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Michael Vick Signs with the Philadelphia Eagles
By Suki Falconberg, Ph.D. on AmericanChronicle.com
Back to Michael Vick, the subject of this article. His dogs were pretty fortunate in that they were not as low down on the torture chain as the chickens and the pigs and the rats are....I hold that Michael Vick is no more guilty than the rest of us. Everyone who eats meat is guilty of crimes equal to or perhaps in excess of what Vick committed.
Michael Vick has just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. He will play in the American NFL (National Football League) again. Some animal rights´ activists are still on his case for his torture of fighting dogs. Under our justice system, he has paid his dues and done his time. Admittedly, it's a pretty weak system that allows a man who has tortured animals to go free at all. But such is the value that we bestow upon ourselves as humans, as the dominant species, that we can pretty much torture anything that we want to. And then take ourselves to courts invented by us, and mete out human ´justice´—such as it is. The torture of animals is barely a misdemeanor in some states in the USA; and in states where it is a felony, punishment is quite minimal—as in the Vick case. Nothing like what would be handed down if a human were the victim—despite the fact that animals are far more helpless than humans.
I hold that Michael Vick is no more guilty than the rest of us. Everyone who eats meat is guilty of crimes equal to or perhaps in excess of what Vick committed. Our meat comes from factory-farmed animals raised and slaughtered under conditions far worse than those in your normal North Korean prison—or in a dog-fighting camp.
You have dined and, though the slaughterhouse is at an elegant distance, there is still complicity.´ This is a paraphrase from Emerson, and I wish I could have said it as well as he did. The ten-billion ´food animals´ (or so we label them) that humans consume in the USA every year live and die in unbelievable agony. Pigs are confined for their entire lives in spaces so small they cannot even turn around and they bite the bars of their cages until they go insane. Such is the atmosphere of built-up excrement fumes that they live in that most have pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Until they go to slaughter, they never see grass or sky. Workers beat them with iron bars for fun and call them ´stupid b*****s´ and then beat them even more as they are driven into trucks for the trip to the slaughterhouses. Veal calves never leave the one small space they are tethered to from a few hours after birth and they sit in their own waste with sores on their bodies from the wooden slats they must lie on until they are pulled and dragged and beaten, in their weak state, to slaughter.
It is even worse for the birds who produce your eggs—as soon as they come out of the shell, the chicks have their beaks seared off with red hot blades so that they will not peck each other to death in small cages they live crammed into--crowded into spaces so small they cannot spread their wings for their entire lives, they are forced to lay an unnatural number of eggs until their uteruses prolepses and their bones break from calcium depletion. All of your ´farm-fresh eggs´ come from animals who live in unbearable pain. Their eyes are full of desperation and insanity. After about a year, they are sent to slaughter, to be used in pet food and baby food and chicken soup—that chicken soup that is for the comfort of the soul, I guess--their fragile bones snap as workers roughly grab them out of their cages. In the slaughterhouse, after throat slitting, they are stuffed in metal containers, upside down, to bleed to death and you can see their feet struggling in the air. Some manage to jump out and thrash around in the blood on the slaughterhouse floor. Slaughterhouse workers, to relieve the boredom of their day, use the hens as punching bags and kick them around like footballs. All in good fun, of course.
Kosher slaughterhouses are a lot of fun, too. The cow has her trachea and esophagus ripped out and then she thrashes around on the bloody floor in desperate pain as the workers kick her own blood on her and joke around.
It may be some consolation to those of you who felt for those poor Michael Vick dogs, that others are treated, if anything, even worse. Go watch Earthlings,* the greatest animal rights´ movie ever made, and you will see street dogs in Turkey being shot and limping off wounded to die. In one scene, filmed in Turkey, a very ill street dog, filthy and matted and not able to walk, is lying at the feet of a man who drives a garbage truck. The dog looks helpless and in his eyes is a desperate need for someone to help him and care for him. The garbage man throws the dog into the compactor and as we see the animal disappear he licks his lips with his tongue in a pitiful way and his eyes still look hopeful that someone will help him. Protect me, please. I am helpless.
The garbage man is nonchalant and indifferent.
(Much in Earthlings is painful. But this scene had such a startling effect on me that the first time I saw the movie, I woke up for several nights in a row, crying, without even knowing why except that some hopeless fear was haunting me. At first, I didn't know it was the dog-in-the-compactor scene. But, since it kept coming back to me all day, in images, I figured that was what was disturbing me in the dark of the night. It was startling since it had been over 50 years since I had woken up in tears. Not since I was a small child had I felt such hopeless fear.)
