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Michael Vick’s Long, Strange Detour

Posted on Sep 27, 2009
Michael Vick
AP / Matt Rourke

By T.L. Caswell

(Page 4)

Another member of the camp that finds exaggeration in the grouping of hip-hop and urban black America with dog fighting is the commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who complains that the Vick headlines have fueled false claims that dog fighting is rampant “in poor, black urban neighborhoods.” He mentions the criticism of Jay-Z and DMX and concludes that wrongly magnified allegations about inner-city blacks make “good copy and unchallenged public belief … [and are] the stuff of a brand spanking new urban legend.”

All this information about dog fighting contains a savagery and bloodlust that will put off some readers, but the dirty job was necessary to paint a full picture of what Michael Vick had been up to, and why so many animal lovers were up in arms about his returning to the NFL.

In the forefront of the campaign against Vick is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Now, as you may know, PETA has not always been a perfect model of moderation. During an interview with CNBC in June, President Barack Obama swatted a fly, with fatal consequences for the insect, and that did not sit well with PETA. The organization denounced the action of the quick-handed president as an “execution” and sent him an insect trap-and-release device. Plainly, PETA will not compromise its positions regardless of who is in its cross hairs, and often it comes across as —what is the most diplomatic word I might use?—fringe-y. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those positions are wrong.

Some of PETA’s spokespersons were breathing fire in late July as they pressed their case against Vick. One PETA representative, appearing on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” declared that Vick must not be allowed to play NFL football until he was genuinely remorseful. And how could that be determined? Through a neurological exam and a brain scan. A brain scan? I was watching the original broadcast of the program and was amazed by what I had heard. Was there now a scientific way to peer into the human soul?


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So, off to the computer I went. I typed PETA and brain scan and Michael Vick into a Google search prompt, and, sure enough, there it was, PETA saying: “The only way to know for sure if Vick can change his ways is for him to submit himself for a brain scan and psychological test. Based on a number of factors—such as the fact that the right side of the hippocampus is larger than the left in 94 percent of captured psychopaths—these tests can help determine if Vick can ever truly understand that dog fighting is a sick, cruel business. Or, they could suggest that he’s doomed to repeat mean, violent behavior in the future—whether with dogs or other human beings. And given that Vick plans to be around a lot of kids, to give talks to them, and to be a star in their eyes again, the world deserves to know who he is inside.”

Why aren’t prison and parole authorities using this? I wondered. Well, it turns out that a researcher at a New Mexico prison is. According to an online article from a Stanford institute: “Researchers such as Kent Kiehl are currently making strides in locating neurological markers of psychopathy. …  ” Wonderful, eh? But the sentence continues, “but they are not yet able to reliably use brain scans to diagnose someone with ASPD [anti-social personality disorder] or psychopathy.”  (To read everything you conceivably could want to know about Dr. Kiehl and his research, check out a separate, long article in The New Yorker.)

If the article quoted above is right about the current ineffectiveness of the alleged “remorse detector,” and I believe it is, PETA is way, way premature in calling for a brain scan to determine whether Michael Vick is truly sorry for his crimes; the good doctor has an interesting hypothesis and little more.

Nevertheless, after taking several doses of PETA propaganda from print and television in July, I was getting religion. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, the organization’s take on Vick shouldn’t be breezily dismissed.

I phoned a friend and we started talking about the controversy. I made some remarks about Vick that were mildly profane and utterly uncharitable. My friend replied, “Isn’t that a little harsh? Don’t you think an ex-convict should be allowed to make a living at his profession as long as it’s legal?”

“He looks like a monster to me,” I replied in giving a non-answer.

“Even monsters can reform,” my friend said.

Drawing on my formidable debating skills, I countered, “Oh, go screw yourself.” We laughed and the conversation moved on to other areas.

For the next several hours I didn’t think about the man who seemed to be working his way ever higher on my personal “most-disliked” list.

That evening, after watching a television recording I had made, I got up from my sofa to brew a cup of tea. En route to the kitchen I noticed that my heartbeat was up a bit from the excitement of the action I had seen. Mixed martial arts. It had been a hard-fought match that seesawed back and forth before one of the competitors knocked his opponent down with a combination of punches and kicks. He then straddled the fallen man and pummeled him until the referee hurled himself over the defeated combatant. The winner exalted himself, raising his arms in victory as he ran around inside the cage taking in the adulation of the cheering crowd.

By that time, the loser had risen and his face was awash with blood, which had speckled the canvas near where he had been decked. A physician was checking him, and the fighter’s seconds looked on with concerned expressions on their faces.

As I removed a cup from a cabinet, I was thinking: Good match. But damned bloody business. A doggone bloody sport. And that was when I had a thought that almost made me drop my cup: blood sport.

Had I—in the comfort of my living room—been part of a mob witnessing a blood sport? Well, not if you define blood sport as killing something: Everyone in the cage appeared to have survived. But there was no shortage of blood, nor had there been any lack of organized, premeditated violence amid a rabble cheering for still more. And, at least in boxing, in rare cases a corpse has been hauled out of the ring. In principle, had I engaged in a minor-league version of what Michael Vick had been sent to prison for doing?

Though I had not struck any blows, clearly I had endorsed the rearranging of someone’s facial features without benefit of surgery. I had endorsed this violence with my presence in front of the TV set—with my eyeballs, by watching two members of my own species spend almost 15 minutes trying to hurt and incapacitate each other.

