Following news of his guilty plea, I contacted Michael Vick suggesting that he hear—for the first time in his life, he confirmed—about animal protection issues, learn how animals feel joy and pain and deserve respect, and receive specific instruction on what to say to young people whom he has influenced in the worst possible ways.
In mid-September, Michael Vick visited PETA's headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, to meet with me privately. I told him that PETA advocates an end to all exploitation and needless violence based on prejudice, including the prejudice against other species, and that we believe that he should equip himself with information and materials in order to be able to live up to his responsibility to counsel children not to engage in cruelty to animals. He expressed his willingness to learn and his belief that everything in life happens for a reason, and he offered an apology to PETA and to "everyone" for "what I have done to dogs." I also explained that even if he took our basic empathy course, our position that he should serve jail time and have a lifetime ban on contact with animals would nevertheless remain unchanged, and he accepted that.
Two weeks ago, Michael Vick returned to PETA to take the "Developing Empathy for Animals" course, an all-day seminar on "who animals are," alternatives to cruelty, animal protection philosophy, and humane education, which PETA has now excerpted online. We believe that this course should be adopted by the NFL for all players to take in order to give them a chance to learn empathy, compassion, and nonviolence. Two days after the seminar, Vick came back to PETA's office to take the course exam.
PETA's course teaches the Golden Rule—treat others as you wish to be treated. Only time will tell whether Michael Vick has benefited from what he has learned, but he has pledged to use this knowledge to urge kids not to follow in his footsteps and to be kind to animals. Meanwhile, we are urging the NFL to take the important step of requiring that every player do what Michael Vick has done and take the course in order to help prevent future acts of violence against animals and to equip players with information about respecting animals that they can share with their young fans.
Although the Vick story served as the first glimpse for many people into the gory details of dogfighting, the abuses detailed in Vick's indictment are as widespread as they are horrific. In the last year alone, PETA has responded to more than 14,000 calls and e-mail messages regarding other dogfighting and individual cruelty-to-animals cases. The crucial step now is to urge policymakers and law enforcement officers to treat all cases of dogfighting and cruelty to animals the same way that they handled Vick's high-profile case. To that end, please join PETA and ask the NFL to require that all its players, some of whom have been involved in a series of cruelty-to-animals cases, attend PETA's "Developing Empathy for Animals" course.
Thank you for helping PETA do all that we can to make the world a better place for animals.
Ingrid E. Newkirk