Best Friends Blog

Michael Vick, Never Say Never

Never say never. I thought I was done with writing about Michael Vick a long time ago, but the national conversation about the man transcends Vick himself and gets to some bigger issues: the intrinsic value of the lives of animals, for starters, and whether or not deliberate and repeated animal cruelty is a crime, like stealing a car, that can be squared with restitution and jail time or something much, much worse. The country seems to be passionately divided over the issue.

My blog last week seems to have struck a chord. It played off President Obama’s call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to, in part, commend him for giving Michael Vick a second chance. There were over 1,200 reader comments to that posting and forgiveness was a primary theme.

I felt that one comment was particularly poignant and captured the moral dilemma that many people confront when the subject of Michael Vick comes up:

“I know God wants us to find it in our hearts to forgive but I just don’t know how to forgive Vick for what he has done. I need to do some praying to help me find a way but I can’t even get it in myself to pray for something like that! I’m not ready to forgive him apparently and not sure if I ever will. Please God, forgive me for being so unforgiving!” – unable to forgive

With or without God, I believe that most people would really like to feel OK about Michael Vick and that the vast majority of the public who don’t are not mean-spirited, unyielding animal nuts, which is how we are often portrayed by those who say he has suffered enough, paid enough and should be allowed to get on with his life without reservation.

For me, this is not about Michael Vick’s suffering or punishment: It’s about his conscience. Does he really have one and is there something there that we can connect with?

Getting involved in a dogfighting operation with his cousin and friends from his former life was stupid and criminal. Killing animals the way he did was deviant and reflects a sickness that can’t be offset by a prison sentence.

Most people live with regret over things that we have done or failed to do. Not because we were caught or because the things that we did ruined our lives or a relationship, but because when we go there and reflect on those actions, we see something ugly and unacceptable, something that never goes away and can never be undone.

I would like to be able to believe that Michael Vick has confronted that place in himself. Not his criminality, or his self-destructiveness or his stupidity, but the unimaginable darkness and cruelty that enabled him to personally kill at least eight very strong animals by incredibly violent methods.

Those of us who have a problem with the Vick celebration don’t believe he has done that. If he had, I don’t think his public apologies would be about all the people he let down, about failing as a role model or even, for that matter, about running a dogfighting operation.

If he had confronted that darkness, I believe his words would be different and so would the response from the animal-loving public. The problem for most of us is that Michael Vick has never really connected with us, never spoken to us on the core of the matter. If he does indeed live every day with the horror of what he did, then I believe he can and should speak to us.

He could begin with an apology to the animals. He would acknowledge that he found within himself something horrific and frightening — something that he can’t explain, excuse or defend, something that no amount of jail time or loss of public stature can offset.

It’s much easier to forgive someone who can’t forgive himself.

Francis Battista

Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society

  • Danas726

    Thank you Francis–beautifully and perfectly stated. I recently had a debate on this subject with my cab driver on my way to the airport! Second chances must be earned and demonstrating his remorse toward the animals and animal community would help me start to turn the page on my opinion of him.

  • Ambercarlton

    Took the words right from my soul. I can honestly say, i will never be able to hear his name and not cringe. I will never hear his name and not get flashes of the the things that i have only heard about. I have been unable to read or view any material on this subject. It is just too much sorrow. I will never hear his name and not feel sorrow for those dogs and what they went through. I will never hear his name and not be angry at him. I will never forgive. And if that makes me a bad person, then that’s what i’ll have to live with. What he has to live with is so much worse. Who gives a crap about his fame or athleticism. He is a horrible human being. And if there is any justice he will answer to what he has done at the hands of the Lord.

  • Ambercarlton

    I defy anyone to look into one of my dogs eyes when they light with pleasure upon seeing me home from work and tell my that dogs do not have souls. Shame on whoever said that!

  • BK

    I am pit bull owner, I love my dogs very much, they are, and will always be a part of my family! some people are so shallow and have zero compassion, that jerk that told you to open a bible needs to open it himself! we should nurture, love and care for things that cant take care of them selves. Some people will just never get it, because they are to self serving. It is said that people that like to inflict pain or death on animals will most likely be a serial killer.Wow some role model! Its scary to think that these people walk among us, and for the people that have a negitive opinion about the pit bull breed, have an uneducated opinion. Bottom line shame on anyone who is willing to harm or kill any helpless animal or child, you will have to pay for what you have done one day!!!!! I hope for your sake God shows you more mercy than you gave your victim.

  • Mickeyr

    I am so sorry that there is no “Death Penalty” for those that would abuse helpless creatures of the world. Their life (the abuser’s) cannot be of any benefit to anyone other than to be an example of what will happen if you do abuse God’s creatures. DEATH to abusers!!!

  • Tallyluann

    I can’t be worried about someone saying that dogs don’t have souls……..that thinking is simply stupid and nothing else. What worries me, is, does Michael Vick have a soul?
    If he does, then show us that and stop talking about how sorry he is to have sold out his reputation. It appears to me that he sold his soul.