I also thought of the many boxing matches I had witnessed and, sometimes, even had paid to see. I once saw a videotape of a fight in which a boxer was fatally injured. And not long ago I watched a rebroadcast of a match in which one of the boxers was carried away to a hospital and ended up paralyzed and in a coma, before he faded from public view and attention, as wounded prizefighters almost always do. Is he dead? I’d never heard, nor was I able to find out.

I thought of the bullfight I had paid to see in a foreign country. It wasn’t much of a fight. Kind of one-sided: First, the enraged and outmanned animal was stabbed by a lance wielded by a horseman, and then sticks with a cruel barb on the business end were thrust into its hide and muscle. All of this was done by an enthusiastic crew trying to get the beast in the right state of mind to have a sword plunged deeply between its shoulder blades. I saw none of the glory that Hemingway writes about in “Death in the Afternoon.” But I did see death that afternoon, and plenty of blood soaking into the sand of the arena. The performance was light on plot—humans torment animal, animal tries to gore humans—but it was warmly received by the audience, of which I was a member.

I thought, too, of the duck I had inspected after I shot it from the sky. I recall being awed by its beauty even in death: The greens and blues of its sleek feathers seemed to give off an iridescent light. I had paid a considerable number of good American dollars to put myself in a position to render this creature lifeless. As I looked at the dead fowl, it seemed I had committed a moral crime in killing it merely for the pleasure of doing so—with no intention of eating the kill—and it seems a moral crime now, many years later.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 1, 2009 at 4:06 pm Link to this comment

’.... If Vick deserved to be sentenced for harming one particular species of “animal”, why is the harm caused through the processing of “animal” meat products any different?’

It’s my somewhat informed impression that most food animals are treated a lot worse than dog-fighting dogs.  The difference is that a lot of people eat meat, but only a few people engage in dog-fighting, so the former is okay and the latter is execrated in spite of the fact that, objectively speaking, the former is a lot nastier.  Most people in societies where slavery and cannibalism are practiced go along with them, too.  It wasn’t too long ago that being against slavery in the U.S. could cost you your life.  The people of those times weren’t all that different from the people of these times.

I don’t think it was a very smart idea to reinstate Vick, however, since it will taint professional football with his various deficiencies.  These things have a way of coming back and biting those who indulge them when they least expect it.

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By Irene, October 1, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nasty guy, second chances aren’t deserved by evil cruel types like him. Let his type rot in the gutter.

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By apolloguide, September 30, 2009 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

This is to become an increasing serious problem with the Dave Zirin’s and Earl Ofari’s
so intent in obscuring the humanistic shortcomings of their respective communities. 
Dog fighting was once just disgusting and ultimately banned by civilized white society; 
but the geographic south (and I include the US South) addicted to intensity, has never
developed a sufficiently intellectual sensitivity to appreciate the pain and suffering
of any living thing other than themselves.  This is the Viagra problem where people
have insufficiently developed brains.  Maybe there IS a hemispheric (brain) issue as
proposed by PETA.  Maybe in the case of the author, after living and working in Los
Angeles the capital city of dog fighting abuse for 20 years the brain grew into

Some on the other hand (like myself) were brought up where there was no forgiving
religion and we just had to work out decent behaviour with our intellect. We were
blessed with decent people for parents, and we did not join the Marines !

Dog fighting, bull fighting, boxing and the like are all great problems for those who
take part, actively or passively.  Hemmingway was a simpering wimp who woke up one
morning and killed himself.  Norman Mailer repeatedly stabbed his wife with a kitchen
knife and bought his way out of prison. Both suffered from severely compromised
masculinity and acted out in terrible ways in order to mask their cowardice.  Dog
fighting is cowardice.  People who fight these dogs are afraid of their ability to
defend themselves.  They are just as sick as gun owners.  They are the Dick Cheney
scaredy-cats who kill those who offer no defense. They vote Republican.

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By velvel in decatur, September 30, 2009 at 9:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The damaging behavior of Vick and Madoff were likely easy subject matter at Yom Kippur sermons across the United States because of they were notorious examples of acts taken without regard to other people or, in Vick’s case, other creatures.

I am getting a bit tired of persons in the speechifying corner making excuses for Vick or Polanski or Madoff or Scrushy (HealthSouth) or other miscreants simply because they had parents who were cruel or headcases or victims of the Holocaust or did good civic things (Scrushy).  Either you have standards for decent behavior or you do not.

The writer ought to read about the dubious record of Vick’s younger brother and then if he says “but I don’t hold him to a standard of decent behavior.”  The writer who said that in certain neighborhoods in Atlanta someone walking a dog would be “propositioned” for a dog fight is a clear indication that there are otherwise honest folk who think that this behavior is acceptable.

As for Rendell and Lurie I say, were Vick not a star athlete would you say the same thing?  I am waiting for Vick to come to Atlanta and face the fans and Mr. Blank and admit before the game starts that he has two regrets—-lying to Mr. Blank and lying to the fans.  Unfortunately, like other scum Mr. Vick’s only regret is being caught.

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By Ron E. Kendricks, L.P.C., September 30, 2009 at 7:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Until we, as human beings, can embrace all living creatures with compassion, we can not justly call ourselves, hu-man.”

I appreciate all the authors efforts in bringing this issue to the light of day. My only question would be:
1. Why did he not explore how others, who are not celebrities or millionaires, were treated as ex-felons who had to forgo all chances of meaningful employment and even shelter as “ex-felons?”
2. Why did the author not explore the gender difference in how Vick is perceived?  When women become empowered in all levels of life…..the issue of the cruelty of dog-fights will become obselote. Where are all the women supporters in this cruelty?
Ponder on this.

