Ripples From Vick Dogfighting Story Continue To Spread

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2009

ATLANTA - 2007:  Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons poses for his 2007 NFL headshot at photo day in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Getty Images)

Before we outdoorsy people like your's truly chastises Sports Illustrated's John Rolfe for his anti-hunting online column (August 21, 2007), I should at least give him the benefit of the doubt, right?

Perhaps he has a point.

In his “Getting Loose” column, Rolfe applauds the NFL in regards the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. He (and PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) say that while the NFL did the right thing in this case so far, it should go further, making a blanket policy that outlaws any cruelty to animals. Rolfe points at Jonathan Babineaux (accused in February of beating his girlfriend's pitbull, which later died) and Thomas Hammer (accused in 2001 for beating his dog) as examples.

He then suggests that this new blanket policy could include other versions of animal cruelty, such as hunting. He makes a point that NFL players who take part in hunting should be sanctioned similarly to Vick.

For those who don't agree with Rolfe (and his PETA cronies) that hunting isn't cruel, he explains:

“Don't think that widely-accepted recreational activity is cruel? That deer or rabbit that just had a shell or arrow put into it and crawled off to bleed to death in the brush will beg to differ, as will the buffalo, boar, elk and more that are sitting ducks in enclosed areas on so-called 'canned hunt' farms. And if you go by PETA's standards, fishing is a no-go, too. Think that bass enjoys that hook in the roof of its mouth while it's hauled gasping out of the drink?”

Deep stuff. Why stop there, Mr. Rolfe?

While we're at it, let's ban all NFL players who eat meat. Forget about Bambi getting shot in the woods—at least Bambi got to experience a little freedom before his demise. What about all the beef cattle that are raised strictly for meat, standing knee-high in manure? (I know this isn't the case at most farms, but then again, most true hunters don't leave rabbits and deer to suffer in the bushes. If Rolfe can make unfair stereotypical generalizations, why can’t I?).

Let’s also ban all NFL players who wear clothes made of wool or leather or other animal-based substance. Those animals were all miserable during their lifetimes at various farms, too, I'm sure. (Again, some unfair stereotypical generalizations).

Let's ban the NFL players who drive cars, or ride in cars (or limos). The leather-based seats and other animal-based products in cars are nothing when compared to the animals who are killed, maimed, and tortured on America's highways, not to mention affected negatively by automobile pollution problems. I don't have official figures, but I’d bet there are exponentially more animals injured by automobiles each year in this country than by hunting.

Let’s ban all the NFL players who fly in airplanes to games or anywhere. How many birds have been victims of airplane collisions? What about all the animal habitat that was ruined in the building of America’s airports and runways?

Speaking of habitat, let's ban all NFL players who live in a home. Animal products involved aside, homes destroy animal habitat. Wetlands, trees (for wood building supplies), and even pastures are destroyed every day across the country as more and more new homes are built. Forget about the inconvenience of a hook in the roof of a bass’s mouth. Destroying habitat is much more cruel than fishing.

While we're at it, let’s ban all NFL players who use medicine or any item developed from animal byproducts. Let’s ban players who use oil-based products, so that less oil is needed and less wells are drilled, less pollution finds its way into our waterways and less holes wind up in our ozone layer. What about those who use paper or other wood-based items that take away, again, from the trees in our ecosystem?

If we really want to go all the way, why don’t we ban any NFL player who breathes? They leave behind less oxygen for all the little critters in our great outdoors, which might be a little too stressful for the animals in our ecosystem.

Then again, why do we look at NFL players under such a high-powered microscope? Do we expect them to be role models for the rest of us? If that's the case, let's arrest every person who violated an animal, whether intentional or not.

Trying to relate the atrocities of dogfighting—a legitimate cruelty-to-animal crime—to hunting is like comparing Paris Hilton to Mother Teresa. There is no real comparison.

What Rolfe, and many of the PETA ranks, seem to forget is that the freedom of speech they practice in complaining about hunting is no more valuable than the freedom and rights of hunters to practice their trade.

I agree that there are many “hunters” who tarnish the image of what we hold dear. Canned hunts, being unsafe and unethical in the woods, etc., only fuel the fire of people like Rolfe.

And with that, Mr. Rolfe does share a powerful message for each of us in his column: That more than ever, hunters need to take their trade seriously, or we may all be banned from a way of life.