By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Knowing it could never compete with the pro-201 forces in a campaign, the 4,000-member Arizona Game Fowl Breeders Association sought to fight on technicalities. It organized regional teams of volunteers to double-check every petition that Citizens Against Cockfighting had submitted to the state.
Hodges shows copies of petitions on which dozens of the signers list the homeless shelter at 813 West Madison as their address. He has three petitions both circulated and apparently signed by Tucson state senator and Citizens Against Cockfighting board member Carmine Cardamone (it's a misdemeanor in Arizona to knowingly sign such a petition more than once).
AGFBA president Dave Harris says his group turned up enough questionable signatures to disqualify Proposition 201, but the organization blew a filing deadline, and a judge threw the appeal out of court on September 22.
"We just ran out of time," Harris says.
Hodges says if Proposition 201 passes, he may not keep fighting his birds, but he's sure as hell going to keep raising them. "What are they going to do to me? I'm almost 80 years old."
Ken White, who has squared off against Hodges in several recent broadcast debates--and was referred to by one critic in a recent answering machine message as "you faggot Jew boy from San Francisco"--seems to feel less animosity toward his adversary than pity.
"Although I don't think it's shared, I have a certain amount of sympathy and affection for Belton Hodges," White says. "I see him as a man whose way of life the world is passing by, and it's sort of sad, in a way."
White has lived in Arizona for three years. Before that, he worked for the National Humane Society in Washington, D.C., for three years, and before that, the Humane Society in San Francisco for 15.
He also eats chicken.
"It's an issue I struggle with deeply. I try only to eat free-range chickens, so I am someone who's trying not to be hypocritical in that respect."
Hodges eats anything that tastes good.
"Hell, I've got a bass boat, a house full of guns, and four freezers stocked with game and fish. I've killed everything from bass to buffalo in my day."
Hodges wonders how many people who'll vote for Proposition 201 have ever killed their own food, as most cockfighters have. How many have wrung the neck of a chicken they grew, or beat the brains from a fish they caught or put a bullet in a deer they stalked?
"All these Easterners and Californians," Hodges says, "they've never set foot on a farm, and in their minds, Miss Piggy sings, and Bambi talks to its mother, and Porky dances. They've got Disney syndrome."
The old cockfighter slurps black coffee from a mug emblazoned with two roosters, flamed with plumage and fighting to the death. "Sport of Kings," it says.
"You know, these damned animal rights fanatics, they all dress immaculately, and enunciate very clearly, and hold their hands in a very pious manner, and look good on TV," Hodges says. "They're just more politically correct, I guess. But I'll tell you what--you go to shake most of their hands, and you get a dead fish in return."
Hodges shakes his right hand and looks at it with disdain, as if some bastard animal rights fanatic has just slimed him with a wussy handshake.
"Oh, those people irk me."
There are many pleasant subjects to close this editorial on, but the Animal Rights Group needs to be Put Down from every angle possible, as they are indeed trying to put our sport clear out of existence!!!
Being a Christian, I believe every word of the Bible, as it's [sic] guidelines are what is right and what is wrong for all humans to follow, as it is the way of righteousness. No other way. The Bible says it in Genesis 1:26: "and God said: 'Let us make man in our images, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'"
--from a recent issue of Grit and Steel, a national cockfighting magazine first published in 1899
Cockfighting is older than Christianity. The blood sport originated in Southeast Asia some 4,000 years ago, with the domestication of the brilliant red jungle fowl Gallus gallus, the direct ancestor of American friers. Many countries in Asia have since banned the sport, as the tenets of Buddhism and Confucianism disapprove of bloodshed, and Islam forbids gambling.
In the Philippines, however, cockfighting remains rabidly popular. There are 1,500 fighting galleras across the archipelago, including a 10,000-seat Maranetta Coliseum in Manila, home to the annual, three-day World Slasher Derby, the World Cup of cockfighting.
Cockfighting also remains popular with the poor of Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, 10,000 cockfights a year are televised, many of them organized by the U.S. commonwealth's recreation department, and the government collects millions of pesos a year in gambling taxes.
Roman legionnaires spread cockfighting throughout Europe, and Spanish conquistadors transported it to Latin America and much of what is now the southwestern United States. Today in Mexico, a cockfight, or pelea de gallos, is the main event at any palenque, or county fair. And this spring, when migrant workers from the interior of Mexico began to put together a new squatter's suburb of Nogales called Colonia Colosio, the first structure they completed was a cinderblock cock pit.