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By morgan1, September 30, 2009 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

Interesting and insightful but forgiving Vick at the end is inexcusable. Statistically it has been proven people who abuse animals work their way up the chain to people fairly quickly. 18 months in prison did not reform Vick and I am not convinced of his remorse or life change. All he had should have been seized. He should not have been allowed to return to the NFL. For every carcass found on the property, he should have gotten an additional year tacked to his sentence and he should have gotten a very long and lengthy community service working in a animal clinic. I do not watch boxing, UFC, bullfights and had all the killing I cared for after my military service (I was an avid hunter for years). These people who commit crimes like this get off too easily. He started this road as a teen—The dog killer and gambler, the man who likes violence and abuse to innocents is the real Vick. He is one step down from a serial abuser and serial killer.

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By Ron E. Kendricks, September 30, 2009 at 4:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To The Heart of the Matter….until our consciousness as human beings, embraces compassion for all living beings….we are still animal-man rather than hu-mans.

The fallacy of Vick rehabilitationis is clear. Any other person who is a convicted felon would not be allow to start-over again in their professsion. They would have to start over again with a label as a “felon” that would keep them from getting a decent job and housing. The odds would be heavily weighted against them. Let Vick start all over again with justice served….from the bottom up…..and then see if he has the guts to rehabilitate.  To start over again as a millionaire is a further crime of injustice.

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By KDelphi, September 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment

Ian—well, I guess since I dont eat aninal products, my comments were fine. It is not just about animals. It is about an emotionally and pjhysically abusive human being. He hasnt hurt any people, physically, yet. Let him go on—he will. He has learned to use his physical prowess—and nothing else—all of his life.

Check psychologyists records on animal abusers, it generally moves on to people. There is a pattern of behavior among people that keep animals who come to trust them fully, and then, totally breaking that trust by beating them to death, etc. If you think that that is a ‘normal” human way to be, you run with a rougher crowd than I ever did.

But, what other choices, than, say, football, do we give to a man like Vick? I dont know if he is unintelligent—never listened to him long enough. He was schooled in an inner city school, so you dont know.

voice of truth—Yes, certainly a stripper has the same “rights in court” as a bunch of rich, Duke students—-boy are you naive. I dont know that they were innocent at all. Never will. They have alot of money, so theyre ok with other people who have alot of money. It is also ok with rich people if poor people are paid multi millions to get their ass kicked for their enjoyment, especially when their other option was probably Af-Pak. So, something happens, here, no? They go get their ass kicked (brains damageed) for your pleasure and they go home and do it to a dog, their wife or kids and the cycle continues.


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By voice of truth, September 29, 2009 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

Samson, I was the one who made the comment, and I live in the Atlanta area currently.  I very much remember Danny Heatley, and you’re right, he got nothing.  And not only was it his friend who died, but he was also a teammate, Dan Snyder.

My comment on getting drunk and killing a kid?  Just look at Donte Stallworth.  Few months back, drunk, kills a man on his way home.  Get’s 30 days in jail, 1yr league suspension and pays off the man’s family.  Media outrage, etc., for about 3 weeks, then gone.  Vick, on the other hand, will be forever dogged (bad pun!) by PETA and a large segment of the population will vilify him forever.  And I guarantee you very few people have even heard of Stallworth.  Makes you wonder where some people’s priorities really are.

Your other comments on Vick, vis-a-vis gambling, I’m not sure I agree with.  I think Vick was erratic as a QB because a) he’s not that smart for a position that I believe is the most difficult in all of sports and b) he was not willing to learn the position.  He is an incredibly gifted athlete, but like Tim Tebow, I’m not sure there is an NFL position that he fits neatly into.

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By Samson, September 29, 2009 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

There’s a comment that Vick would have been better off getting drunk and killing a kid.

Seems like a joke at first.  But, as someone who used to live in Atlanta, it reminds me of something else that happened.

Does anyone know the name Danny Heatley?  Maybe not, because he plays hockey instead of football.  Another superstar athlete as a teenager, can’t miss superstar apparently.  So, the Atlanta NHL team drafted him as their #1 pick.

On the ice, he was starting to show that he had the talent everyone thought he had.  But, then late one night he was driving home from some team event.  Late, after midnight, he was driving his best friend on the team home in his new Ferrari.

The road he was driving on was awful and tricky.  And the estimate later was that he was doing about 80 mph when he lost control of the Ferrari and his a wall.  Heatley had his knee badly hurt in the accident.  His best friend was dead.

Legally, and in terms of the league, very little happened to Heatley.  It was determined he wasn’t drinking.  Just driving ridiculously recklessly and irresponsibly.  And the general feeling, which I don’t really disagree with, was that he’d paid enough by knowing he’d killed his best friend.

When his knee was healthy, he was welcomed back to the Thrashers with open arms.  But, apparently Heatley was uncomfortable playing in front of 13,000 people who knew what he had done, so he demanded a trade before the season.  Thus he was traded to Ottawa where he’s been a star player on that underachieving team the last few years.  And at no point was the millions that Heatley is earning as an NHL player ever threatened or questioned.

So, the line in the comment isn’t really that much of a joke.  Legally and career-wise, it appears that Michael Vick would have been much better off driving a Ferrari at 80 mph in a 35 mph zone, wrecking and killing his best friend.  As long as he wasn’t drunk when he did it.  And I guess as long as he wasn’t going to a late night dog fight.

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By Samson, September 29, 2009 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

For a moment, stop focusing on the dogs.  I want to know one thing.  Did Michael Vick ever throw games or shave points when with the Falcons?

