Friday, July 27, 2007

Bad Newz Capitalism

In the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting case, we've seen all kinds of outlets for news and editorials - from newspaper headlines to CNN specials to personal blogs and message boards, people are voicing their opinions. Letting the world know what you think is, after all, the American Way.

Perhaps it was inevitable that this kind of sensationalist news story would lend itself to another American icon - the T-shirt. PETA came out, guns blazing, with an anti-Vick shirt that sports a 7 in a circle with a line through it - the same art they have on their protest signs. While it's nice that the sentiment on the shirts is anti-Vick, it is somewhat ironic that PETA is collecting money on behalf of a breed that they actively call to be eliminated.

While some are questioning PETA's actions due to their anti-pit-bull stance, the worst form was demonstrated today when we received a newsletter from Busted Tees. The subject line read: "PreSale: All of Michael Vick's Dogs Go To Heaven" (No, we are not making this up.)

The content of this newsletter was this shirt, which proudly displays the name of Michael Vick's kennel:

Now, seriously: at a time when Nike and Reebok are pulling endorsements and merchandise, what kind of thought process led Busted Tees to decide to pull this stunt? And who, we wonder, would actually consider buying and wearing one of these shirts?

Perhaps Busted Tees might consider sharing their buyers with federal authorities, since clearly anyone who'd want to wear this shirt is either a criminal or someone with a criminal lack of a social conscience and any semblance of good taste.

The fact that Busted Tees is pimping a kennel name that tortured and abused animals is despicable; the fact that their marketing messaging makes fun of it is worse. But the worst thing about this ploy is, perhaps, that they're providing the world with a pro-dogfighting icon, and a way to wear it proudly. That they're profiting off the latter is the worst kind of capitalism.

Busted Tees is run by Connected Ventures. These are the same folks that bring us defunker and The content guy and co-founder is named Rick VanVeen, and I called him today about this shirt. Oddly, he didn't seem particularly happy to hear from me, and got off the phone as fast as possible with a "I'll pass it along."

Apparently, an office environment with a ping pong table and a bunch of twentysomethings in T-shirts looking out over Manhattan isn't a place where folks like Ricky are comfortable discussing real life tragedy.

It's a shame that the staff at Connected Ventures hasn't given a second thought to the dogs that were tortured and abused, or to the fact that the remaining Vick dogs are in custody with an unknown fate; usually, these dogs end up sitting in kennels as evidence for some portion of the trial and are then euthanized. Then again, they must have a lot on their minds; there's ping pong to be played, lip synching to record and T-shirts to sell.

Given the folks selling shirts and the messaging on them, we decided to make our own T-shirts to allow people who care about these dogs to remind the world that there are victims in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, and those victims are not Atlanta football fans. Perhaps we should send one of these to the founders of Connected Ventures, since they after all can wear T-shirts to work:


Anonymous said...

After reading your article I checked out the busted tees website. There is now a box above the shirt highlighted that claims that they will be donating 10% of the sales of these t-shirts to the ASPCA. I found this very interesting!

Anonymous said...

After reading your article I checked out the busted tees website which is now claiming that 10% of sales of these dreadful shirts is being donated to the ASPCA. I found this very interesting!

Anonymous said...

This is a post I've been sending out to every pit blog or news article or sportsblog I can possibly get on, especially when there are anti-pit sentiments being spread around. I have been quite heartened at how positive and supportive the response has been. And please keep letting people know just how hypocritical PETA is folks - cuz they are just waiting to put those poor rescued Vick dogs down as near as I can tell.

My female pit was thrown into the ring to teach males how to kill. Because she is part whippet, they apparently couldn't catch her. The ringleaders then decided she might make a good fighting dog, so they tried to torture her into aggression. Because she wouldn't "turn" after all their efforts at torture, they got pissed off and tied her to the back of a car to drive her back legs off.

After coming upon her limping out of someone's backyard, right rear leg open to the bone, left rear leg looking like a chainsaw had gone after it, my boyfriend dashed her to the vet. I was called at work and told she would have to be put down due to abused pit laws, and burst into tears. The vet said he wouldn't tell anyone about her, but that even if she weren’t put down, her legs would have to be amputated. I couldn't stop crying, and told him we just couldn't make that decision right away. My boyfriend and I took her home, and even though we are not religious, we prayed for two days solid for help. That Thursday, we took her back to the vet, fearing the worst. Instead, he came running out from behind the desk in wonder, even calling the staff to join him! Apparently her tendons and ligaments had started to bind and heal back together enough that he was willing to let us bandage her and monitor her condition.

$1000 in vet bills later, she is our healed angel baby - the best dog we two dog lovers have ever had - and I still cry 5 years out when I tell this story. By the way – we were told we were lucky - that normally what they do is light the dogs they can’t “turn” on fire! And that sometimes a third of all pits in Bay Area shelters are victims of full body third degree burns! My only prayer to this day is that I wish all these people who had never met one of these amazing dogs in real life would stop writing these opinionated stories about how awful they are, and just go to a shelter and foster or rescue one of them yourselves. You will find out that the main reason, besides strength-to-size muscle mass, that these dogs have been singled out for ring fighting, is that they love their human so much, they will do anything - including die in the ring for you - to make you happy.

