Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Now I wanna be your dog

Left: Michael Vick, photo credit MSNBC

With all the foofaraw about Michael Vick, one would think this is a teachable moment. On Feministe, during a discussion on how to feel moral and ethical while killing animals for the sole purpose of tasting something delicious, I tried to introduce a comparison of dogs (and dogfighting) and cows (and slaughterhouses). Why, I wondered, is everyone so upset about the dogs? I just came from a cafe wherein I witnessed outraged dog owners, trashing evil Michael Vick whilst chomping on hamburgers. Am I missing something? Have these people visited a slaughterhouse lately?

Basically, sounds like the usual Quentin Tarantino excuse to me: A dog has a personality, and a personality will take you a long way.

Obviously, then, it is up to the cows to develop that quality we call 'personality', so that people will similarly care about their well-being, also.

However, it is also entirely likely that the cow never evolved a 'personality' because it's primary use has been as food. If, like dogs and cats, they had to learn to depend on the good will, companionship and affection of humans for their livelihood, perhaps they might have learned to be charming as the dickens. Who knows? Fact of the matter is, the poor cows never got a chance.

And so, I dared to ask, why is everyone so upset over Vick, while they scarf down pepperoni? One reply:

The goal of dogfighting is watching prolonged pain, the goal of killing a cow for a steak and a nice pair of shoes is the steak and the shoes.

And I replied:

Actually, I disagree totally here. Speaking of north and south, I guess you aren’t familiar with the culture of dogfighting.

The ‘goal’ of dogfighting is the same as a bullfight or a greyhound/horse race: male camaraderie/bonding and gambling. The participants simply do not see the animal as anything but an object, a means to an end. It’s like a car; you wouldn’t feel upset about racing a car, would you? The in-breeding of hyperviolent dogs that have little or no resemblance to “pets” are the way they can objectify the dogs as “different” than their own beloved pets.

IMO, this is exactly how people can distance themselves from animal death in the consumption of meat; it is labeled “food” instead of animals. Dogfighting and horse-racing are labeled “sports” to the people who participate. I am talking about the language and practice of ‘alienation’ (marxist definition) as applied to our use of animals.

Yes, I know that we ain't suppose to quote Karl Marx, even in lower case, but still. That was the best I can do. I hope someone else takes up the cause.

Next time you hear someone say, Bad, bad Michael Vick, ask them if they eat meat. Watch the look of incomprehension and surprise, as they ask "You aren't comparing the two, are you?" And then ask them what exactly the difference is.

No, they can't tell you what it is, other than some semblance of the Samuel L. Jackson version offered above, but they KNOW it isn't the same thing. Why not? Because it just ISN'T.

Got it. Pass the tempeh.