Friday, February 21, 2014

Farm Bill makes watching a cockfight a felony

The new Farm Bill has new penalties to discourage cockfighting. Merely attending a cockfight is now a federal crime punishable by up to a year and prison and a $10,000 fine. Bringing a minor to such an event could result in up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Herald-Leader 1992 photo: Steel spurs are
attached to a bird's legs before a cockfight.
Craig Davis, president of the United Gamefowl Breeders Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the law could make good citizens into criminals. "The grass roots on this are not playing games anymore. They've been beaten and battered for 30 years. They're rural people. They want to be left alone," Davis told the Kentucky newspaper.

Though law enforcement officials don't often cite citizens for cockfighting, the Farm Bill makes it a much more serious offense. "I think we're going to get some enforcement," John Goodwin, director of animal-cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States, told the paper. "Law-enforcement agents all across the country are really tired of these cockfighting pits because they see the cruelty, but they see these pits as magnets for other crime as well." He recounted a 2008 Drug Enforcement Agency bust in Cumberland County, Tennessee, at a cockfighting ring connected to a Mexican drug cartel, the Herald-Leader reports.

Goodwin said said that now all cockfighting pits in Tennessee are at risk for going out of business. "Now, if the feds raid a cockfighting pit, anyone there can pay fines and do prison time," he said. "All the gambling dollars are not going to offset that. They're starting to figure out, 'Hey, there may not be a future in cockfighting.'" Goodwin said they need to accept that at the federal level, no one wants to partner with people doing something that's illegal in every state.

Davis said that breeding gamefowl helps many rural Kentuckians to make money, and he's upset with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for supporting the bill. "Davis and several hundred cockfighting enthusiasts greeted McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in London on Monday as they made a swing through Eastern Kentucky to promote economic development proposals," which include pilot industrial-hemp projects that the bill legalizes, the Herald-Leader's Janet Patton and Sam Youngman report. For a video report from WYMT-TV in Hazard, click here.

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