as much for being involved in hip-hop
subculture as for fighting dogs. Several proponents of animal rights
have used the Vick case to draw attention to the widespread abuse of
animals, but they are primarily trying to persuade people to become
I look at this another way: If we find dogfighting unacceptable but we
can live with other forms of animal abuse, what is the underlying
distinction? Could it have more to do with the culture surrounding the
human beings involved and less to do with the animals?
If we want to build a better world for animals, the animal rights
movement must examine its own racial politics and figure out ways to
put minority concerns on its agenda.
-- Kathy Rudy is an ethicist and associate professor of women's studies
at Duke University.