The staggering thing about Vick was that every year during training camp, players are warned against associating with gambling.  The reasons for this are obvious.  The integrity of the game is at stake.  Yet, there was Michael Vick sitting there listening to those talks while knowing he was RUNNING a gambling operation.

Did Michael Vick ever lose money betting on dog fights?  Did he ever owe money to gamblers?  Since Michael Vick was hanging out and working with gamblers on a regular basis, did he ever place any bets on anything other than dog fights?

And most interestingly, today with hindsight, we know what wreckage the revelations about his dog fights have caused in his career.  Did any of the gamblers with whom he was associating use this as a threat before it was publicly revealed? 

Did someone use this to go to Michael Vick and say ‘throw this game or we ruin you by telling the authorities about your dog fights’?

I used to live in Atlanta, and for awhile there I watched most of the game Vick played.  Vick was a horribly inconsistent QB.  Part of this was because he rarely listened to his coaches and could never learn how to run an NFL passing attack. 

But, now that you know Vick was associating, heck working with, gamblers, another question comes to mind.  Was Michael Vick throwing games or shaving points when he was the Falcoms QB?

To me, the NFL and the media have done a wonderful job to make sure everyone is thinking about the cruelty to the dogs, and not asking this interesting question that would throw the whole integrity of the NFL into question.

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By Ian, September 29, 2009 at 5:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m glad to see the issue of dog fighting being put up next to our use of animals for food. I know it makes people uncomfortable, but they are clearly connected.

As a practical matter, persons who enjoy dog fighting or any animal fighting are no different than persons who enjoy consuming animal products. I am NOT insinuating those who choose to consume animal products would enjoy watching the animals brutally slaughtered. But one can’t help but recognize the excuses used by those in dog fighting and those consuming animal products is a matter of pleasure. Enjoying the taste, tradition, or the easy availability really isn’t a very good excuse. After all, those who participate in animal fighting do so b/c they enjoy it, it brings them pleasure, or as one example from the article, it’s been an American tradition. These are not morally acceptable excuses.
Animals used for food are treated terribly. I would go as far to say that on a large scale animals used for food are treated worse than animals who win in these fighting rings. Never mind that the use varies, nonhuman animals are killed b/c humans receive pleasure from their deaths. There is no denying that is the end result.

Rutgers Law Professor, Gary Francione wrote a couple of pieces on this that at the very least will make you think, if you can read from an objective position. I don’t think we can post external web links, but a quick search will bring you to his website and articles.

The only reason people are upset over dog fighting is b/c so many people live with dogs, they feel they have a connection with them. I’ve never lived with a cow or chicken, but I’ve been around them enough to know they have very similar minds to dogs- they wish to avoid pain, they have an interest in continued existence. They enjoy socializing with one another, and protect their families.

We have a very unusual relationship with other animals. It’s no wonder children (and adults) enjoy interacting with chickens and cows at petting zoo’s, yet fail to connect that they go home and eat the animal they were interacting with just hours ago.

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By frank1569, September 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“And, to the life of me to this day I can’t understand why I was involved in such a pointless activity and why I risked so much at the pinnacle of my career.”

That’s the money quote that reveals Vick, although he may have served his sentence, remains as psychologically damaged and confused as ever.

Unless he went to one of those prisons where actual, professional rehabilitation and therapy are required before one’s release… (and cue laughter)... Of course, if such a prison existed and he did, he wouldn’t still be so confused…

The difference between humans bashing humans, and everything else, is that humans make the choice. Animals do not. And enjoying the torture and murder of defenseless, beautiful creatures ain’t f#@king cured with 18 months in the pokie and ‘hope.’

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By voice of truth, September 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment


It was lacrosse players from Duke, not Princeton, and they did not rape or cause any harm to the “Af Am stripper”.  That has been proven conclusively.  They were tried by the media within days, but it was all made up by the stripper.

And lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports around, there are a LOT of kids, boys and girls, who play it, and in a varied geographic area.

As for marrying one of my daughters, well, that would be hard since I’ve scared away all of their suitors smile

Nick, I did not mean to say that you or any other was necessarily equating killing a human to killing an animal.  I personally think that what Vick did was horrendous.  In fact, the dog fighting aspect was the least awful (since at least each dog had a chance to best the other).  What they did to the dogs that didn’t perform, and HOW they killed them (electrocution, drowning, mutilation, beating), rather than simply euthanasia, says a LOT about what is going through a rather sick mind.

That said, have you ever tried to have a cow jump up in bed with you?  That would really suck.

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By Nick, September 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Voice of Truth and Mike are being intellectually dishonest about the meat eating arguments.  Not one post has explicitly equated animal life to human life.  The argument that I have made, one that I want to be honestly addressed, is the one stating that among the category of “animals” our laws currently discrimate between the animals we eat and those we call pets. The argument is not that we seek to attain moral equivalancy for humans and cows, but to highlight the discriminatory distinction between “dogs” and cows.  If Vick deserved to be sentenced for harming one particular species of “animal”, why is the harm caused through the processing of “animal” meat products any different?

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By KDelphi, September 28, 2009 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

Such a long story over a football player! The first mistake is your “presumed role model to children”...why should he be? He shouldnt be.

Peopple like Vick often grow up in horrendous circumstances, and, suddenly are multi-millionaire stars that you expect to do no wrong…Mike Tyson was a horrible example.

Why dont we stop glorifying this crap and stop paying them so gd much??

