In addition to a petition the organization is urging us all to sign, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recently faxed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to require fallen NFL star Michael Vick to undergo psychiatric evaluations and brain scans to determine whether or not Vick has antisocial personality disorder and/or irregularly sized brain parts and, based on the results, for Goodell himself to determine whether or not Vick fits the role model persona NFL players should.
(This isn’t the first time PETA has dabbled in the world of brain and mental health. Close to a year ago, the organization sent a letter to Britney Spears regarding dairy’s effect on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and back in July they offered to pay for a brain scan for Sharon Stone.)
PETA Founder and President Ingrid Newkirk penned the two-page plea herself, and while I used to hold this woman in high regard, my admiration has waned.
Newkirk’s letter to Goodell begins by addressing all the cooperation Vick has shown over the last year and a half (i.e. he’s done everything they – they being PETA – have suggested), but it takes a serious nose dive after that. Upon learning about even more cruel behaviors of Vick’s (courtesy of your neighborhood USDA report), PETA basically pulled the reigns on their support of his ability to change once they decided he fit the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. Newkirk dusted off her copy of the ol’ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and explained to Goodell that Vick’s behavior as reported by the USDA fits that of someone with antisocial personality disorder according to the DSM.
And, just in case Goodell is completely illiterate, Newkirk decided to dumb it down for him and tell him that people with antisocial personality disorder are often referred to as “psychopaths.” (Translation: “Let’s use this seriously nasty word that conjures really horrible and foul images in hopes that it will scare Goodell into making sure Vick never touches the pigskin again!”)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe Vick has serious problems and I do believe he needs some kind of help. The things he did to those animals makes me violently angry. I have no sympathy for animal abusers and frankly don’t care if Vick ever plays football again.
However, I am also a mental health advocate, and I refuse to sign a petition or otherwise be part of an action that not only urges others to turn their backs on people with mental health issues, but also uses mental illness to scare and manipulate people into choosing or acting a certain way.
I mean, let’s just forget for a moment that PETA is not – the last time I checked – a group of trained psychiatrists. Let’s just, for now, focus on the fact that they are using mental illness to strike fear in people. Let’s recognize that a suggestion for urging Vick to seek further mental health treatment if indeed he does have antisocial personality disorder is suspiciously missing from this letter and petition. Let’s realize that PETA is effectively asking Goodell to cut all ties and turn his back on Vick if a psychiatric evaluation determines he has antisocial personality disorder.
Because, that’s what we should all do when it comes to the mentally ill, right? And why stop at refusing to employ them? Why not take it a few steps further? Let’s just go ahead and deny them housing, transportation, and hell, while we’re at it, food, too.
I am aware that there is often a link between animal cruelty and problems such as violent behavior and mental illness, but don’t give me this poppycock about Vick being in a “role model” position. Don’t try to tell me Vick should be banned from the fields because his past behavior – and potential future behavior – may put ideas in other people’s heads. If some kid decides to go out and beat dogs because Michael Vick is doing it, then that kid’s parents and mental healthcare providers need to handle it. If some adult does the same thing, then the law and mental healthcare providers need to handle it.
Not the NFL.
I am a huge supporter of animal rights. I’d seriously have to sit down and do some math to tell you how many strays I’ve taken in during my 27 years. I spay, I neuter, I don’t wear fur or leather and I only buy products from cruelty-free companies.
And, until today, I had planned to renew my membership with PETA for 2009. Not anymore.