  • genevalove

    no can do. michael vick is barely literate. no excuse for his brutality, but the man can barely speak, let alone read!

  • genevalove

    As long as creatures like vick are given hero status, animal brutality will be downgraded to a”almost crime.” Anyone capable of the cruelty he has shown, is lacking, heart, soul,and/or conscience(sociopath.) Animals have a greater innate sensitivity to the world around them. I agree with Tallyluann; we cannot concern ourselves with the “question of dogs having a soul.”Anyone, who has loved an animal, knows the answer. My concern is the lack of empathy for the victims of monsters like vick. These seem to be the ones truly without a “soul.”

  • Debbie Hanson

    One of the most frightening things about Vick’s response to what he’s done is his repeated statement that he doesn’t know why he did what he did. If he doesn’t understand why he did what he did, it’s hard to believe that he is making any real effort to reform. Someone who truly wanted to be rehabilitated, who truly wanted to reform, would be trying desperately to discover why he behaved as he did, but we’ve heard nothing from Vick about that. Only excuses that it has to do with the “culture” in which he was raised, and no reporter has had the courage to ask him what he specifically means by “culture”? However he’s defining culture–African-American, rural, southern or some combination thereof–I find it extremely difficult to believe that everyone who belongs to that culture would behave as he did. If a significant enough number of them don’t, then the culture excuse flies out the window.

    Vick needs to address sincerely why he was able to enjoy torturing dogs. If he doesn’t, he’s not really trying to rehabilitate himself no matter how well he plays football or how many pretty speeches he makes at schools. I, too, wonder if it’s possible for someone who could enjoy such a thing to be rehabilitated, but I’m quite certain it’s completely impossible if the person is content to say, “I don’t know why I did it” without that deeply troubling him.

    I hope and pray that the judge in charge of his case understands that and continues his ban on owning animals of any kind past his probation. An inability to have a dog in his life ever again isn’t about punishing Vick further–it’s about protecting animals from someone who has been horribly cruel to them and who claims not to know why. If he doesn’t know why, then there’s no way he can guarantee that he won’t do it again.

  • F S

    Were to start…..
    Vick number one isnt sorry for a thing that he did. His PR people are working around the clock to try to make him look good and like he feels sorry.
    Vick DIDNT do any time for the crimes that he comitted. He should have been in prison for life for orginized crime. Lets not just focus on the fact on his actions towards the animals but the fact that he transported some of the dogs used in his fights across state lines for illegal actions (dog fighting).

    He provided the property for the dog fights and was involved in the gambling.
    I am sorry but there are people in prison right now for life for running a “backroom dice game” because gambling is illegal.

  • Glad to be Canadian

    You said it! What’s a bit more disturbing is how most acts of violence towards animals are translated by the majority of councellors and shrinks in the world to be a prelude to something that person could and likely would do WORSE to a human. Not that I support the notion that human lives are more valued than animals but that being said. If they had seen this of an unknown lowlife out in the regular world away from bright shiny camera lights etc, they would have had the guy/girl in for serious rehabilitation and would have made sure they were monitored to be AWAY from animals forever…The sicko’s of the world who murder, rape or have domestic abuse issues, studies have shown that there is a relation to these and having a history in their lives of being violent to an animal. Some worse than others obviously. Why is it that the courts or lawyers, people who most respect or people in the decision making chair can so easily dismiss the unseen reality with Michael Vick here, that there is a phsycological tie to his history that will never ever stop even if he was to touch base with his heart and REALLY honestly regret about what he did to animals. There will never be a way to tell if he is being honest to himself or the concerned public. Just because his daughter(s) “miss having a dog” they should be the best candidates to seriously learn from this experience as a “we couldn’t have one because it’s not right to mis-treat them and now that I’m a responsible adult can make the decision on the proper steps to take to assure I don’t follow in the same path”. When we are children we are punished for the things we have done and learn from mistakes, not given another chance to say “oops”….Vick is only sorry that he got caught, that his cousin was a fool, his mom and family had to do without him and his fame for a while and maybe cry a bit…He has no shame or regret about the dogs themselves as it is a sickness and a mental disability to be unable to feel compassion for another creature they have helped murder/destroy, not just “put to sleep” or kill, tortured and amused himself to put dog(s) in their death bed. He should never get the opportunity for a dog, even once he’s done that sould searching.

  • Summerfreckles06

    I agree. Would people give a convicted pedophile a child just because he served time in prison and claimed to be rehabilitated? Not a chance. It is appalling to me that people think he has served his time. Where is the justice for the dogs lives he personally ended? or the ones he just watched rip each other apart? It is because of people like him that make others think Pits are aggressive dogs. Anyone who is smart enough to spend time with a pitbull knows that they are some of the most loving dogs you can find,