Yesterday, July 11, 2012, Lennox, allegedly a pit bull, was killed by the Belfast, Northern Ireland, City Council. Pit bulls are illegal in Northern Ireland. There had been an international campaign to save Lennox and now there is international outrage over his death.
And there ought to be.
It is nothing but ignorance to regard pit bulls as a vicious type of dog. Anyone who knows anything about pit bulls knows that they are gentle, loving dogs whose historical role has been to act as nonhuman babysitters for human children. Are some pit bulls vicious? Yes, the ones who are made to be vicious by humans. And from what I have read, the claim by Belfast authorities that Lennox was vicious, or that it was “necessary” in any sense to kill him, was not supported by the evidence.
But the story of Lennox has a deeper meaning. There was international outrage over this matter because there was no justification for killing Lennox. The Belfast City Council acted wrongly.
But what about the approximately 150 million nonhuman animals-not counting fish-who will be killed today for food?
Every one of those animals is as innocent and vulnerable as was Lennox. And there is no justification for the suffering and death we impose. We kill and eat animals because they taste good; we act out of habit to satisfy our palate pleasures. Nothing more.
Many of those protesting Lennox’s death and objecting to the actions of the Belfast City Council are doing exactly what the City Council did in Lennox’s case: they are deciding who lives and who dies.
The worldwide outrage over this injustice shows that many of us do have moral concern about nonhumans.
If we could ignite the moral spark and generalize that moral concern so that all of those upset over the death of Lennox could become similarly outraged over the deaths of the billions of animals killed annually for food, we’d have an animal rights movement.
The pathetic “happy meat” “compassionate consumption” movement that presently exists has nothing to do with animal rights; it has to do with making humans feel better about consuming nonhumans.
Lennox was killed unjustly. That was wrong. Those who object to what happened to Lennox should recognize that continuing to consume animals makes us no different from the Belfast City Council.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. And educate others, in a creative and nonviolent ways, about how veganism is the only rational response to the recognition that animals matter morally.
And if you have the ability to adopt a homeless animal of any species, please do so. If you adopt, consider a pit bull or pit bull mix. They are wonderful dogs!
Let our raised consciousness about justice for all nonhumans be the legacy of Lennox.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
©2012 Gary L. Francione
Postscript added July 16, 2012
Some animal advocates are calling for a tourism boycott of Northern Ireland and the Olympics in response to the tragic killing of Lennox. This shows how confused many animal advocates are. First, why Northern Ireland? New York City kills more pit bulls in a day than Northern Ireland and the entire United Kingdom has probably killed in years. Second, millions of animals are being killed every minute of every day everywhere around the world and the response: a boycott focused on one dog and no mention of the millions of others or how it all fits. No mention of veganism.