Many people were shocked after hearing of the exploits of football star, Michael Vick. At the time I remember hearing numerous discussions about why “people who do that sort of thing ought to be punished severely”. Interestingly enough, the debate over animal rights didn’t really subside when Vick went to prison and has only managed to grow and gain momentum like some sort of inescapable juggernaut.
True, the saga of animal rights didn’t really begin (nor will it end) with Michael Vick, but I want to address one key flaw in the whole notion of animal rights that many people, even those who are not staunch supporters of PETA, often completely miss when it comes to the discussion of animal abuse.
The bottom line is that animals are property.
No, we shouldn’t mistreat them, we ought to be good stewards of them; and yes, it does tell us much about a person’s character when they derive pleasure from the needless torture of a helpless animal1. In fact, I would argue that the same applies even if the animal is able to defend itself (i.e. hunting certain types of game such as bear) if the intent is still to derive pleasure from the suffering of a living creature.
However where do we draw the line in a free society when it comes to telling people what they can and cannot do with their property?
I think such a notion of telling someone what they can or cannot do with their own private property is a slippery slope. One needs to only look to the numerous crusades against the meat industry and the ever increasing restrictions in some places about the “humane” methods of execution that may and may not be applied (i.e. California’s Humane Slaughter Provisions law).
You may be able to make a case against the commercial purchase and financial profit from bloodsports (i.e. dog fighting) which I’m sure would help curb these horrible practices, however I strenuously oppose any and all attempts to either equivocate animals with people or to allow outside parties (including the government) to dictate what a person does with their own private property.