Erik Johansen, from the land of my father, is right. Boxing and football (US style) are not much better than dogfighting, except that humans have a choice. (what was Vick’s other choice again?)They are for rich, (mostly) white men’s enjoyment, for a crumb of a chance to get “rich” for a poor boy (plus brain damage)

Fat Freddy—yes, but adedressing it from a “criminal justice” viewpoint ignores the moral questions.That is how we have gotten where with are, with all of these sports. Its fricking ridiculous.

For those that think animal cruelty can be separated from other crulties, why not let Vick marry your daughter and find out? Humans may not equate with animals, on one scale, but one can generally infer one from the other. Most sociopaths start out abusing animals.

I always wonder—could he marry into your family? I asked 10 Senators that when they all spoke out about the “injustice” of the LaCrosse (who plays THAT shit??) Team at Princeton who raped an Af Am stripper (yes, strippers can be raped) being “treated unfairly in the media”—let one of them marry your daughter, if you think that they did nothing wrong..

Anyone who uses superior strength, (mental of physical) to the ill of another being, should look at their reasons and decide whether they are sufficient. I submit that, for the ‘fun” of dogfighting, or even, boxing, it IS a moral issue.

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By Fat Freddy, September 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

Here’s a little story about animal cruelty that happened last week.

Trust me, it’s cute (thankfully).

Follow up:

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By voice of truth, September 28, 2009 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

Some interesting comments…

Clearly, the stereotype of the left wing lib who has no concepts of sports is alive and well here.  oooh, the violence of it all.

Vick would have been better off if he had gotten drunk and ran over a kid.

Equating an animal to a human is ridiculous.  And how this article leads to people bitching about me eating meat, I have no idea.

In many areas of urban Atlanta, if you are walking a dog, especially a large dog, you can’t go a block without getting an offer to a dogfight.  Like it or not, one of the things this story did was highlight that dogfighting is a huge part of the black urban culture.

And don’t stereotype owners either.  The Rooney’s in Pittsburgh are an amazing ownership that really care about their players, their fans and their city.  Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, ditto.

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By mike112769, September 28, 2009 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Michael Vick has paid what he owed. 18 months in prison is far from an easy sentence. I wouldn’t want to do 18 hours, much less 18 months.

A lot of you on here need to realize that animals are not people. It would never occur to me to be cruel to an animal, far from it, I have several; however, I would not place their lives on an equal footing with that of my children.

I do not consider football to be a “blood sport”, and frankly anyone who does is being ridiculous. Boxing or MMA may be considered that, but football players have so much padding on that you would need to use a baseball bat to really get them bloody.

As to the lady who thought being given the finger was violent: Are you for real? A gesture is violent? Bullshit. I don’t care what you say, real violence doesn’t begin until someone is physically assaulted. A gesture to you in your car, from someone inside another car, is in no way, shape, or form violent. If you think that is violence, I suggest you stay home with your blinds drawn.

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By Blackspeare, September 28, 2009 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy…

You make some interesting points about convicted felons.  However, any felon that can throw a football 50 yards accurately, scramble, and play the wild cat will always have a job!  Just wait until Plaxico Burress gets out and then the Eagles will have a quite a pair!

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By Elizabeth Tjader, September 28, 2009 at 7:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Money, the almighty God in this country.

To the author, I so applaud your honesty and the process by which you looked at your own voyeurism regarding “bloodsports.” I had the same experience giving the finger to people. Once when it was given to me, I thought, “Jesus, this is so violent.” I’ve had a few slips but for the most part rarely give it anymore.

That said, this subject matter is so fricking sick. No other non-human animal pits another animal against one for the “sport” of it.

What does it say about us as a species that we enjoy watching planned bloody, cruel violence? Maybe it is part of human nature. But it’s not part of my human nature. And as someone who has spent a lifetime rescuing injured, abandoned and vulnerable animals; give me a non-human animal any day. I have two dogs, five cats, one rescued pet cow and a blind rescued rabbit. I would probably die for my animals. But I would never, EVER indulge in watching any of them die, or my human counterparts die, bashing and ripping each other’s brains out for sport and fun.

As far as Hip-Hop? I am exercising incredible restraint to withold what I’d really like to say. In this anal day and age of passing judgement on commentary I’d be crucified and called a racist bigot if I said what I really wanted. The thing is, isn’t EMINEM hip hop? So I wouldn’t be racist after all. I am simply one who hates illiterate, misogynist, bimbo thugs making millions endorsing violence and male dominance.

After reading this I looked my Kelpy/Aussie, Barney, in the eyes and told him he’d never be abused. Then I said a prayer for all the innocent, loving, loyal dogs subject to this unforgiveable cruelty. Shame on us!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elizabeth Tjader

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By Nick, September 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm Link to this comment
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The Michael Vick saga has become one of the most puzzling examples of rampant hypocrisy within our culture as it pertains to our treatment of animals.  While Vick’s sadistic and inhumane treatment of dogs is deplorable, I find the unnecessary consumption of the billions of livestock animals to be just as egregious.  One would like to imagine that the average piece of meat on our plate originates from some idyllic setting of green pastures and happily free and grazing cattle and hogs.  Anyone who has carefully researched the conditions of most factory farms understands that the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on these animals is excessive. How is it that our legal system sanctions violence against animals deemed pets, but turns a blind eye to the billions of animals that are slaughtered for food every year? Why do we consign a dog, rabbit, or cat to a greater level of moral status than a pig, lamb, or cow?