My most painful story is a friend of mine who worked at a Bay Area shelter where at least one third of the dogs were rescued pits. She used to be the one to hold the dogs when they were due to be put down, and try to give them a peaceful death. She quit mysteriously one day, and I finally ran into her and asked why. She said she had been able to handle the situation until one day a black and white male pit came in, throat slit from ear to ear, full body third degree burns. She said she couldn't even fathom what kind of pain he was in, and as she was gathering him in her arms to hug him and talk him through his inevitable death, she began to cry uncontrollably. She said what did it for her was that the dog was more concerned for the pain she was in than his own brutal condition, so that as he was breathing his last breath, he was trying to lick the tears off her face. She said she just couldn't go back to work again because it had become impossible to see the brutality inflicted on these huge-hearted creatures, and she just needed to go away for a while. A long while.

Please folks, Michael Vick and these other people who do these things have no hearts - but the animals they so brutally torture do. Can we turn this into a dialogue about how to protect these magnificent human-loving creatures, and can some of these oh-so-opinionated bloggers please try to befriend at least one of these abused or abandoned spirits, before they write such uninformed and misguided stories about them? These dogs were not born this way, and it is a form of animal racism that they get singled out for these horrific fates! Please try to get some personal experience with these pitty babies, and then you will understand why we rescuers view this as being as important as the war or child abuse. Microcosm is macrocosm - what we do in the privacy of our homes is what we will do in the world - and pit bull torture reflects quite well the same values that would lead us into war without questioning our own motives.

Make friends with a pit bull today, and you will become a pit bull advocate with a much bigger heart and a much more painful understanding of the hidden violence our culture engenders through its championing of might over right, and its selling of its own bully tactics over any kind of diplomacy or understanding. These angels need understanding - they need as much love from you as they are willing to offer - and I pray we will become a society that raises the pit bull back to its all American dog status, as it was at the turn of the last century - Little Rascals, RCA, et al. All we are saying is...give pits a chance.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Not only does Busted Tees say that they'll donate 10% to the ASPCA, but they also have a little disclaimer that says "this t-shirt is anti-Michael Vick, not anti-dog". How do they figure? I don't see it. I emailed everyone I could at Busted Tees and Connected Ventures and told them what I thought of their t-shirt. I also told them that the only way they could redeem themselves from such stupditiy would be to scrap this t-shirt, come up with something that actually IS anti-Michael Vick, and then donate 100% of the sale to the ASPCA. What idiots!

Anonymous said...

One of my three wonderful pitbulls was a champion fighter before my husband and I rescued him. He was so agressive that we had to push food & water bowls to him with a long pole. He had a reputation among animal control officers so they had no interest in taking him to a shelter. When we realized that he would most likely be shot and removed from his yard, we knew we had to do something. We were able to hook multiple chains to his collar and move him to our yard without getting bit. We thought he deserved a second chance and were willing to put forth the effort to see if he could be rehabilitated. Within a month, he was a completely different dog. He is now well-behaved, loyal, and very friendly. He gets along great with people and animals (even cats). Other than the obvious scars on his face and neck, you would never know that he was a fighting dog. He has been a wonderful addition to our family and I'm so glad we were able to save him from a very grim fate. Obviously it really angers me to hear ASPCA or PETA representatives claim that fighting dogs cannot be rehabilitated...and it infuriates me to see PETA collecting money for pitbulls. I think members of PETA are hypocritical fools that just love attention & want to be in the spotlight.

Animal Chaplain said...

Thanks for the great blog.

If there is anything good about the Michael Vick story, it is that there is an emerging increased awareness about animal cruelty and animal fighting. There is so much anger about this issue. If we channel it into a positive direction, hopefully, something good can come of it. However...

I watched Vick's public apology with my little son who USED TO wear Michael Vick jerseys to school. It is disturbing to think a certain percentage of the population is honestly going to be swayed by Michael Vick's "enlightenment" carefully crafted by his overpaid attorneys. Call me a cynic, but I don't believe a man who has been allegedly torturing animals since childhood coincidentally has a religious epiphany as a result of getting caught and losing his job. I hope I am wrong.

I think it is a sad commentary that we, as a culture, are using the Vick story to compare "What's worse?" "What's worse", we ask, "carelessly fathering illegitimate children, or dogfighting?". "Dogfighting or gambling?" "Dogfighting or rape?" "Dogfighting or racism?" "Dogfighting or hateful nationalism?" "Dogfighting or (fill in the blank)....?" The comparisons to dogfighting have been endless.

Dogfighting is one more piece of evidence our country is in need of a spiritual transformation (please note I said spiritual and not necessarily religious). Animals are sentient beings - they feel pain, and they suffer, just like we do. They are not more important, or less important than human beings, but like human beings, they are important, too.

Dogfighting pits one dog against another until one of them dies. The survivor gets his flesh torn off, ears ripped off, eyes pulled out, etc., and the reward for being "a winner" is to writhe in pain until the next fight. Enough said. The pictures make my flesh crawl. The losers are tortured, beaten, starved, electrocuted or drowned. For what? Because these poor creatures were unlucky enough to be born a dog!

Every major faith teaches its followers to be responsible stewards of animals and the Earth. Please help us get the word out that caring for animals, just like caring for people, is an important part of just being a decent person and citizen. If we make this a priority, there will be no more dogfighting horror stories, and no more pointless comparisons of evils. Let us all rise, together, to be better people than we are today, shall we?

Chaplain Nancy Cronk