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Cockfighting a Serious Crime or Legitimate Sport?

On June 5, 2010, a major cockfighting raid by local humane investigators, law-enforcement officers and The Humane Society of the United States in a rural, back roads area of Greenville County, South Carolina, resulted in 145 roosters being seized, netted $16,000 in bets and 85 arrests.  According to John Goodwin of HSUS, in addition to the live, dead and dying animals around the fighting pit, there was another deeper hole which appeared to have been dug with a backhoe. It was filled with the carcasses of dozens of decaying roosters.

Sandy Christiansen of the Spartanburg County Humane Society, who assisted in the raid and rescue operation, said some locals were asking:  What's the big deal?  It isn’t hurting anybody but chickens!

The following link to a just-released, edited version of video taken at the scene does not contain any graphic images of fighting but does show what officials found here.

Roosters bred and raised for fighting are especially betrayed by humans.  The person who holds and strokes them during their brief life is not showing affection.  Rather he is familiarizing them with handling and physical human closeness so that they will trust those hands and that voice—until blades are tied to their legs and they are placed in a pit from which they cannot escape and must fight for their lives, or to their death.  

Does cockfighting only hurt chickens? Cockfighting events, in addition to barbaric animal cruelty, involve gambling, drugs and guns.  They are the perfect cover for money laundering and tax evasion. They can also be venues where victims of human trafficking, including children, are forced to care for the animals or engage in acts of prostitution. It brings criminals who enjoy blood and death into unsuspecting communities.

Although some political leaders openly oppose tougher laws for cockfighting, including Nativo Lopez, the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) National President, who asserts that cockfighting is an inherent part of the social and economic reality of Latin communities, it cannot be dismissed as just a cultural tradition. There is no ethnic monopoly on “blood sports.”

Cockfighting was called the Sport of Kings and embraced by many members of early British royalty.  It was outlawed in England in 1849.  In the United States, it is illegal in every state.  It’s a felony in 39 states and the District of Columbia; but in South Carolina cockfighting is still a misdemeanor, which can explain why 39 of the 85 spectators at the May 5 weekend event were from other states, according to The Humane Society of the U.S.  In 41 states and the District of Columbia being a spectator at a cockfight is a misdemeanor.

Most Americans seem to consider cockfighting a serious offense, not just against animals, but against a humane and moral society.  Do detractors make a valid point that “it doesn’t hurt anybody but chickens?”


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