So, I finally finished the Sports Illustrated story on the Vick dogs and I sobbed the whole way through it. And I swear I’m not going to turn this blog into all anti-PETA all the time, but I’m struck by this part at the end–
Still, it’s Jasmine, lying in her kennel, who embodies the question at the heart of the Vick dogs’ story. Was it worth the time and effort to save these 47 dogs when millions languish in shelters? Charmers such as Zippy and Leo and Jonny Justice seem to provide the obvious answer, but even for these dogs any incidence of aggression, provoked or not, will play only one way in the headlines. It’s a lifelong sentence to a very short leash. PETA’s position is unchanged. “Some [of the dogs] will end up with something resembling a normal life,” Shannon says, “but the chances are very slim, and it’s not a good risk to take.”
–and to that, I say, “Fuck you, PETA.” Why, if the people taking those risks are fully informed about them and take them on willingly, is it not a good risk to take? Who, in fact, is to say what a “normal life” is like and who is to say that having a normal life is the only good life for a dog?
Plus, let’s talk about the 47 v. millions argument. If Vick’s dogs had not come along, it’s not like all the money and time expended on those dogs would have gone to other, I guess, more deserving dogs. The money and time and homes came available for those dogs and it seems utterly vile and reprehensible to suggest that, because those dogs aren’t the right kind and because their lives aren’t going to be good enough to meet PETA’s standards, they shouldn’t be able to benefit.
I normally hate conflating animal rights with human rights, because it leads to jackassery like PETA degrading and exploiting the suffering of humans in order to try to improve the lives of animals, and I say that up-front because I am about to conflate animal rights with human rights a little bit and it may turn out to be just as wrong-headed and vile, but this morning I read Michael Bérubé’s post about his discussion with Peter Singer and Singer’s nonsense about how people who have babies with Down Syndrome must come to accept that their children will just never have real rich and rewarding lives like, you know, normal people.
And I’m sitting here wondering if there’s some gross strain of animal rights thought that is hung up on privileging normalcy. I don’t know what to make of that.
I know that, as a practical matter, every being–person or animal–cannot get the time, attention, money, and care that he or she deserves. And it is true that there are going to be beings that get time and attention and money and care while other beings don’t. And it is even true that it will seem (and often be true) that there are beings who get all that stuff when there are others who seem to or actually deserve it more. In face, that stuff may have gone to the being who’s gotten it at the expense of other beings.
But often beings get time, attention, money, and care that would otherwise not exist. Suggesting that it’s wrong to give it to the Vick dogs seems to me to overlook the fact that it’s not like that stuff would otherwise go to other dogs. So, if people want to give them that stuff, why shouldn’t the dogs benefit? Life isn’t fair. They got lucky, in every sense of the word. But so did the people who open up their hearts to those dogs.
And that seems true to me with Bérubé and his son. Not only does Jamie have a full and rich life that has intrinsic value–though it’s not “normal”*–but Michael’s life is profoundly enriched by his son.
That’s enough. It’s justification enough.
So what if it’s not “normal”?
It’s not like these beings are stealing the life that should have gone to a more deserving, “normal” being. But that strikes me, reading both of these things, as an underlying current in this strain of animal rights thought–that because there’s not enough to go around, the beings capable of “normal” life should get the resources.
And that’s ugly.
*Though, really, what a bullshit concept. It’s his life. It’s normal to him.