Human Exceptionalism

More on the Vick Dog Fighting Case

I have a piece in today’s Rocky Mountain News about the Vick case, entitled, “Vick Charges Speak to Our Humanity.” It is pretty succinct. Here is an excerpt:

People are outraged at this scandal, and rightly so. But few are asking why, exactly, we are so upset. For example, do we contend that the dogs acted wrongly by fighting each other to the death? Of course not. Only human beings have the capacity to understand right from wrong…

Then are we furious because, as animal-rights activists would have it, the victimized dogs had a “right” not to be treated in such a brutal fashion? No. Animals don’t have rights. They can’t even understand the concept. Indeed, for rights to be true rights, they must apply universally. Yet anyone seriously asserting that a lion violated a zebra’s right to life by hunting it down would be laughed out of town.

So what was the real wrong allegedly committed here? Simply stated, the purported crimes of Vick and his alleged co-conspirators are rightfully viewed as despicable because their brutal actions violated their (and our) humanity…

This conclusion springs from the extraordinary nature of human beings…[I]f Vick and his cohorts trained dogs to rend each other mercilessly and brutally killed the animals whose natures were insufficiently vicious to win fights, and, moreover, did so merely to make money by satisfying a barbaric blood lust in their customers or to provide them with a gambling adrenaline rush, they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law and to be shunned socially as pariahs.

By treating helpless animals as if their pain did not matter, by engaging in such blatant cruelty, they not only inflicted inexcusable suffering and terror upon helpless, sentient beings, but, even worse, they besmirched the higher nature and noble calling of the human race.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain News for publishing the column.