In Defense of Michael Vick, Part 2*

Ilana Mercer, August 24, 2007

Let us begin with a species correct, English-language primer:

Illegal alien Jose Carranza (“allegedly”) executed three American college students (the fourth survived). NFL quarterback Michael Vick did not “execute eight dogs,” as members of the media fulminated, he put them down, albeit inhumanely.

The same Peruvian (Carranza) probably also raped his victims, but not before practicing on a 5-year-old child. Despite what Nancy Grace alleges, Vick was not rapin’ on his bitches, he was breeding them.

Anthropomorphism is the practice of attributing human characteristics to an animal. Dogs have small brains, devoted mainly to smell and other instinct-driven behaviors. The love and loyalty dog lovers see in their mutt’s eyes is a projection of the owner’s large, cerebral cortex. (You’ll learn more about sharks from Steven Spielberg’s magnificent thriller “Jaws,” than from our idiot, radically ideological “experts.” When sharks feed on folks, it is not a case of “mistaken identity.” The reason these powerful, flesh-eating animals with pointy teeth don’t tuck in more frequently is because there are more fish in the sea than people.)

PETA’s ethos has prevailed: Vick is being treated like an animal and his dogs like human beings. “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” is to animal rights what the Sierra Club (and Al Gore) is to the environmental movement. Both these radical-left organizations are bent upon using state power to further curb property and production. To be fair, PETA is philosophically more consistent than those who’ve hounded Vick for dogfighting, yet spare the manufacturers of pate de foie gras.

As PETA sees it, all animals ought to have rights. Be it for beef or bloodsport, their “exploitation” should be prohibited. To PETA, man and beast exist along the same continuum, their faculties and feelings differing in degree, not in kind. In the words of PETA’s founder: “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” To adapt Voltaire’s quip to Rousseau, whom he hated (me too): One longs, in hearing PETA’s rants against the human race, to walk on all fours.

Like PETA, I don’t distinguish between the pig farmer and the dogfighter. Unlike PETA, I believe all animals are property. Man is the only top dog. Although people will go to great lengths to distinguish their preferred form of animal use from Vick’s, the distinction is nebulous. One either owns a resource or one doesn’t. Whether one kills animals for food or for fun, the naturally licit basis for large-scale pig farming or game hunting is the same: ownership of the resource.

Arguably, commercial pig farming is crueler than dispatching dogs, then-and-there, as Vick did. These “Babe” look-alikes wallow for ages in their own waste, in pig pens so cramped, the creature cannot even collapse when exhausted. The animal’s skin often ulcerates and its muscles and bones atrophy. Food farming can involve practices such as tail docking, tooth-clipping, “castration, branding, debeaking, and other painful processes.” I solve this ethical problem by patronizing farmers whose animals roam and graze, not by agitating for government to criminalize commercial farmers and hurt the multitudes they feed.

Contrary to PETA, there is a reason animals are ineligible for rights. Rights arise from man’s unique nature. Man and man alone has moral agency—only man possesses free will, the capacity to tell right from wrong, and to reflect on his actions and beliefs.

“Given that non-human animals aren’t moral agents—not in the general and fundamental sense that we take human beings to be—there is no conceptual basis for ascribing them the kind of rights human beings are said to possess,” writes ethicist Tibor Machan. “Rights not founded on the moral agency of the rights holder are not the sorts of rights that … require protection in a just legal order.”

Animal-rights advocates counter by claiming that not all human beings have the capacity for moral agency. They don’t mean Michael Moore, but poor Terri Schiavo, RIP. Remember how far-left (and far-gone) liberals fought like rabid dogs to slowly starve and dehydrate her? One philosophical argument they deployed to justify Terri’s torture was that she had lost what made her uniquely human.

But, as Machan emphasizes, “To complain that moral agency is lacking while someone is in a coma or asleep is to misunderstand the point of a definition, a statement about the nature of something.” An elk doesn’t stop being an elk if without antlers. The criminal Carranza consciously used his capacities in choosing to kill. And while a baby doesn’t have moral agency, it will develop it in time. However damaged or depraved, a human being is still a human being.

Easily the most salient aspect about human beings is that they live in moral communities. When the lunatic left and a few “Crunchy Cons” abandoned the weak and the enfeebled Terri Schiavo, others (Sean Hannity, Thomas Szasz, Alan Dershowitz, WND, and this column, etc.,) stepped in to fight for her rights. This is not the case with animals. Members of the canine community have yet to deliver disquisitions against dog fighting. However, when the day arrives and Fido fights tooth and nail for more than Kibbles ‘n Bits, he will indeed have earned his rights.

While animals are still regarded as property under the law, if heavily circumscribed, the trend in tort law cases is, increasingly, toward treating them as PETA prescribes. Given the public and popular press’s sentimental slobbering over Vick’s dogs, this lobby’s power is sure to increase.

Rights give rise to legal claims. Ultimately, the more rights animals are granted, the greater the legal lien exercised on their behalf against the liberty and property of people. As it is, deputized agents of the Humane Society and the SPCA have the power to turn you into a felon for “the crime of a skinny dog.”

So far, public pressure, not the law, has brought about the termination of Vick’s lucrative, promising career. Civil society is clearly quite capable of censuring Vick. The law should have left him be.

©2007 By Ilana Mercer

Appeared on (August 24)
(See the Orange County Register & “In Defense of Michael Vick, for Part 1“)

* I deeply regret the position I took here on animal rights. An honest thinker admits when she is wrong. I hang my head in shame. While intellectually rigorous; the position I took is morally impoverished.

CATEGORIES: Animal Rights, Criminal injustice, Environmentalism, Ethics, Individual rights, Property Rights