The shining spirit of the Athens Olympics in 2004 made itself manifest when the Greeks poisoned 30,000 street dogs so as to ´tidy up´ the city for the tourists. Every one who participated in that Olympics is as guilty as Michael Vick, the dog torturer—they are complicit in the suffering of those street dogs. All these humanitarians who marched in the opening ceremony—people like Susan Sarandon and Somaly Mam—are guilty. What a joke is Sarandon´s supposed humanitarianism if she did nothing to help these dogs who convulsed and shook and vomited in agony and died. We have videos of what the Greeks, those noble founders of democracy, did to these helpless dogs.
Scientists who torture labs animals are as guilty as Michael Vick. Even more so since they inflict worse pain on the lab animals than Vick did on the dogs. At all of America´s big proud research universities, grants of millions of dollars from the NSF (National Science Foundation) and NIH (National Institute of Health) and similar learned bodies are given to men and women who perform worthless, painful, gratuitous experiments on animals. They sew the eyelids of monkeys together and bolt instruments into their brains and insert electrodes into their eyeballs.
Rats probably have it the worst. I´ll just describe one relatively ´mild´ experiment—even though it is beyond the bounds of sadism, it is not even in the same ballpark as the more agonizing tortures that scientists inflict on rats. This particular fun one could be called the ´suspend him by his tail´ ordeal. Rats were suspended by their tails at a certain angle, completely immobilized, so that, in the position they were in, they could not move or groom themselves. Now, rats are small, nervous, sensitive little animals whose tiny beautiful little hearts beat 600 times a minute so being immobilized is beyond agony for them. I cannot even describe the insanity and desperation in their eyes as they endured 50 days of being ´suspended´ like this. Then, as the scientists phrased it, they were not killed, exactly, but they were ´sacrificed.´ What a word choice. ´Sacrificed´ to what, I wonder? To our stupidity, sadism, and cruelty.
While still alive and suspended in the torture dungeon, the rats´ front feet were on a few patches of wood shavings and we saw the animals surrounded by feces and unable to groom themselves due to the angles that they were suspended at. The animals looked filthy and ragged. You could see where the tails they were suspended by were raw and bleeding from rubbing against the restraining devices. You could see clumps of poop sticking out of their anuses and rimming the fur around the hole.
And I guess the scientists just walked on by them as these animals died every day for 50 days. Did the men and women who did this see nothing of the extreme and unbearable misery? I saw sheer insane agony in the rats´ eyes. It is good they were killed after 50 day since they journeyed deeper into madness everyday, so deep they could never come back. This ´banality of evil´ and torture is simply a commonplace in labs worldwide. What kind of beings, I wonder, could actually walk by such suffering, every day, un-moved?
I know rats well. Smart, kind, clean, intuitive, gifted with senses of humor and a deep capacity for affection—they are far far far better than your average human. Far far far far superior to the humans who torture them in labs. I cannot extol rats´ virtues enough, having cared for several dozen rescued ones over the years. They are as capable of feeling love and pain as any other sentient being. I was going to put ´as any human´ but I concluded long ago that humans are completely incapable of love.
The suspension experiment had something to do with ´femur stresses´ and the articles that scientists wrote up their findings in had long, long, long titles that made no English sense and that completely obscured what had been done to these animals. You would never even know that rats had been tortured. The legacy of the celebrated and enshrined Descartes, who cut up live dogs and ignored their yelps and squeals of pain.
From my many years of rescuing rats, I discovered that they are telepathic once you get to know them, both with each other and with humans who love them and care for them--so they know when others in the lab are being tortured as they are. I also discovered that they ´talk´ and chatter and squeak and squeal at levels humans cannot hear. With a ´bat detector´ instrument, you can hear them constantly talking back and forth to each other. They are amazingly chatty and make such an array of sounds that I only came to recognize just a few in their language. So it is probable that they are screaming in pain to each other in the labs all the time and that the scientists do not hear them. We know that the rats (not the suspended ones) run in endless, excited, mad, insane circles around the small barren cages in their labs at night after the scientists leave.
It must be convenient to torture a small silent animal. The scientists don´t have to slice the vocal chords of the rats, the way they do with beagles in labs, and then the dogs bay soundlessly at a moon they cannot see.
All of this is in service of our mad devotion to sacrificing animals on the Blood Sadism Altar of Western Science. I guess I could say Eastern Science as well since in Japan and Taiwan and Korea, Asian scientists are happily torturing animals in their labs.
