Steve King Thinks We’re Living in Ancient Rome

If an alien came to the United States and looked at our criminal codes, one of the first things they would wonder is why people who organize dogfighting and cockfighting rings often get more lenient sentences than people who sell drugs. Seriously, I could have poured myself a glass of milk and gotten a plate of cookies in the time that Michael Vick was in prison. Well, homophobe and anti-diversity stalwart, Congressman Pete King (R-IA) has recently expressed outrage—because he thinks our laws against dogfighting and cock fighting are too strict. According to, King was recently asked about his proposed “King Amendment” that would ban states from enacting regulations on animal abuse if local voters were not supportive. The Congressman stated, “When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight, but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that,” Keep in mind, King has also favored legalization of dogfighting and cockfighting. Now, I presume that what King was referring to in his quote when he talked about people fighting was MMA and boxing. Apparently, in his mind, these sports are equivalent to dogfighting and cockfighting, and since they are legal, torturing animals for entertainment should be as well. I do not think it takes rocket science to determine exactly why this quote is so asinine. The human equivalent of dogfighting and cockfighting died out long ago. That equivalent was the gladiatorial arena of ancient Rome. In that environment, humans were forced to fight, sometimes to the death. To the public, it was like a carnival spectacle—which really makes you question the idea that the current generation is the most violent ever, thanks to all those movies and video games and whatnot. But the days of legal gladiatorial fights are long gone. Nowadays, as King well knows, forcing people to fight each other for sport is a crime. Now, don’t get me wrong. MMA and boxing are violent, dangerous sports. Are they more dangerous than football? They certainly involve more graphic violence. Yet whether or not they are actually more dangerous is debatable, especially with MMA, which often involves grappling and has fewer aged retirees to examine for lasting injuries. Most importantly, unlike the gladiatorial games of old, boxers and mixed martial artists are not being forced to fight each other. They choose to do so, usually because they love the sport, want to make money, or both. Dogs and chickens in underground fighting rings, by contrast, have no choice. They are forced by humans to fight. Thus, trying to say that dogfighting and cockfighting are no worse than boxing and MMA or that banning the former but not the latter somehow indicates a misplaced set of priorities is ridiculous. In this day and age, it seems almost silly to debate whether or not animals feel pain, but since the Steve Kings of the world apparently believe that they do not, I feel the need to present conclusive evidence that animals do indeed feel pain. According to writer Pete Singer, “Nearly all the external signs that lead us to infer pain in other humans can be seen in other species, especially the species most closely related to us–the species of mammals and birds. The behavioral signs include writhing, facial contortions, moaning, yelping or other forms of calling, attempts to avoid the source of the pain, appearance of fear at the prospect of its repetition, and so on. In addition, we know that these animals have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically like ours do when the animal is in circumstances in which we would feel pain: an initial rise of blood pressure, dilated pupils, perspiration, an increased pulse rate, and, if the stimulus continues, a fall in blood pressure. Although human beings have a more developed cerebral cortex than other animals, this part of the brain is concerned with thinking functions rather than with basic impulses, emotions, and feelings. These impulses, emotions, and feelings are located in the diencephalon, which is well developed in many other species of animals, especially mammals and birds. [emphasis mine.] We also know that the nervous systems of other animals were not artificially constructed–as a robot might be artificially constructed–to mimic the pain behavior of humans. The nervous systems of animals evolved as our own did, and in fact the evolutionary history of human beings and other animals, especially mammals, did not diverge until the central features of our nervous systems were already in existence. A capacity to feel pain obviously enhances a species’ prospects for survival, since it causes members of the species to avoid sources of injury. It is surely unreasonable to suppose that nervous systems that are virtually identical physiologically, have a common origin and a common evolutionary function, and result in similar forms of behavior in similar circumstances should actually operate in an entirely different manner on the level of subjective feelings. […] The overwhelming majority of scientists who have addressed themselves to this question agree.” I myself had a golden retriever for twelve years, and I can say from personal experience that dogs have feelings and emotions. Humans are uniquely capable of leaving the world a better place than it was when they came into it, but we also have a unique capacity for evil. While animals are certainly capable of good, they cannot comprehend morality. Therefore, we should not be surprised when elephants mourn the death of a member of their herd. Yet if a tiger mauls a person, we understand that the tiger is not evil, it is just being an animal. Humans, by contrast, all too often choose to do something evil, sometimes for pleasure, as in the case of dogfighting and cockfighting. Steve King is such a person. He has not only exhibited cruelty toward fellow humans, with his various anti-gay statements and political positions, but he has also exhibited cruelty toward animals. I hesitate to call a human being evil, but I think that term may well be appropriate for Steve King. I think that the time has come for Congress to seriously consider expelling him.


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