“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land” (Jeremiah 5:30)
Civilization advances in civility not all at once, not even in gradual progressions of sense and sensitivity, but rather in spasms of shock, outrage, reflection, remorse, regret and reevaluation. These spurts are what make civilization civilized. How did it happen that the ancient Roman Empire brought to a close the atrocious entertainment in their arenas, pitting gladiators against one another, against beasts, and beasts against other animals? It took an old Christian in the arena shouting out to stop it all. His cries only inflamed the crowd which yelled for his death – but that event paralyzed the people in the stands with the realization that their bestial behavior was an abomination to humanity.
Queen Elizabeth I, ruler in the 16th century over England, called “Good Queen Bess,” was neither good nor kind to animals. Each Thursday she enjoyed watching a bear chained to a post by a hind leg baited and bitten by dogs. Hence the name “bulldogs,” bred to serve those brutal amusements.
The high society of 18th and early 19th century London would spend Sundays by beginning with sacred worship and then the afternoon meal, followed by a visit to the St. Mary’s Hospital for the insane, or Bethlehem [Bedlam]. There they were amused and entertained by the people who were mentally ill and who were put in cages for the view of passersby, who would taunt them for a reaction.
In that regard we can nowadays celebrate and mourn the dogs bred and raised to kill or be killed in arenas for the illegal sport of dogfights. This atrocious cruel sport has become infamous by the indictment of the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick. The details are well known. On his estate were found remnants of dogs that had been abused in horrid ways and then killed in even a more gross manner. We may come to celebrate those pitiful animals if indeed they will be the means for elevating the consciousness of our nation and the world. They will have offered their lives as sacrifices for others of their species who no longer will be treated in similar fashion if and when our nation condemns such animal abuse and raises the penalties of those involved in this disgusting business in all fifty states of our nation. They will do a great service to all members of their species, and to humanity as well. The ancient axiom, “homo hominum lupus est,” [man is a wolf to other men] can be turned upside down. Wolves move in packs to survive, and they kill in order to eat, never to torture their prey. Only the human has the perverse imagination that causes some to torture other living things and derive enjoyment from the atrocity. It’s just a matter of time before it will be eliminated.
How long will it take before professional wrestling by wrestlers using steroids will also be abolished? When will the free-for-all of two persons in a ring with the freedom to kick, punch with bare knuckles, and bang the opponent’s body without mercy not be considered sport but be realized for what it is – organized violence feeding the bloodthirsty animal instincts of certain men? And what can be said about bullfighting, other than animal abuse? Think of the veneration - yea, adoration – youngsters have for athletes, while the use of steroids by these athletes to achieve temporary superiority only lowers their life span and defies the responsibility they have towards the girls and boys who look to them for inspiration and emulation.