So Michael Vick is well on his way to NFL reinstatement — if, that is, he can find a team to call home.
Is it fair that Vick is free to stretch out and play without a bothersome leg bracelet cramping his style, while so many dogs — themselves natural, talented athletes who live to play — have been robbed of their lives by his hand?
Many of these magnificent pit bulls are available for adoption, several have managed to find the loving new homes they deserve. Two of them, Leo and Hector, now do volunteer work as therapy dogs, visiting hospital patients to spread cheer. Leo does dog’s work in California; Hector’s home base is Minnesota. But the 22 canine survivors of Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels that were sent to Utah’s Best Friends Animal Society for rehabilitation wear the physical and psychological scars of Vick’s abuse. One of them, Georgia, has no teeth in her pretty head because Vick arranged for some lousy veterinarian to pull them. We don’t know that Dr. Mengele’s name, so he or she is still at large and practicing. How reassuring.
Two years ago, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely, he said Vick must show remorse before he would consider reinstating him. Vick sure snowed him. “I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others,”Goodell wrote in his recent letter to Vick. “I am prepared to offer you that opportunity.”
While I would love to believe it’s possible for a convicted felon — even one who laughingly boasted about drowning, electrocuting, and fatally body-slamming the dogs in his care when they didn’t perform — to miraculously evolve overnight into an animal-loving role model, please forgive my skepticism.
Animal lovers all over the country are outraged by Vick’s reversal of fortune. Witness the emergence of anti-Vick websites and Facebook groups such as “Boycott every sponsor of the NFL until Michael Vick is gone!”
Committing crimes against animals is no less grave than committing crimes against people. It’s an assault on humanity and it should not be rewarded with any vote of confidence, especially one from the NFL. Why is animal abuse so easy for some people to forgive, when compelling evidence shows that those who harm animals are very likely to also inflict harm on children?
Look at Michael Vick’s mug. Is that really the face of remorse? You can laugh at PETA all you want; I often do because the organization is all for banning pit bulls and supports the entirely un-American efforts of legislators to enforce breed-specific legislation that would make pits illegal to own as pets. However, PETA did something that made me want to cheer: the group withdrew its offer to do an anti-dogfighting TV spot with Vick, stating that his behavior fit the established profile for anti-social personality disorder (APD).
According to PETA:
People diagnosed with APD are commonly referred to as “psychopaths.” They are usually male, prone to lying and manipulation, often take pleasure in cruelty, and cannot feel genuine remorse, which frequently leads to recidivism. … In January, we called on NFL Commissioner Goodell to require that Vick undergo a brain scan and full psychological evaluation before any decisions were made about the future of his football career.
Michael Vick’s face is as untouched by remorse as his cold heart. If you want to see the face of remorse, and what it really looks like when a man reevaluates the wrong he’s done and tries to make it right, see the extraordinary new documentary The Cove.
Ric O’Barry trained dolphins for the iconic TV show Flipper, teaching them to do stupid tricks to please besotted audiences. Unbeknownst to him, O’Barry’s excellence at his job would result in thousands of dolphins — unbelievably intelligent creatures whose altruistic nature motivates them to save humans from shark attacks — to be caught, removed from their natural habitat, and enslaved in a life of performing stupid tricks for humans in giant swimming pools at Sea World and similar venues. This, O’Barry explains, is “a multi-billion dollar industry.”
Then came the fateful day when a sweet, overworked dolphin named Cathy swam up to O’Barry, looked him in the eye, and voluntarily stopped breathing. He’s convinced Cathy committed suicide because she’d had enough of captivity. As her body sank, O’Barry experienced an “Amazing Grace” moment — the blinders came off and he suddenly understood that he had been part of the problem. That “the dolphin smile is nature’s greatest deception — it creates the illusion that they’re always happy.” Since that day, O’Barry has been a formidable force in raising awareness of dolphins’ sad plight. “They don’t belong in captivity,” says the former dolphin captor who has dedicated his life to setting dolphins free, and risks his safety almost daily in the process.
The Cove is a breathtaking work of activist art, a marine-mammal Mission Impossible accomplished by a team of talented people with very different skill sets. From deep sea divers to underwater audiovisual recording experts, all took enormous risks to bring media attention to the annual slaughter of dolphins in a barricaded cove in Taiji, Japan. There, the dolphins that are deemed photogenic enough for Sea Worlds are removed and strapped by their tails to the sides of boats. The dolphins left behind are primitively butchered, their meat — tainted by sky-high levels of ocean contaminants — sold as food to an unsuspecting Japanese public. The powers that be in Japan view dolphins as mere pests that compete with their sushi supply.
There’s plenty of compelling footage of the Vick dogs thanks to National Geographic’s series Dog Town. But until The Cove, the slaughter of dolphins was a well-kept secret that, try as it might, the MSM was unable to capture on film. There’s a scene in the movie revealing seawater turned bright red with the blood of these gentle, intelligent innocents; that and the audio of the night before, in which the trapped creatures are heard communicating with each other in frantic clicks and whistles, will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The Cove is an excellent, timely reminder that we lose part of our own humanity when we stand by and suffer animals to be senselessly, violently killed. It’s enough to motivate compassionate consumers to take economic measures, boycotting Japanese products until the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji is history. While we’re at it, why not boycott the NFL — its games, merchandise, and sponsors — until Michael Vick is permanently sidelined? Dogs bark, dolphins click and whistle, people tweet … but money talks. If every one of this country’s millions of dog and dolphin lovers were to vote with their wallets, we might see some real remorse.