Can you "murder" a dog?

Dean Barnett over at Hugh Hewitt’s blog seems to think so. I don’t.

Now I’m a Dean Barnett fan. I find him entertaining, erudite, and thoughtful. He’s one of a handful of guys I make sure I read everyday, no matter how busy I am. But in the blog post I linked to above, he’s going off on the Michael Vick thing and I think he gets a little carried away.

He makes a number of solid points, and then he writes:

I know America loves comebacks and second acts, but aren’t there some people who don’t deserve another crack?  Vick can’t make right what he has done wrong.  The dogs he murdered aren’t coming back. (emphasis mine)

Sorry. No sale on that last part. You can murder a person. But you can only kill a dog. Sure, if you do it wrongly, cruelly, or senselessly—it’s a despicable act. It’s also likely a criminal act. But murder is, by definition the wrongful killing of a human by a human being. (When a bear mauls a camper, the camper hasn’t been “murdered.” )

Maybe it was just hyperbole. Maybe it was just the loose, dashed-off-edness of the blogging medium. But words matter a great deal, which is why I’m in hair-splitting mode on this one.

The entire wrong-headed “animal rights” movement is built upon this kind of distortion of language and abuse of meaning. It’s embedded in the very name of the movement, in that animals have no transcendent “rights” in the sense that humans do. But this liberal use of the word murder to descibe the killing of animals is standard operating procedure among these folks.

Now I don’t have an opinion on whether or not Michael Vick should be considered to have forfeited all opportunity to ever return the NFL (or polite society for that matter.)

Frankly, I’m not interested enough in the controversy to even attempt to parse where dog fighting/betting/killing ranks on the heinous-ometer relative to sexual assault, drunk driving, drug peddling, wife beating and the host of other crimes professional athletes are accused and convicted of with mind-numbing regularity.

But when a dependably clear-headed conservative—one who uses words for a living—chooses one so poorly, it gets my attention.