Longform

Out, Out, Damn Sport!

Page 6 of 9

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.

Massachusetts became the first state in America to criminalize the breeding and fighting of gamecocks in 1836 (England banned the sport in 1849). Since then, 45 states have followed suit, most before the Great Depression. Cockfighting is a felony in 16 states, and a misdemeanor throughout most of the south, where rural sheriffs are said to wink at the practice.

The gamecock remains the state bird of South Carolina and the sports mascot for University of South Carolina teams. The magazine Grit and Steel carries full-color advertisements for cockfights and gamecock breeders in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Hawaii and other states with laws against the breeding and fighting of gamecocks.

Harsh enforcement in other states pushes cockfighting deeper underground. In March 1995, after a two-month undercover investigation, armed agents of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stormed a cockfight in an old Bronx movie theater in New York City and made 394 arrests. Eighty gamecocks were seized and euthanized.

The National Humane Society offers a $2,500 bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cockfighters where the sport is illegal.

"Those are Nazi tactics," says Hodges.
Arizona Humane Society director Ken White says he has personal commitments from 11 Arizona sheriffs, including Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio, to work with Humane Society officers to enforce Proposition 201. White says two of his officers are already working to train an animal cruelty task force Arpaio recently created.

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse