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February 25, 2011

Feeble Laws Allow Cockfighting Cruelty to Persist

On the heels of the release of our undercover investigation into cockfighting in Texas, The HSUS teamed up with WPMI, the NBC affiliate in Mobile, Ala., to expose the enormous criminal underworld of cockfighting in the state with the most anemic law against the practice. Anyone arrested for cockfighting in Alabama faces a maximum fine of only $50. This penalty was set in 1896 and has not been adjusted since. 

On Wednesday night, WPMI aired this exposé, shocking many viewers who probably had no idea that their state has become a hotbed for this vicious blood sport.

Rooster from cockfighting operation
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
A rooster during a cockfighting raid in South Carolina,
one state where HSUS is working for stronger penalties.

In 2007, Louisiana became the 50th state to outlaw cockfighting. This was a significant milestone in the advancement of our cause. Yet this crime remains widespread in the states that have weak penalties for cockfighting, or major loopholes for spectators or breeders of fighting roosters.

While 39 states provide felony penalties for cockfighting, it remains a mere misdemeanor in the other 11. Of the 39 states with stronger penalties, a handful have loopholes that hamper effective prosecutions.

It is a top priority of The HSUS to enact strong anti-cockfighting laws in all 50 states. Our undercover investigations continue to show the scope and severity of the problem. When you watch the newscast you’ll see that the roosters were forced to fight to the death with steel weapons tied to their heels. The motivation for this cruelty is one part gambling, one part sick thrill.

Passage of a felony cockfighting law is part of the eight-point animal welfare package negotiated last year in Ohio between HSUS and the state’s leading agricultural organizations. Legislation to make cockfighting a felony has also been introduced in South Carolina and Tennessee. A bill to set stronger penalties for people betting on animal fights has passed the state Senate in West Virginia, while legislators in California and Texas have bills on the move to make it clear that cockfight criminals are not welcome in their states. These are welcome developments, and we’ll be pressing to make an even greater proportion of the public aware of the problem, to secure approval of these legislative initiatives, and to spur stronger enforcement all around.

Millions of roosters are killed in cockfights each year in the United States alone. Another half-million roosters are bred here and shipped to countries like Mexico and the Philippines for use in fights there. Muscular laws in states like Oklahoma and Virginia have caused cockfighters to give up their hobby or to flock to states where the practice is effectively decriminalized, like Alabama. It is our goal to see that there is no refuge for cockfighting. It is a barbaric, inhumane practice with no place in modern society.

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