The big question, of course, is why all these scientists all over the world are not in prison for torturing and killing helpless beings.
Dogs, by the way, have some protection in labs in the USA, at least on paper. Rats don´t. They are not classified as animals under the Animals Welfare Act. This is so that scientists can torture them with impunity and inflict pain on them without pain killers. Chimps are considered animals under the AWA. This does not protect them from being tortured, however. I suspect they have some small protection since they are expensive to replace, and it behooves scientists to keep them around for a long time. The poor rats only live a couple of years—and usually not even that long since they are ´sacrificed´ after being experimented on. (I am not sure you could call what they do in their few tortured inches of space in labs ´living´ at all—so brutal a life of deprivation and pain would be unthinkable if the scientists did this to humans.) But you can torture a chimp in a lab for fifty years—if he lasts that long, and some of them, sadly enough, do. By the end of a long ´career´ as a lab chimp, the poor creature will have so many infections and diseases and be so riddled with pain that he will self-mutilate by pulling his own intestines out, to lessen the suffering. I mean, he will be in as much pain as, well, as those poor NFL quarterbacks who get knocked around so much.
Back to Michael Vick, the subject of this article. His dogs were pretty fortunate in that they were not as low down on the torture chain as the chickens and the pigs and the rats are.
All of us are complicit in the enormous suffering of animals. Glamorous actresses in per-fume ads don´t tell you that the product contains an ingredient milked from the glands of a civet: and that this poor creature is confined to a box barely bigger than he is for his whole life, in between milkings, where he eats, sleeps, defecates, and pretty much goes insane. All the glossy beauty of the glamorous in the world cannot make up for one moment of his suffering. His misery negates all beauty.
Some animal rights people are criticizing Vick because they do not think he has ´repented.´ I say this is irrelevant. When he is alone at night, communing with himself, whether he is sorry for what he did or not is between him and his soul. That is private. It has nothing to do with him playing football, or working with the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) to stop dog fighting. To be practical, as a public figure and a foot-ball celebrity, he does not have to be ´sincere´ or truly regretful, on the inside, to help stop dog fighting. We will never know if he is really sorry for his actions. Only he knows that. All he has to do is clean up his image and be willing to work with the HSUS. The latest reports on ESPN say he may work with the Philadelphia Humane Society and other animal groups in the city. Whether his community service will just involve dog fighting or whether he will work in other areas to benefit animals, ESPN did not say. Over the next few weeks, there should be more news about this forthcoming. HSUS reports that Vick has already met with and talked to young men in Chicago about dog fighting. A long-term agenda and association between Vick and the HSUS might bring about miraculous changes in terms of stopping dog fighting in the USA. Inner repentance aside, it is a great opportunity for one man to lessen animal suffering in the world.
As for communing with his soul, I am not sure we humans have souls. We are too cruel to have been granted a soul in the cosmic scheme of things. So Michael Vick communicating with his in the dark hours of the night might truly be irrelevant—if none of us humans have souls to commune with.
I am as guilty as Michael Vick. Even though I don´t run dog-fighting operations or eat meat or wear leather and I use holistic remedies not tested on animals and dutifully buy my Beauty without Cruelty cosmetics and try to rescue a few hapless rats when I can--and I write useless little articles like this one, to make myself feel as if I am doing some-thing, and I proclaim my innocence, I still do not walk the earth guiltless. Guilt engulfs me because I do not spend every moment, do not expend every ounce of my being, in helping those who suffer. It is my fate to be sensitive to the suffering and to be able to do almost nothing about it.
Meanwhile, I have many small comforts around me—a safe place to go home to, books to read, friends to talk to. In contrast, the billion of animals in the world we torture have no comforts, no lives, no today, let alone a tomorrow.
So, welcome back, Michael Vick. Welcome to the human race. We are just like you and you are just like us.
As a human, I was not granted a soul either. In the middle of the night, I cannot find one to commune with. I just see a dark nothingness, where the human soul should be.
Earthlings is directed by Shaun Monson and narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. Sections can be viewed at various sites on the internet like YouTube, or you can purchase it online. I think every human on the planet should watch it.
I'd like to add a little apologia to this article since I find that satire, which I sprinkle throughout this piece, is often misunderstood. I am not being critical of animal rights´ people—I have enormous respect for them. But I do think that Michael Vick can do some good in the world for suffering animals if we support him in his efforts. Whether we like or respect him does not matter: what matters is if he can help the animals.
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