The Humane Society of the United States is showing a softer side for one of its former animal cruelty targets. The nonprofit organization has partnered with football sensation turned convicted dogfighting offender Michael Vick to become its anti-dogfighting campaign spokesperson. Wait - what?
That’s right, the very organization that rallied against Vick and helped put him behind bars in 2007 announced he will become the face of its campaign. The incentive for Vick is fairly clear. Looking to repair his damaged reputation following his fall from the sporting spotlight, he likely sees aligning with the cause as a direct route back into the public’s favor.
For The Humane Society, however, the choice to engage a man prosecuted for animal cruelty is harder to grasp. But the organization is using the outcry to its benefit. The aftermath of the scandal actually gave The Humane Society and other animal organizations a unique opportunity to draw upon public attention and address the issue of animal fighting. As his sentence comes to an end, the organization believes working with Vick will provide a direct line of communication to the urban youth it is trying to reach with its anti-dogfighting message. Vick himself grew up exposed to dogfighting and claims he didn’t question its immorality when he became an adult. Perhaps like drunk driving offenders or former drug abusers who take to the speaking circuit to share their “lessons learned,” Vick may supply an authentic voice to the campaign the organization couldn’t achieve with another spokesperson.
Partnering with celebrities, as we’ve discussed in previous articles, is always a perilous venture, but joining with one so blatantly in conflict with your organization’s mission is nothing short of treacherous. The Humane Society is taking the controversial decision in stride, claiming it will “reserve judgment until he demonstrates that he's part of the solution rather than a further part of the problem.” Time will tell how the public, Humane Society supporters and animal rights advocates react to this unlikely partnership. Frank, ongoing communication from the organization will be critical.