Beyond Vick: Animal Cruelty for Sport The dogfighting charges against NFL quarterback Michael Vick have drawn widespread attention and condemnation, but you don't have to look far to see other forms of animal abuse in the name of sport.
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Beyond Vick: Animal Cruelty for Sport

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Beyond Vick: Animal Cruelty for Sport

Beyond Vick: Animal Cruelty for Sport

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's go to another athlete in the news who's also been touch by scandal.

Commentator Frank Deford has been considering the case of Atlanta Falcon's quarterback Michael Vick.

FRANK DEFORD: There has been some muted protest that Michael Vick has been suspended too precipitously by the National Football League and unfairly stripped of his rich endorsements before the indictments against him for dog fighting and dog killing could be settled in court. However, given the heinous charges against Vick, it is difficult to imagine any public company - yours, for example - that would blithely keep such an employee till the government had gotten around to working things out with him.

The presumption of innocence may be one of the most hallowed tenets of our justice system. But let's face it, in an informed society - most especially where details are well publicized - citizens of goodwill will arrive at their own conclusions. Sometimes, of course, these assumptions will run wild. In sport, we have no further to look than the notorious Duke lacrosse case. But, then, as the presumption of innocence is a final safeguard, the presumption of shame is a precipitant reality that public figures must take into account when they choose to misbehave.

And Vick's infamy has at least put the spotlight on the loathsome business of dog fighting. Who knew, who knew that the Humane Society estimates that there are as many as 40,000 Americans who fight dogs? And there are, too, other animal torture amusements in this country that, lacking a celebrity to spotlight them, actually remained legal in many states. For example, are you familiar with something called canned hunting? This is fun for that greatest of oxymorons: sportsmen.

These are hunters who go to what are called, yes, shooting preserves. There, animals are conveniently penned in for paying customers with a no-kill, no-pay guarantee so they can be sure shot at close range. Fish in the barrel. Only about half our states have any restrictions against canned hunting. There are about 1,000 shooting preserves in the U.S. - 500 alone in the great state of Texas.

Or, if you're a sportsman too busy to actually leave your comfortable home to kill a defenseless animal, Internet hunting is just for you. It's easy. You go online and are connected to a shooting preserve that may be hundreds of miles away, where you see your prey before you. You zero in on the target on your computer screen and touch a button that activates a gun that blows away the unsuspecting, docile animal. The trophy head will be shipped to you, you brave big game hunter, for display on your wall.

Sixteen states have no strictures against Internet hunting. One of them is the great state of Georgia, where so many citizens have been upset that the accused dog slaughterer, Vick, plays for their Atlanta Falcons. I'm personally repulsed by Michael Vick, but the sad fact is that in the animal cruelty business, he shares company with a lot of other distinguished American sportsmen.

INSKEEP: Frank Deford's new novel is "The Entitled." It's a story of baseball celebrity and scandal. Frank joins us each Wednesday with his commentaries from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. You hear him on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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