By Ashley Richards, BT intern
After passing the Louisiana Senate with a 34 to 0 vote, Senator Arthur Lentini’s bill 652, which would have criminalized cockfighting in the state, failed to pass the House before the session’s end June 19, leaving Louisiana and New Mexico as the only states where game fowl fighting remains legal.
The vote by the Agriculture Committee to leave cockfighting laws as they are did not discourage Lentini.
"I’m going to bring it up next year again and I know I can get it through the Senate and there’ll be more pressure to get it through the House,” Lentini said. “When you talk to these representatives individually in the House they all agree that it will eventually become illegal.”
Some of the legislators who voted against SB 652 agreed to a plan that would phase out cockfighting over the next two years, Lentini said. That was not, however, the solution he was seeking. He said it would undercut his credibility and the plan would not account for the animals that would be “slaughtered” during the two-year period.
Representing game fowl breeders, the United Gamefowl Breeders Association Inc., views criminalizing cockfighting as a problem for the well being of the birds.
“Game fowl breeders will be less likely to participate in government programs that promote the health of birds, and thus make it more difficult for the UGBA to monitor flocks across the nation,” UGBA said in a statement.
The health and wellness of the nation’s poultry requires that breeders be involved in government programs, such as the National Poultry Improvement Plan, that promote biosecurity for game fowl, UGBA said.
“If owning game fowl can be perceived as criminal, game fowl breeders will simply not identify themselves to any organization,” UGBA said in their statement. “They will miss out on educational forums on biosecurity and they will not take advantage of government services such as state and federal disease hot lines.”
The money involved in cockfighting prevents legislators representing rural areas from agreeing to criminalize the activity until their constituents are not financially dependent on breeding game fowl, Lentini said.
“There is a tremendous amount of gambling and pre-teens gambling with adults, and just the fact that they are present I think is wrong,” Lentini said. “It’s not a good message for kids. It’s not good for them to see and participate in that.”
The statement made by UGBA reported comments from an ex-law enforcement officer who said there were no sightings of teenagers gambling at cockfighting events during an undercover investigation.
“Senator Lentini’s comments referring to all cockfighting participants as barbarians greatly offended all Latino and Asian countries as well as the 35 million American decedents,” the UGBA statement said.
Dr. Francine Bradley, the Extension Poultry Specialist of the University of California at Davis, told the U.S. Committee on the Judiciary in a May 18 statement that the accusations that game fowl owners have less concern for the health of their animals than other bird owners is “preposterous.”
Nonetheless, Lentini said he believes cockfighting will eventually become illegal.
“I think most people recognize that its days are numbered and in the next several years, I would expect within three, four, five years at top, it will successfully get through the legislature,” he said.