School Asked to Implement Empathy Course for Student Athletes—for Everyone's Sake
For Immediate Release:
December 10, 2014
David Perle 202-483-7382
Lincoln, Neb. – Last week, a University of Nebraska football player took a selfie with and then used a wrench to bludgeon to death a raccoon he spotted on the side of the road, an incident that prompted PETA to send a letter this morning calling on school officials to discipline the player and implement an empathy training course for student athletes. As PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out in its letter, domestic violence is on the rise in professional football culture, and these courses would give student athletes the tools they need to control aggression and prevent violent behavior.
“Violence is violence, whether the victim is a woman, a child, or a defenseless animal, and studies show that people who abuse animals are far more likely to take out their aggression on other human beings, too,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on the University of Nebraska to help prevent violence by sending its young players the lifesaving message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable.”
For more information, please visit PETA.org.
PETA’s letter to Shawn Eichorst, the University of Nebraska’s director of athletics, follows.
December 10, 2014
Director of Athletics
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Dear Mr. Eichorst:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters, including those who live in Nebraska, in response to news that Cornhuskers junior defensive end Jack Gangwish took a selfie with a raccoon he spotted on the side of the road and then used a wrench to kill the raccoon. No animal deserves to be bludgeoned to death, and cruelty is not acceptable under the law. It’s time for acts of cruelty to animals committed by players to be taken extremely seriously, and with violence in football culture now under the microscope, this is the time to address the issue.
The link between cruelty to animals and violence directed at vulnerable human beings is well established. We ask that the University of Nebraska–Lincoln call for swift discipline of any player who abuses an animal and heed the National District Attorneys Association’s advice that taking “animal abuse as seriously as crimes against humans is important” because when “any form of violence is present in a home, others may be at risk.” According to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, 76 percent of people who abuse animals also abuse a family member, and the American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders.
Student athletes are set up to be role models, so it’s critical for the university to send its players the message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable. To help avert future tragedies, may we suggest that you require all student athletes to receive empathy training, which would give them more self-respect and positive guidelines for how to behave toward others? Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick completed our eight-hour basic class in empathy and animal protection at PETA’s headquarters following his arrest for involvement in dogfighting. Perhaps if he had taken such a course in his college years, he might never have caused such suffering and would have avoided jail time.
We would be happy to assist you in making these positive changes and look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk