Exposing and closing cockfighting operations
Cockfighting is an illegal blood sport in which two roosters specifically bred for aggression are placed beak to beak in a small ring and encouraged to fight to the death.
Though illegal in all 50 states, this barbaric practice persists across the nation in all sorts of communities and among all sorts of people. Exposing and closing cockfighting operations is one of the most important tasks of animal rights activists, and today we are going to present to you some interesting facts about this blood sport(1).
Who invented cockfighting?
There is a long history associated with cockfighting. The practices date back to times before Christ. Before it became a sport, the roosters were regarded as admirable animals, drawing respect.
The ancient Syrians worshipped the fighting-cock as a deity, the Greeks and Romans associated the practice with the god’s Apollo, Mercury, and Mars, while in Borneo, it is said that the animal was so sacred that it was forbidden for its flesh to be eaten(2).
In the 1st century after Christ, the legendary Julius Caesar led Rome into enjoying the sport of cockfighting. He also introduced the blood sport into England, but the practice flourished later in the 16th century.
When King Henry VIII ruled England, cockfights were held at Whitehall Palace. At one point in time, the sport became national and was even taught in schools.
The practice, however, died off when the Civil War started.
Where is cockfighting legal in the world?
When it comes to the United States, Louisiana was the last state to ban cockfighting in 2007. Though the blood sport still persists as an underground practice sustained by gambling, authorities have taken up more measures of preventing it.
For example, last year, a compound in Los Angeles was swarmed by authorities and seized over 7,000 birds in what some officials describe as the largest illegal cockfighting cache in US history(3).
The sport, sadly, remains legal in Puerto Rico and in countries like the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic, where cockfighting clubs operate throughout the country.
State Action of cockfighting
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and also in the District of Columbia. However, it remains legal in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Punishments vary in all states but some go even further by prohibiting ancillary activities such as possessing cocks or implements for cockfighting and even attending such events is considered an offense(4).
Penalties continue to increase in each state to prohibit cockfighting even further. In 2013, cockfighting bills were introduced in 15 states. Nebraska and Nevada enacted laws that increased penalties.
Indiana reclassified its penalties related to cockfighting as a part of a general reclassification of penalties for criminal actions. Of the 13 states where a first offense was labeled as a misdemeanor, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah introduced legislation that would increase the penalty for cockfighting to that of a felony. Some states failed while others remain pending poultry.
The Animal Welfare Act of 1996 (AWA) was amended in 2002. It was labeled a misdemeanor to ship, exhibit or sponsor birds for fighting. The 2002 amendments were changed in 2007 when President George W. Bush signed into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Reinforcement Act (AFPRA) (5).
This law not only increased the penalty for animal fighting violations under the AWA from a misdemeanor to a felony, but also made it illegal to “knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument attached, or designed/intended to be attached, to the leg of a bird for use in an animal fighting venture.”
In 2008, the Farm Bill further increased penalties for these offenses to three to five years in prison, and also increased the fines for AWA violations.
In 2013, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (AFSPA) was introduced in Congress. Its purpose is to punish those who knowingly attend or take a minor to an animal fight.
Violators would face a one-year prison term and those who take a minor, up to three years.
Did you know?
– Cockfighting is considered a felony in 42 states and the District of Columbia. It is prohibited to possess birds for fighting purposes in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
– Being a spectator at a cockfighting event is illegal in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
– Nevada is the most recent state to make cockfighting a felony. This happened in June 2013.
– There are more than 100 people arrested each year for cockfighting in the Los Angeles area alone.
– A man in New Orleans was arrested in August for possessing over 700 roosters intended for cockfighting purposes.