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By Brett, September 27, 2009 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment
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All of that pondering over Michael Vick and no real analysis of the other
“illogical and perhaps immoral contradiction” within most people: that of eating

If you examine animal agriculure and factory farming in the same detail that
you have researched this article, you will find the process indistinguishable
from even the most gruesome passages quoted above. The scale of the cruelty
and suffering is truly mind-boggling.

I was hoping that this piece would be about cognitive dissonance among
Michael Vick’s critics—and it certainly is—but the most obvious example is not
even mentioned. That people who eat meat, eggs and dairy can express moral
opprobrium at dog-fighting is baffling. It is as if they do not even recognize a
some part of themselves.

that if you examine the nature and

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By thebeerdoctor, September 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

re: Fat Freddy

Yes the tenor of team franchise ownership has indeed changed. And it was true; the magnates found enough ego satisfaction at being a city’s provider of a commercial, yet still considered philanthropic enterprise. Often these owners considered themselves ballpark czars, which of course explains why the Chicago Cubs played all games in the day, because Wrigley said: “baseball should be played in the day”. Contrast that with new most recent owners, who now, having made an enormous investment and loans, seek to squeeze every damn dollar possible out of there.
Revenue ideas abound. From building a new set of luxury boxes, to installing a giant Jumbotron screen in center field.
Of course the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley field may prevent this from happening, but there is certainly going to be an enormous amount of economic muscle applied.
You mentioned the Dallas Cowboys and their new facility. I must say I took some comfort at seeing Jerry Jones, George W. Bush, and John Madden witness the NY Giants defeat the Cowboys in the last 2 minutes of the game, “in their brand new house” as they might say.

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By bill jones, September 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
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It says a lot about America that the media spend more time discussing people who torture animals than those who torture people.

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By Mary Ann McNeely, September 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

Michael Vick is a punk in a nation in love with punks and thugs.  From George W. Bush to Dick Cheney to Barack Obama to Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin to Lloyd Blankfein and Richard Fuld, the smiling, strutting, swaggering punk flipping the world the finger is perhaps the most revered individual in the United States.

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By mackTN, September 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Football = gambling.  This country is all about gambling, as pointed out in Michael Moore’s Capitalism (where was the SEC?).  Football players, sports celebs and others convene and bet all the time. But that’s another story line. 

Glass houses pertain not only to bloodsports but also to moneysports.

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By Jim Yell, September 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment
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I never met a shepard that needed to be hung by the neck to get it to obey. Most shepards are programed to obey, best behaved animal there is.

I would have been more impresed if MackTN had turned the creep in for that behavior and no I don’t think Vick was over punished. I said it before and I say again someone who would treat an animal with deliberate disregard and not even to eat it, but just to enjoy inflicting pain and suffering. He would have done the same to a person. These people are not to be trusted.

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By Fat Freddy, September 27, 2009 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

Michael Vick was severely overprosecuted and punished for his crime against dogs undoubtedly,

Not really. If anything he was underprosecuted. I think the Feds let it roll, and let the state of Virginia run with it. Don’t forget, it wasn’t just cruelty to animals, it was the fact he bankrolled a major gambling ring. That’s organized crime, and he was the “kingpin”.

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By joell, September 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment
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@Laughter “It’s an interesting legal situation we have with animal rights.”

also, its “legal” to cut off their tails and ears.

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By W Bradford, September 27, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
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Ive always felt Vick was crucified.  Absurd the punishment this man was put through. 5 pages of script to reach the conclusion we all ‘live in glass houses’—From Pope’s who watched a holocast and priests who diddle children to every one of us who demands wholesale slaughter of animals to put steak on our tables…  we all hold good and evil in us.
We look around the world… the suffering of so many starving children.. the horrors of war. But in this country cute puppies become ‘family members’.  Its insane.

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By mackTN, September 27, 2009 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

Michael Vick was severely overprosecuted and punished for his crime against dogs undoubtedly, and I’m glad to see a well-thought out and researched article that highlights the illogic of Vick’s treatment.  No, I don’t like dogs treated that way, but when I think of greater crimes against humanity that are sanctioned and justified—for example, those in Iraq, or torture/rendition, or banks stealing from its clients—I just can’t muster up the same level of outrage against a bunch of lowlife dogfighters.  (I recall buying a dog from a kennel whose owner told me that he trained obedience from the shepherds and pit bulls by hanging them to the point of asphysiation from a tree limb).

But now Vick has transformed, found the Lord, ditched his arrogance, and will play for bread.

Now, about Bush and Cheney….

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By Folktruther, September 27, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Amon Drool, I did read the piece and you have to understand that Vick was convicted of a very serious crime, espeically in the US: killing dogs while being Black and uppity. Several decades ago they probably would have lynched him but now they moerely imprisoned him, bankrupted him, and partially destroyed his carreer.

As the US sinks into barbarism, blood sports are becoming more popular, scuh as football, boxing and martial arts, but these merely involve people, not animals.  If Vick broke someone’s neck on the football field he would probably be extolled.  But doggies, that’s a different matter. 

Americans have been taught to enjoy brutality and bloodshed, but only dirrected against people, preferably non-White ones.  But, by God,  we identify with our animal friends. 

Except the ones we eat.

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By Amon Drool, September 27, 2009 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

i don’t have enuf interest in this subject to even attempt to make it thru a 5 page story.  but vick sitting 2 years in prison for what he partook in leaves me with some unease.  i take part in a process that leaves me on the consumption end of the “industrial” killing of animals.  hey, i gotta eat and i still sleep well enuf at nite.  sure, vick needed to be admonished and punished some, but 2 years??!!

