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A Cock and Bull Story
Steve Rushin
March 10, 2003
Pro Football was fun, but I've watched my last game. "I love football as much as anyone," says Dan Shannon, a New England Patriots fan and animal lover, "but it takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with one year's worth of footballs." For every Super Bowl, 3.8 steers sacrifice their hides. And that doesn't include John Madden's dinner break.
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March 10, 2003

A Cock And Bull Story

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Pro Football was fun, but I've watched my last game. "I love football as much as anyone," says Dan Shannon, a New England Patriots fan and animal lover, "but it takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with one year's worth of footballs." For every Super Bowl, 3.8 steers sacrifice their hides. And that doesn't include John Madden's dinner break.

As a newly responsible citizen of Earth, I can't condone college football, either. "The University of South Carolina Gamecock mascot," Shannon notes, "is a cockfighting bird with [spurs as sharp as] razor blades." If I don't support the brutality of cockfighting—which is a felony in South Carolina—how can I, in good conscience, support its supporters?

I'm going to miss hockey. "But throwing octopi on the ice at Red Wings games is just disrespectful to animals," says Shannon, a vegetarian for whom flying calamari is every bit as distasteful as frying calamari.

As sports campaign coordinator of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA), Shannon helped persuade the NCAA to abandon leather balls in favor of synthetic ones for the forthcoming men's and women's basketball tournaments. But as long as athletes wear leather sneakers, catcher's mitts or Kangols, there'll be no dissuading him from dissing suede.

And so the kangaroo-skin cleats of Manchester United soccer star David Beckham have me—if no longer the marsupials—hopping mad. BUTCHERED FOR BECKS' BOOTS read a recent headline in the London Daily Mail.

"The animals who end up as baseballs and soccer cleats suffer confinement, crowding, branding, unanesthetized castration, tail-docking, dehorning and cruel treatment during transportation," reads a PETA press release, describing conditions that mirror, almost exactly, those suffered by sportswriters at the Super Bowl.

Except that most of us are never dehorned. Which is why we devilishly persist in covering the annual Iditarod dogsled race, which began last Saturday in Alaska. The nonprofit Sled Dog Action Coalition contends that 119 dogs "have been run to death or died from other causes" in the history of the Iditarod, a 1,150-mile sprint that is, even more than the cable-knit sweater vest, the last thing a dog wants to find itself in.

As for thoroughbred racing, I'll watch it again when dudes on horseback are replaced, at last, by horses on dudeback.

If I am to emulate St. Francis of Assisi, then, who can I root for? Not the San Diego Padres, who'll play next year in PETCO Park, named for the pet-supply chain whose very existence implies man's mastery over beast. For the same reason PETA kiddingly has asked the Green Bay Packers—whose name is derived from the meatpacking industry—to become the Green Bay Six-Packers.

But that doesn't go far enough. I'd like to see the Lamb removed from Lambeau Field. I'd like to see tailgaters put down their bratwurst and pick up a notwurst, a vegetarian wurstlike product that exists, so far, only in my imagination.

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