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Vick and what's wrong with dog racing

[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.
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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 vegans.

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?
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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.

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full story:
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/ stories/2007/08/28/vicked_0829.html

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