Monday, July 23, 2007

Late to the Game

Michael Vick's immediate future will be decided in two locations: the Richmond, Virginia federal court where the NFL quarterback faces conspiracy charges (relating to his involvement with a dog-fighting ring), and in the executive suite of the National Football League, where Commissioner Roger Goodell must decide when--or if--Vick will be suspended. (Mr. Vick's team, the Atlanta Falcons, has taken no action against their star player, and appears to be waiting for the league to take the first step).

In an obvious attempt to influence that decision, various animal rights "activists" picketed in front of the league's New York headquarters on Friday. Leading the protest--as you might expect--were representatives of PETA, who can always manage a media stunt on a moment's notice.

"Sack Vick," chanted the PETA-organized protestors. The AP reports that some of the demonstrators carried dogs with "Sack Vick" signs on their back, and one woman even brought a pit bull, the same breed favored by by the NFL star, and other, alleged participants in the dog-fighting operation. The protest occurred while Mr. Goodell met with representatives of the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to discuss the Vick case.

Readers will note that PETA demonstration received wide media coverage, but none of the reporters asked the essential question, namely where was the "animal rights" organization when Vick and his cronies were reportedly staging dogfights on his property in Surry County, Virginia and killing animals that failed to perform?

PETA's activists and press releases fail to mention a rather inconvenient truth: Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels," which raised pit bulls and sponsored fights, operated for years right under PETA's organizational nose. The quarterback's former residence in Surry County is located only 36 miles from PETA's headquarters in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, and less than a dozen miles from one of the group's frequent protest sites--the corporate headquarters of meat-packing giant Smithfield Foods.

In response, the organization might invoke the "national and international" scope of its activities, suggesting that it doesn't have the time (or resources) to get involved in local matters. But such claims would be false, providing yet another example of PETA's duplicity. In reality, the organization has been quite active in its own "backyard," attracting negative publicity for killings scores of animals from animal shelters in neighboring North Carolina--after promising to put them up for adoption--then dumping their carcasses in a grocery store dumpster.

More recently, a PETA staffer was arrested on felony theft charges in Southampton County, after she was spotted with a hunting dog in one of the group's vehicles. Unfortunately for the PETA employee, the dog (which was wandering near a local road) belonged to the county's animal control officer, who was alerted by a local resident. The group made no effort to contact the officer, despite the fact that his name and cell phone number were on the dog's tag. Additionally, the hound had an identifying tattoo, and was outfitted a radio tracking collar, which the PETA staffer had removed. A county judge recently rejected a motion to dismiss the case, and the PETA employee will go on trial later this year.

So, while PETA workers trolled the by-ways of eastern Virginia for errant hunting dogs, the crew at Bad Newz were staging big-money dog fights, and slaughtering unfortunate animals who lost their matches, or simply failed to show enough aggressiveness. An observant local cop, following up on the drug arrest of Vick's cousin, was the first to uncover the dog-fighting operation; diligent work by federal authorities (aided by organizations like the ASPCA) secured the indictment of the NFL star.

But with the Vick case now front-page news, PETA is milking the scandal for its own advantage. Stories about the group's protest at NFL headquarters were carried in newspapers across the nation and on cable news channels as well. When the league suspends Vick--as it should--who do you think will claim credit and highlight its "success" in future fund-raising appeals? Why PETA, of course.

In reality, the organization was late to the game, and did nothing to expose or investigate the barbaric cruelty that was inflicted on animals at Vick's estate in Surry County. Jumping on the bandwagon--and in front of the cameras--at this late juncture is nothing more than shameless self-promotion, the one activity at which PETA truly excels.


Fox Sports is reporting that PETA took its protest road-show to Falcons' headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia today. About four dozen "activists--including kids as young as 12--took part in the demonstration. Not surprisingly, reporters covering the "event" failed to ask PETA organizers about the group's inability to detect--and address--the dog-fighting problem, before it became a national scandal (and a convenient fund-raising tool).

No comments: