Cockfighting tripled in five years
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2002:
WASHINGTON D.C.–The number of reported U.S. cockfighting
arrests has more than tripled in five years, a review of ANIMAL
PEOPLE file data has discovered.
The number of fighting cocks seized by law enforcement is up tenfold.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are anxiously
looking toward the 2002 Farm Bill for help, as an amendment approved
by the House of Represent-atives in October 2001 and by the Senate
in February 2002 could bring federal aid by outlawing the interstate
transportation of fighting cocks. As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press,
however, cockfighting lobbyists and members of Congress from New
Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana were reportedly still trying to
strip the anti-cockfighting amendment from the reconciled Farm Bill
that was expected to go before the House and Senate for final
approval perhaps as early as April 25.
Cockfighting is now illegal in 47 states, with New Mexico,
Oklahoma, and Louisiana the only exceptions, but cockfighters
throughout the nation pretend to be merely breeding birds for sale to
fighters in the three legal states. Consequently, most people
caught at cockfighting raids pay only token fines for being found on
the premises of an illegal activity–if they receive any penalty at
all–and only 13 gamecock breeders and trainers have been convicted
of related felony charges during the past five years.
Cockfighting benefits as well from a widespread view that it
is less a crime than a remnant of rural culture. Cockfighters tend
to fall into four distinct ethnic categories: Hispanic men of
Caribbean or Mexican background, who currently account for about
two-thirds of all the participants who are arrested; Caucasians from
the rural South, who tend to be older; Southeast Asian immigrants;
and Hawaiians, mostly of Asian descent.
Twenty-three cockfighting cases since 1998, 16% of the major
cases prosecuted, have also involved drug possession and sales,
drug trafficking, or homicide. The association of cockfighting with
drug crimes and violence is somewhat less than the association of
dogfighting with similar offenses (23% of recent dogfighting cases
overlap drug offenses and homicide).
However, the locations of illegal cockfighting activity tend
to closely coincide with the major regions for poultry growing and
slaughter–especially in the Southeast and lower Midwest.
Cockfighting as a spectator sport appears to thrive on the
presence of a large poorly educated workforce including many men with
wages to bet and no nearby family. Gamecock breeders appear to do
best in regions where purchasing poultry supplies and equipment do
not attract attention.
Although the cockfighting explosion of recent years coincides
to some extent with the growing reliance of the U.S. poultry industry
on immigrant labor, it coincides at least as much with the
increasing concentration of the poultry industry in the Carolinas,
Arkansas, Missouri, and other areas where cockfighting was already
Hawaii is something of a special case, in that Hawaii has
never had a large commercial poultry industry and has not had much
low-paid and poorly educated immigrant labor since Chinese and
Japanese workers were imported by the thousand to work on pineapple
plantations during the early years of the 20th century. However,
cockfighting caught on among both the immigrants and the native
Hawaiian community, and has persisted as a common but illegal
pursuit among several generations of decendants.
The Hawaiian Humane Society pushed a bill to introduce a
felony penalty for cockfighting and the possession or manufacture of
cockfighting equipment in the spring 2002 legislative session, but
state house judiciary committee chair Eric Hamakawa (D-South
Hilo/Puna) pledged to kill it, six weeks after the Animal News
Center Inc. of New York City incorrectly reported that the bill had
become law. The “victory” was widely touted on the Internet and in
activist newsletters whose editors failed to fact-check.
Bills to legalize cockfighting cleared Hawaii legislative
committees in both 1998 and 1999, but did not advance farther.