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By photoshock, September 27, 2009 at 9:19 am Link to this comment

Having known many of the ‘playas’ in the South Florida cock-fighting business, these people are and seem normal, yet they have this extremely dark side to them.
When an animal they own does not perform well, it is killed and fed to the owners other animals.(If you did not know it, chickens are notorious for eating carrion.) All this is done with alacrity and with no more heart than eating the same chicken for lunch.
Yet they will not let their children see such spectacles, they think that children should be protected from such sights.
Michael Vick does sound remorseful, yet the only true way to tell if someone is remorseful and has changed his mind regarding a certain activity, is to watch and see if his/her actions correspond with the words emanating from the mouth of the offender.
As for myself, I have long ago, given up the watching of baseball, football, basketball, soccer, boxing, and most any other sport. The simple fact is that the people who engage in these childhood games, are paid way too much money and I do not wish to support a culture which lionizes the playing of games by adults, who should be out earning a real living and not playing childhood games and receiving the adulation of people who will never see the kind of money and prestige that these people receive.

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By ardee, September 27, 2009 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

I woudl add my kudos to the excellent post of Freddy, and applaud his honesty as well.

The entire panoply of professional sports is warped beyond repair, I fear. Multi-millionaires, many without the sense to handle sudden wealth and the insight to understand how quickly the money disappears and the career as well. Billionaire owners who view humans as commodities only and reap many times the money they pay out.

I had season tickets to the Forty Niners for eleven years, was a passionate fan in fact though during most of that time the team was terrible. I gave up my tickets after the second super bowl season and have never looked back. I rooted for the Giants forever, my first baseball game was at the old Polo Grounds. Same with that loyalty, no time or patience for what is basically a rip off, of the players and of the fans.

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By Kay Johnson, September 27, 2009 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

At first, I passed by this article, and then, I returned to it, and read all five pages. When I was younger, I was a big sports fan, and watched football, baseball, etc. I was addicted to reading the baseball stats. But, I have never watched boxing—it’s far too brutal for me. A few years ago, I found myself feeling the same way about football, and I no longer watch baseball, either. I will admit that the obscene salaries and the issue of steroids also intruded upon my psyche. Truthfully, though, it’s not just sports—it’s the entire celebrity scene here in the U.S. The stars make all the money, and crumbs are tossed to the rest of us.

Being an animal lover, I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone can watch, and thrill, at the sight of dogs fighting to their death. Living in East Harlem, in NYC, I have heard rumors that pit bull dog fights take place in my neighborhood on a regular basis. Then, I hear that it’s all rumor. I have no idea what the truth is, but the number of pit bulls in my neighborhood is extraordinary. That fact I do know. I remember having many of the same feelings as the author of this article had as the facts unfolded and were reported about Michael Vick, and I have mixed feelings about him being forgiven to the extent that he, unlike many other individuals, will be able to rebuild his life on a scale that is unimaginable for most of us.

Fat Freddy: Thank you for sharing your own story with us! Your post is very interesting, and your point about society giving, or not giving, felons, as well as people afflicted with other serious issues, a second chance is well taken. For the most part, this society in which we live, here in the U.S., is harsh and unforgiving. 

However, Mr. Vick gets a second chance, and not just any second chance, but the opportunity to make millions and millions of dollars in a short season. That will never happen for most citizens, regardless of their situation.

the beerdoctor: I agree with your conclusion—
“The fact is, Mr. Vick, for whatever thugish behaviour he was found guilty of engaging in, is still a possible lucrative commodity to the corporate sports industry known as the National Football League.”

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By Marsha In Atlanta, September 27, 2009 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
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Great article. Until you started comparing your watching humans who CHOSE to fight, to those animals who have no choice within a dog fighint operation.

Do these boxers and other contact sport participants, fight to death? If they are injured, will their injuries be treated by applying SUPERGLUE? Will that boxer be hung or thrown in a dumpster if he lose that fight? Are you exploiting the goodness of an animal when watching boxing (because you know that’s what they do, when they train a dog to fight, they exploit that loyalty, which PIT BULLS are known to be the most loyal breed alive), or exploiting the over testosteroned actions of men who have made their own choices??? Was there a young child put on a wheeljenny for hours to get that boxer motivated, then that young innocent sacrificed for the boxers training? Did anyone feed the boxers peppers and gun powder before a fight? Or did they likely shoot those things in their own veins in the form of steroids?

Personally, I have never watched a boxing match nor sport such as that, and wasn’t repulsed and wondered at the idiocy of this being called a “sport”. I have never watched an entire boxing match. You watch it and like it, so…ok, you have your fair share of medieval tendencies, that’s all this article says, other than the VERY VERY concise and good background info on MV. I think that part was fair, truthful, and very interesting before you started castrating yourself for enjoying a good boxing match now and again.

Don’t compare the two, Caswell: Boxing and dog fighting.  They just don’t compare. The word CHOICE simply renders your entire article meaningless.

Another thing you may have missed though, although you did a very thorough job, the schools that MV is speaking to, through the Humane Society (Because he NEEDED to appear contrite so he would be allowed to return to the NFL) are not the schools that would have students who would likely be into dog fighting. His first, was scheduled for his 60 minutes taping, and was taped here in Atlanta. They staged the location in the vicinity of some poverty stricken neighborhoods, to appear as if they were reaching out to those “infected” with dog fighting. None of the children from that neighborhood were allowed into the venue where Vick was speaking. Only 50 people were allowed to hear his 12 minute speach, but those 50 people were handpicked by Michael Vick’s “handlers”, that was part of the agreement for him to speak. And none of those children lived anywhere near the location of the taping of this “PR” stunt. HUH??? They needed footage for the 60 minute interview. So they staged it. Ok…then the next school he speaks to his a private parochial school, where the dropout rate is 1% and 9 out of 10 students are college bound. Uhhh, exactly WHY did these kids need to hear MV speak??? Why not go to the areas where this is a problem, to speak??? Because he doesn’t mean it, and he doesn’t want to lose his “street cred”. Heck, he doesn’t even have to ever speak to another group again, he could just give the feds the names of anybody he associated with during his dog fighting years, lets put them all in jail, then he will have proven that he believes what he did is wrong. But he resists this, instead he is speaking at private religious schools, LMAOOOO.

