Washington, D.C. -- "Barbaric, Barbaric, Barbaric!" This is the phrase recently opined by Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, our nation's longest-serving US Senator and last great political orator. Following news of charges leveled against Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick, Senator Byrd described the tragic and gruesome practice of dog fighting in a heartfelt speech on the Senate floor.
Senator Byrd wiped tears from his eyes during his speech, symbolizing the revulsion felt by the majority of Americans regarding the allegations made against a supposed "role model." The public is clearly opposed to animal abuse, and every state in this country has laws against animal cruelty. Yet, from the beginning of recorded history, some humans have treated animals as disposable pieces of property to use, abuse and kill at will.
When asked about the Vick case, Washington Redskins player Clinton Portis said, "I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog. If that's what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their own business." This mindset of animals as "private property" may sound abhorrent, but sadly, it is used all-too-commonly by elected officials.
In fact, during a Congressional hearing just last week, a US Representative from Georgia derided a ban on horse slaughter as infringing on owner's rights because horses are "private property." And in a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives last year on the same subject, a Congressman from Utah dedicated his entire speech opposing the bill to the premise of protecting "private rights."
The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act has come close to enactment in the US Congress, but it continues to languish on Capitol Hill due to a few individuals who misuse the democratic process and tout the private property argument. However, private property does not confer a right on anyone to mistreat animals. People who mistreat animals must be held accountable for their actions without being able to rely on this supposed justification.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) calls on federal authorities to aggressively pursue the charges against Michael Vick and his three cohorts. Further, AWI encourages the National Football League to suspend Vick. AWI also urges the US Congress to reject antiquated and clearly out of step arguments regarding the most basic animal protective measures. Our legislators must set an example by leading efforts to reduce animal cruelty whenever possible.
The Animal Welfare Institute, founded in 1951, is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. AWI's legislative division is leading the national campaign to end horse slaughter and advocating passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. For more information, please visit www.awionline.org.