February 18, 2011


Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007) ("Just as most American today have never visited a slaughterhouse to investigate the grim details of how large animals become the shrink-wrapped frankfurters in their supermarkets, nor have ever witnessed the degradation and violence of life among the one and a half million people incarcerated in our prisons, so most Britons went about their lives with no idea of he universe of horrors that exited under the British flag or the nightmarish way of life of the slaves, whose existence was nonetheless intimately intertwined with their own way of life thousands of miles away." Id. at 70. "When there were no human executions to witness, a taste for grotesque spectacle could be satisfied by choosing from among every imaginable variety of cruelty to animals, the most popular of which was bull-baiting. This practice usually involved parading a bull through a town before staking it with a chain in a pit or designated area. A copious quantity of pepper was usually blown into the poor beast's nose, 'to render him the more furious,' and then dogs--usually one by one, but sometimes several at once--would be released to attack the bull and attempt to seize its sensitive nose and face in their jaws. The bull, for his part, would attempt to throw the attacking dog in the air with his horns. The fabled strength of a bull when applied to the weight of a dog would often result in the dog flying very high indeed. Dogs thrown high enough would break their necks or backs upon landing. If not permanently crippled, they would crawl back to have at the bull again, this being a large part of the spectacle." "Bulldogs were specially bred for bull-baiting, hence their name. Being mostly head and jaws with little body behind, a bulldog with his jaws fastened onto a bull's vulnerable snout would be nearly impossible to throw off. Then, according to a contemporary account, 'the bull bellows and bounds and kicks, all to shake off the dog. In the end, either the dog tears out the piece he has laid on, and falls, or else remain fixed to him with an obstinacy that would never end, did they not pull him off. To call him away, would be in vain; to give him a hundred blows, would be as much so; you might cut him to pieces, joint by joint, before he would let loose. What is to be done then? While some hold the bull, others thrust staves into the dog's month and open it by main force.' A man who had seen a bull-baiting as boy described it as 'the most barbarous act I ever saw. It was young bull and had very little notion of tossing the dogs, which tore his ears and the skin off his face in shreds, and his mournful cries were awful. I was up a tree, and was afraid the earth would open and swallow us all up." Id. at 75.).