Last Summer I had the pleasure of meeting John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues at the Humane Society of the United States. John gave an articulate and compelling presentation on the barbarism of cockfighting, for both the animals and humans involved, as well as the gambling and other peripheral criminal activities which the fighting attracts. See the following video for an introduction:
According to HSUS' fact sheet: "Cockfighting is a centuries-old blood sport in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosure to fight, for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment." At least one of the birds will most always be killed in the fight, and on occasion both will perish as a result. And what is even more savage, the legs of the cocks are typically "fitted with razor-sharp steel blades or with gaffs, which resemble three-inch-long, curved ice picks," which are obviously "designed to puncture and mutilate."
The draw of cockfighting is of course the money involved. Organizers and victorious owners can take in thousands of dollars, and aside from the supposed thrill of watching the birds prosthetically carve each other up, rampant illegal betting takes place among the spectators. Kids are even in attendance in some cases, as are firearms, and sometimes drugs and prostitution.
Isn't cockfighting illegal, you might reasonably ask? It is, in all 50 states, but very real sticking points which prevent the industry's collapse include the underground nature of cockfighting and the fact that the offense is only punishable as a felony in 39 states (and D.C.) as of September '09. That means it's only a misdemeanor in 11 states, which is more of a slap on the wrist than a legitimate deterrent. Many states have loopholes as well, such as allowing the possession of fighting cocks and implements of the trade, or permitting attending a fight (see HSUS' "Cockfighting: State Laws").
One of those states where cockfighting remains only a misdemeanor is South Carolina. The Palmetto Family Council, "a nonprofit, faith-based educational foundation committed to 'defending and strengthening South Carolina families,'" published an excellent article against cockfighting two summers ago by Oran P. Smith. In "Wilberforce and ... Cockfighting," Smith draws on Wilberforce's biblically motivated concern for animal mistreatment to encourage support for legislative measures to ban cockfighting in the state:
Organized crime, drug trafficking, disease outbreaks, cleanup costs to taxpaying families, the presence of children and possibly more lost human lives are reasons too compelling to ignore.
If William Wilberforce were alive today, I am sure he would be leading the charge ... for all those reasons. But were he to testify to the South Carolina Senate on this matter as I did recently, he would probably bypass all those solid claims to simply say: that animal cruelty isn’t appropriate for a civil society that claims reliance on Judeo-Christian values.
Well said. Unfortunately the particular cockfighting bills which the article references were not succesful, perhaps due to the same roadblock which Smith referenced in the previous Statehouse legislative session. Apparently, cockfighters had just enough friends in high places. Thankfully, a bill is pending in the current session with the Humane Society's support.
(photo of seeming cockfight in Philippines by Edgar Montana/123rf.com)
As if we needed another reminder that cockfighting is not dead in America, Brandon Bosworth and Change.org have a post today on the efforts of a state politician to legalize cockfighting in Hawaii as a "'cultural activity' and a 'long and cherished tradition'" ("Hawaii to Honor Cockfighting as a 'Cultural Activity?'").