By Greg Lawson -
Last Tuesday, Steve Best suggested I attend his Intro to
Philosophy class. Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane
Society of the United States, was the guest speaker. In attendance were
a couple of hundred of Steve's students and also some other special
guests - a dozen cockfighters who had come to hear Wayne and defend
At first Steve was a bit worried that the cockfighters
would cause disruptions and was even considering how to kick them out,
but at the end of the class Steve was glad they had been there. No more
graphic illustration of the idiocy of animal abuse could have been
presented, not by slides nor by video.
Wayne is at the other end of the spectrum occupied by
Steve Best as a speaker. Where Steve is passionate, Wayne is
dispassionate preferring to present the facts in an often nonjudgmental
way. Perhaps this is because Wayne is used to speaking before lawmakers
and so he comes across as a cool lawyer type as opposed to Steve's often
Wayne began by asking the class a number of questions
concerning how they felt about the rights of animals. Steve turned his
back so the class wouldn't be worried about how the answers might affect
their grades. "Do you think abuse to animals is wrong?" "Do you think
dog fighting is wrong?" "Do you think cockfighting is wrong?" "Do you
think hunting for sport is wrong?" "Do you think raising animals for
food is wrong?" A surprisingly large number of people raised their hands
indicating that they thought those activities were wrong. Obviously,
they had listened in Steve's previous classes and done the reading
assignments. Only a few hands went down on the raising animals for food
Then Wayne gave a history of the rights movement,
describing how civil rights and women's rights preceded the animal
rights movement and how the question of our moral responsibility to
animals is the next question we are asking ourselves as a society. Wayne
talked about the arguments for hunting, and explained why they just
don't hold up to logic. During the first 45 minutes of the class Wayne
had only briefly mentioned cockfighting.
About halfway through the talk Steve went over and
whispered in Wayne's ear something to the effect "Wayne, I think you
should talk about cockfighting some more. Let's mix it up with these
So he did. Wayne described the barbaric practice without
using the word barbaric, that was to be said later by Steve. Wayne
explained how Oklahoma had just become the 48th state to ban
cockfighting and how the HSUS was going after New Mexico next. When he
finished, Steve opened the discussion up to questions and welcomed
questions from the cockfighters. Steve maintained order in the class and
tried to prevent disruptions from the barbarians, which did occur, but
were quickly squelched.
The cockfighters sat in about four groups spread around
the room. Two were right in front of me on the first row. (I had sat
behind them with the honorable intention of helping to protect Wayne and
Steve should violence erupt). They were obviously all heated up by the
threat to their way of life. One grizzled geezer was granted his
opportunity to make his point and said "Don't listen to these
guys...Think for yourselves....After they take away our livelihood they
will be coming for you. They will try to stop you from eating meat. If
you beat your dog, they will make sure you go to jail." Cries of "YES"
and applause filled the room. And also "Sit down you moron."
"I'm just trying to feed my family. I have worked hard
all my life," said another cockfighter. "You are trying to hurt me and
"Drug Dealers work hard to feed their families,"
commented a student.
Steve said to the cockfighters, "We don't want to cause
you any harm. But we don't want to see you make your living from harming
other creatures. We want you to find a more ethical way of living."
"If we don't outlaw eating chickens, we shouldn't outlaw
cockfighting," said a student.
I added my comment to the debate. "I understand that
argument. I don't eat chicken. There is a certain amount of hypocrisy to
being opposed to cockfighting and then to go have lunch at Kentucky
Fried Chicken. I hope you will remember this when you join your families
at Thanksgiving, that you say 'Please pass the tofu.'"
The cockfighters went on to demonstrate that they didn't
have a moral leg to stand on. The TV cameras captured it all. The
students saw how self serving all arguments are for the continued
exploitation of animals for profit, for entertainment, for our
I am glad I went to Steve's class, it was a lively
interchange between young developing minds who will determine the course
of our movement, and relics of the past who, sadly enough, will be
relegated to a chapter in the future book of Mankind.
I am also glad we exited through the back door.
Go on to ACT Radio
- Animal Concerns of Texas
Return to 24 November 2002 Issue
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