Friday, April 24, 2009

Same old recycled bullshit goes to New Zealand

Ya know, it would be a fulltime job for somebody, actually a whole team of somebodies, to call bullshit on all the crap that flies over the internets about pit bulls. My google alerts just exhaust me. Thank goodness for the amazing watchdog known as YesBiscuit! For my part, I'ma share some thoughts on this little media gem that couldn't help but get my attention in its pure randomness.

Dog fighting in New Zealand. Really, New Zealand? This interests me because New Zealand - even with its colonial history and struggle of the Maori people - it's pretty damn peaceful on the world stage. Until the last few decades it was even known as the "classless society." I would think that pit bulls would fare pretty well in such a place, but apparently not. It's probably my own prejudices coming out, since my familiarity with the country is pretty much limited to the most awesome Flight of the Conchords, but I tend to think that this story on dogfighting in New Zealand is based more in fear-mongering to justify BSL and a desire for lurid media than anything else.

But, ok, fine, so assuming there is dogfighting in New Zealand, it's always strange to see how Western dogfighting cultures and discourses translate to another part of the world. In this case, most of it is lifted almost verbatim from HSUS literature. So this reporter is interviewing Jim Boyd, an inspector with the Royal New Zealand SPCA and supposedly a dogfighting expert who singlehandedly wiped out dogfighting in New Zealand. What a dude! His "evidence" that dogfighting may be returning is the case of elderly Lincoln, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who was reportedly stolen and found or returned with injuries. Really, just this one dog. No details are given about Lincoln, his taking or his return. No mention of why anyone would assume he was used as bait.

It's very common these days for people to assume and proclaim that a nice dog found with injuries was used as bait. But in reality, there are very few ways of knowing. Unfortunately, the surviving dog can't tell us what happened. Short of someone witnessing a poor dog being tossed to the proverbial wolves, we just don't and can't know. Even veterinary forensics can only tell us that injuries were the result of animal bites, but not the context in which that happened. Bait, by definition, involves human intervention and intention; one person literally feeding one animal to another. But the circumstances around animals injuring one another are many and may involve some other type of human involvement or none at all. Sometimes investigators are able to make well-educated guesses as to whether an animal was used as bait based on the circumstances around where an animal was found and talking to neighbors and such - but much less often than the media would lead us to believe.

Now, I don't doubt that there are people who have and continue to use dogs and other animals as bait for some freaky shit. I question whether this is a usual part of dogfighting practice in the U.S. since it is rarely (like, never) referenced in historical materials which were produced by dogfighters and gamedoggers. At the very least, it is fair to say that the bait dog concept has been circulated and popularized by certain animal welfare groups and the mainstream media.

And so, back to Lincoln, this poor victim of baiting in New Zealand. His age and his sweet grey muzzle are being used to spark outrage on the part of the reader at these imported Western fighting dogs, these "vicious killers." Despite the more informative quotes from Karen Batchelor, we're left with Mr. Boyd's fucked up statement that I don't even want to quote since it is so ignorant and incendiary. He's saying that fighting dogs were bred to be vicious and therefore they should die. He really seems to want these colonial critters out of New Zealand, just like all the pesky rabbits that those Brits brought in, but his desire for fame and publicity by whatever means is about as Western as it gets. Just like New Zealand fashion, he's way behind the times in his views on pit bulls. Here, in the belly of the beast, at least we are making progress in that most of us no longer blame dogfighting on the dogs.


  1. I hear you. It's exhausting trying to pick which stupid articles to highlight. The thing is, if regular people with access to Google can separate the wheat from the chaff, why can't some of these journalists who get paid to write these articles work just a leetle bit harder?

  2. It seems the way a majority of our news outlets work these days is someone gives a "reporter" a press release and the reporter lifts it pretty well right off the page and plops it into a newspaper article. No more fact checking, no more critical thinking.

    The excuse is no one has any time to do all that extra work anymore. That may be, but then instead of calling it news, they should just call it gossip or better yet, make believe.