Shout out to FATFREDDY you said far more than Caswell did, in much fewer words—Bravo FATFREDDY, nice response—Thanks for providing the clarity that Caswell is missing here—

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By Jim Yell, September 27, 2009 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
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Birds of a Feather, flock. I never did understand football, except that it was violent, teaches violence and is big business.

People who abuse animals are not to be trusted in any capacity. It is just one step from creative torture and killing of animals for “fun” and doing the same to people.

I would think a person who did this crime would be considered a poor bet, except in a game which is known for violence. Mores the pity.

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By Fat Freddy, September 27, 2009 at 6:46 am Link to this comment


I am no expert in professional football. But, it seems there was a time when it was an “honor” to own an NFL team. Former Eagles owner Leonard Tose made a fortune in the trucking industry prior to buying the Eagles. Compare that to current owner Jeffrey Laurie, who was a nominally successful movie producer, whose family owns a publishing company, whose primary source of income is the football team. I can’t speak too badly of Mr. Laurie, considering how badly the greedy bastard, and used car dealer Norman Braman who owned the team prior to Mr. Laurie, conducted business. Norman Braman is hated in Philly, and would be foolish to be seen anywhere in the city or surrounding area.

The only good thing Norman Braman ever did for the Philadelphia Eagles was hire Buddy Ryan. - Buddy Ryan (former head coach)

But consider the $1.2 billion dollar stadium recently built by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. One third of that cost will be made up in the naming rights of the stadium. Amazing.

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By thebeerdoctor, September 27, 2009 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Remorse has nothing to do with this. The fact is, Mr. Vick, for whatever thugish behaviour he was found guilty of engaging in, is still a possible lucrative commodity to the corporate sports industry known as the National Football League. Why else would a reprehensible owner such as Mike Brown, owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, make an offer for Vick’s services before the Eagles made him a better one?
Celebrity culture teaches that even irresponsible trash can be made marketable.

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By Fat Freddy, September 27, 2009 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

I would hardly compare boxing and MMA to dog fighting, anymore than I would compare it to football or ice hockey. People choose to step into a ring, dogs don’t. Your “moral dilemma” is along the lines of a parent, who smoked pot in college, lecturing their children on the dangers of drug addiction. 
Get over it.

I would like to address this issue from a criminal justice viewpoint. First, let me say, I live in the Philly area (all my life), and I am an Eagles fan (to a degree), and I am a convicted felon (for a minor drug charge). I have also employed convicted felons on parole, on occasion.

Ed Rendell (Gov. of Pennsylvania) has weighed in on this issue. Gov. Rendell has some credibility, due to the fact that before he was governor, he was DA and then Mayor of Philadelphia. He is also a huge Eagles fan and appears regularly on Post Game Live on Comcast Sports Net, which is an in depth game summary show that airs immediately after every Eagles game.

Gov. Rendell, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Laurie, have both stated, basically, that people deserve a second chance. That Michael Vick has served his time, and “paid his debt to society” and should be allowed to get on with his life. This is a very nice sentiment, indeed, but hardly applies to most of the general population. My question to Mr Laurie is, how many other convicted felons work for the Eagles organization? In the front office? Cleaning toilets in the stadium? Personally, even after 10 years, in a good economy, it would be very difficult for me to get a job stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. That’s the reality of it. The people I have employed, have come from a temporary labor agency. The work they do, would normally pay anywhere from $15-20/hr. They get paid minimum wage. But, if they work hard, and show up regularly, there’s a chance a company will hire them permanently.

I really did not expect the NFL to immediately reinstate Michael Vick. I expected that he would play, say, for the Canadian Football League (CFL) for a few years, at a relatively minuscule salary, and work his way back up to the NFL, eventually. That would be “social justice”.

I have no doubt Mr. Vick is remorseful. But, there are many reasons why a convicted felon can be remorseful. He can be remorseful for the actual crime he committed, and the cruelty and suffering he imposed on animals. He could be remorseful for getting caught. Or, he could be, for what many criminals are, remorseful for being stupid.

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By Erik Johansen, September 27, 2009 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
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As a scandinavian my take on this is that Michael Vick is “evil as hell” and football and boxing is just as pointless as dog fighting or bull fighting. There is though a huge difference between what adults choose to do with their own bodies and what someone choose to force upon others. We destroy ourselves smoking, drinking, eating fat and sugar, but we have the right to do so. As free human beings we should have this right, even if we have universal health care and it costs the state(the other tax payers) when we get sick. What Michael Vick was a part of was evil. 18 months in prison is a joke. If he did serious time I would feel like he had the right to “join society” again. 18 months for what he did is simply a joke.

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By Laugher, September 27, 2009 at 3:34 am Link to this comment
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It’s an interesting legal situation we have with animal rights.

You can imprison them, in almost any living conditions.
You can castrate them, brand them, and of course kill them.

But you can’t have two of them fight

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