By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated December 30, 2010 at 11:52 AM EST
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Image Credit: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images“I’m a Christian, I’ve made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs. And he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should have been executed for that.” Those are the words of talking head Tucker Carlson, who has understandably since found himself in his own crossfire. I’m going to guess that it’s pretty well accepted that Carlson is in the wrong with this belief. Plenty of people believe in the death penalty, whether for reasons of deterrence, social safety, or just old-fashioned Old Testament-style justice, but I doubt many of them would accept that the list of crimes that warrant capital punishment extends to, as odious as it is, animal cruelty. I am also going to guess that at least part of Carlson’s statement was typical cable news shock-jocking.

So it’s not really worth it to finger-wag and chastise Carlson for his statement when he’ll probably apologize profusely and retract it in T-minus six hours. However, I do think this incident raises another interesting question: Just how indignant do we get over cute animals?

Dogs are great pets, I know, but if you’re going to invoke death for Vick killing animals in a “heartless and cruel way,” you also have to be willing to pull the switch on out-of-season and inexperienced hunters, managers of not-up-to-standards slaughterhouses, and a whole slew of age-appropriately sadistic six-year-olds. I don’t belong to PETA and I enjoy my hamburgers medium rare, but even I know a pig is just about as smart as dachshund, even if one ends up in a hot dog and the other just looks like one.

Cute-instigated self-righteousness (or CISR) also rears its head on just about every single YouTube animal video ever uploaded. Just look in the comment section of a clip of a cat sitting in a box and you’ll see that about half of them say stuff like, “This is animal crulety [sic], man!!” or “Cats aren’t born in boxes for a reason! Free Mittens!” The puppy-dog eyes and the kitty-cat tails blind us to the truth: They would have never made Marley and Me if Marley was a squid.

My point, if indeed I have one at all, is that we should all take a moment to appreciate the goofier, uglier, and not-so-adorable-looking creatures of the world. The blobfish, the snail, the fruit bat, the naked mole rat, and, yes, even that very rare species: The oft-bow-tied, mealy-mouthed television pundit.

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