I've been thinking a lot about the Michael Vick and dogfighting story. I've talked to some people, friends and coworkers, about the story too. Maybe it's just my social circle, but all are either horrified or sickened by what they've read and the images they've seen. Some can't understand why anyone would enjoy seeing animals tear each other apart. But one person, a former animal control officer, pointed out an additional dimension to this story and what it says about us as a society. I'd like to share her perspective and add some of my own thoughts.
To start with we need to remember that dogfighting is a blood sport.
A quick visit over to Wikipedia tells me the following: “Bloodsport, or blood sport, is a term commonly used by social reformers to describe sport or entertainment which is believed to be cruel, involving needless animal or human suffering. The term can refer to chase sports such as coursing or beagling, combat sports such as cockfighting, or other activities. It also includes spectacles that involve pitting one animal against another in a fight. These usually involve blood being drawn, and sometimes result in the death of one or more animals.”
Blood sports with animals are numerous. In addition to dogfighting, there is cockfighting, bullfighting, and hunting. For all we know, someone in the world might still be holding bear baiting events too.
But let's focus on the phrase “needless animal or human suffering.” Take out the animal component for a moment. Human history may have contained as many blood sports with humans as with animals. Remember those movies with the gladiators in the arena and the crowd going wild to see the blood shed? How about those martyrs torn apart by wild animals? Then we had jousts, sword-fighting, public drawing and quartering, and the greatest blood sport of all, war. Today, we still have war, although for developed countries it is more sanitized and usually televised. And we still have professional boxing, hockey fights, football, rugby and, the grand daddy of them all, ultimate fighting, the last vestiges of human blood sports. Granted there are certainly underground fight clubs, but generally, humans are far more protected now than they have ever been.
Not so with animals. Their protection lags far behind. Therefore, they are the ones left to satisfy the human taste for blood.
Is everyone like this? No, but think about it. Do you get excited when a fight breaks out between two sports teams on a field? Have you ever watched and been entertained when two pro boxers beat each other up? Have you ever yelled for a defense to sack a quarterback and crush him? I know I have and I still do. Are these sporting events all that different from when the Roman crowds cheered champions in the arena?
But dogfighting is different, I will admit. This is a clandestine activity, primarily a status activity amongst younger men. But the blood lust is there, otherwise why would they keep watching?
Another question is why is the need to dominate so tied up in the pain and suffering of their opponent? Because that's what it is, these animals are simply the proxy for what the owners and spectators want to do themselves, but are too cowardly to do so.
I'm not saying we are all dogfighters at heart. But there is something innate in us as humans that contribute to the ever-growing cycle of violence in our society. Dogfighting, bullfighting, child abuse, etc. We need to look deep inside ourselves as a species and society to understand where this violence is coming from before we can really figure out how we as a people can overcome it.