Lawmakers, at Every Level, Fighting Cockfighting

Last week, Los Angeles County unanimously passed an ordinance to crack down on the barbaric practice of cockfighting.

In a nation of 3100 counties you may regard a policy reform in a single county as progress, but of a humble type. But L.A. County is one of the nation’s biggest and most populous counties, and it’s been a hub of illegal cockfighting activity.

The issue got on the docket of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors because of a raid conducted last summer by Animal Care and Control in Val Verde, an unincorporated part of the county. There, sheriffs’ deputies and animal care and control personnel found nearly 8,000 birds, most of them in subgroups of 100 or 200 or more birds. Each subgroup was apparently owned by an individual cockfighter, stabling their birds there in anticipation of fights or future sales of the birds for breeding or cockfighting events.

Who would think there would be such a thing as a cockfighting stable?

Fifteen years ago the county had a major outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), a form of avian influenza. State and federal agriculture officials said it was backyard cockfighting operations, numbering in the thousands, that provided the pathway for the transmission of the respiratory disease. The cost of containing the disease was about $200 million. The region had a similar outbreak of END a generation before.

Apart from the avian health issues and the nuisance factor of roosters by the hundreds crowing and disrupting the peacefulness of rural homeowners, cockfighting amounts to ghastly cruelty – raising and training animals to fight, putting them in a pit from which they cannot escape, attaching sharp implements to their legs, and then goading them to hack each other to death. This is the antithesis of the proper treatment of animals. Killing animals as a gambling enterprise and as a spectator sport is never acceptable. Invoking a tradition or claiming it as an expression of culture can never justify this kind of cruelty.

The U.S. Congress is now considering legislation, the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, to apply our federal laws against animal fighting to the U.S. territories, which are the last explicitly legal havens where dogfighting and cockfighting occur in the United States. In May, the House passed an amendment to advance this legislation by a commanding vote of 359 to 51, and this provision stands a strong chance of being attached to the Farm bill.

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