Tit For Tat Ethics, Canine Division

Rugby For President!

There has been entirely too much written about this topic already, but I do have a pedigree here. I wrote disapprovingly about Mitt Romney’s now infamous episode of dog cruelty way back in 2007, concluding…

“For me personally, the incident is enough to convince me that I don’t like the man, and probably never will. And my feelings as I look at the sweet-tempered and loyal Jack Russell terrier now sleeping on my desk, with his small head resting on my forearm, tell me that me that I would write Rugby’s name on a ballot before I would give Mitt Romney my vote for President of the United States. But that’s not an ethical decision, only an emotional one.”

My feelings about Romney strapping the pen containing his Irish Setter on the roof of his car from Boston to Canada haven’t changed much. Now as then, I think his callousness to the animal who loved him is relevant to his fitness to be President but not dispositive of it. Again from 2007:

“Assuming Romney’s attitudes toward animals haven’t changed, should the 1983 incident disqualify him as presidential stock? Reluctantly, and with some misgivings, the verdict here has to be no. Animal ethics are a murky area. Most ethical systems only define themselves in terms of human relationships, and the territory is littered with contradictions and hypocrisy. How much can anyone who uses products that depend on live animal testing and eats chicken, beef, pork and veal condemn Romney? Americans feel more tenderly about dogs and cats than they do about food stock, but that is a cultural quirk not based on any defensible logic. Without saying that Romney is ethical, trustworthy, honest, kind and fair where humans are concerned, I conclude that the fact that he was willing to be callous toward a pet Irish Setter (more pangs of doubt: is there another breed of dog that would be less happy cooped up than an Irish Setter?) does not necessarily translate into unethical conduct in human affairs. He is missing the animal-loving gene, and that may be all.”

Has Romney’s attitude changed? Well, Diane Sawyer asked him:

SAWYER: As we move away from this primary campaign into the next phase — again, on Yahoo, we got two questions most often, first about Seamus — which as you know is out there forever — would you do it again?

ROMNEY: Certainly not with the attention it’s received.

That is to say, no, his attitude hasn’t changed at all. He’d do it again if it was just him and the dog. The fact that he wouldn’t want to get criticized for it acknowledges political realities, not animal comfort. Loyal wife Ann swears that Seamus loved the experience, which I find a dubious assertion (some expert opinions are here), and others have argued that Seamus may not have been as miserable as we dog lovers assume, but never mind. The criticism of Romney is justified.

What isn’t justified is the Republican attack machine adopting the worst sort of tit-for-tat tactics against President Obama for what they say is an unfair attack on the (assumed) GOP candidate, by noting that the President acknowledged in his autobiography that he ate dog meat as a child. The fact that this didn’t happen in America, and that he was a child at the time, hasn’t dissuaded Republicans from suggesting that there is hypocrisy in condemning Romney for abusing a pet when the President’s canine offenses include digestion.

Of course, to anyone with any interest in being fair or logical, this is ridiculous. It would have been very strange if Obama, while in a culture where using dogs as food was regarded as unremarkable and certainly not unethical, had been horrified at the practice. He didn’t kill or cook the dogs he ate; he wasn’t consciously supporting dog-killing or dog cuisine. Romney supporters, including his still-employed staffer Erich Fehrnstrom, have managed to obscure the pure dishonesty of the smear by bombarding the internet and social media with “Obama-eats dogs” jokes, (some of them funny), but this is dishonest and unfair. If the President had taken a bite out of Bo, the family’s  Portuguese Water Dog, then there would be some basis for comparison: yes, eating your dog is worse than making him ride to Canada on the roof. But so what?

What Obama did as a child, in a culture that isn’t so sentimental about some animals while happily slaughtering and munching others, is completely irrelevant—to Romney, to Seamus, to the election.

Its only relevance is to how low some Obama opponents will sink.

10 thoughts on “Tit For Tat Ethics, Canine Division

  1. What a goofy deal. Eating dog meat at the age of 6+? Now if it was cannibalism, then I’d be just a little concerned. The thing about Romney is that he had enough money and resources to rectify the problem without putting his pet on the roof. Or maybe he wasn’t think clearly that day. I think the hunters who hunt Mourning Doves is even more silly. All the money spent to get little meat?

    • “Psychopathic” is more than a little exaggerated. As I said, he lacks the animal gene. It’s wrong, and I don’t like it. Let’s not lose all perspective. PETA “ethically” kills thousands of dogs every year. Betcha Seamus was gladd he was with Mitt.

      • Psychopathy (/saɪˈkɒpəθi/[1][2] from the Ancient Greek ψυχή “psyche”, -soul and πάθος “pathos” -passion) is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. and have very shallow emotions. They are generally regarded as callous, selfish, dishonest, arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, irresponsible, and hedonistic.

        ” Psychopaths have a total lack of empathy and remorse,” Well,maybe just where dogs are concerned.

  2. So what if he ate a dog? Americans are so strange. Its okay to eat cows, pigs, chickens amd fish. But try eating horse, cat , dogs or a bunny and there is something wrong with you. Meat is meat. Tasty tasty meat.

  3. If I had a vote, Rugby would get it. He looks similar to my Maggie except he isn’t vibrating and she always is.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, he wasn’t eating pets.

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