OPINION: Don’t Fight Cock Fighting

July 11, 2012, 6:56 AM HST · Updated July 24, 10:37 AM
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rooster

Courtesy file photo.

If US Senator Richard Blumenthal gets his way, roosters around the nation may soon be clucking a sigh of relief.

Senate bill 1947, the “Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act” was approved recently, and is currently being debated in the United States House of Representatives as a part of the 2012 farm bill.

The Senate bill would make it a federal offense to knowingly attend an animal fight, penalizing violators with up to a year in prison (or up to three years for bringing or causing a minor to witness the crime). Organizing animal fights is currently a felony, but the legality of watching them has always been vague.

Here in Hawaii, where cock fighting has long been accepted as a cultural tradition by many residents, it’s doubtful a law like this could ever be enforced.

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Will federal agents be rappelling from helicopters to arrest a bunch of guys betting on a battle of the beaks? It seems like tax dollars could be better spent elsewhere, especially when the critters you’re rescuing are distantly related to the wings you snarf down during every Super bowl.

With government finances tight, funding enough sting operations to shut down cock fights in Hawaii would require serious buy-in from the public, and that’s going to be a tough sell.

cock fighting

In Hawaii, cock fighting is often culturally accepted. Image file courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

After all, the chicken has a PR problem.

Unlike humans or dogs, it’s near-impossible to make a rooster look lonely and depressed in a television commercial. No matter how many slow motion close-ups you do, or how much sad Enya music you play in the background, you’re still stuck working with a beak and two beady eyes.

PETA has been no help either. Their most notorious pro-poultry initiative involved desecrating the legacy of Colonel Sanders by handing out buckets of bloody chicken dolls. Not surprisingly, it ended up backfiring. It was a weird strategy, especially when you consider how fun they made it seem to save the ferret (here’s hoping more celebrities decide to go without fur).

With much bigger felony-related fish to fry, it’s hard to imagine law enforcement officers being eager to spend their Saturday nights raiding backyard chicken brawls. Here in the Aloha State, there’s a high percentage chance they’d be arresting a friend or neighbor.

If the government is really serious about cracking down on animal cruelty, it needs to turn its gaze toward factory farming. Your friendly neighborhood fried chicken empire is indirectly responsible for more suffering on a daily basis than an entire year’s worth of cock fights.

The desire for cheap poultry has led to disgustingly cramped warehouses full of messy, mistreated creatures, and federal agricultural policy sadly favors large producers over their more humane, free-ranging competition.

Cock fighting, though violent, is a culturally tolerated activity here. But there’s a generational divide occurring, with younger folks taking on different interests.

File photo courtesy of University of California, Berkeley.

Amusingly, the best hope for ending chicken fights may lie in video gaming.

Nothing  prevents kids from engaging in real world activities like well-made digital entertainment. The more time a youngster spends playing “Grand Theft Auto,” the less likely it is that he’ll learn how to actually hot-wire a Lamborghini. If your kid is addicted to “World of Warcraft,” it’s pretty unlikely they’ll find the time to start any gang wars in the real world.

To really put an end to cock fighting, maybe the feds should subsidize the distribution of games like “Angry Birds.”

But when it comes to widespread animal cruelty, the government should get real. Pay attention to factory farms, and stay out of our neighbors backyards.

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