For some HSUS staff, New Year’s Day offered no respite—but rather, a day of travel and painstaking preparation. They launched our programs and activities for 2010 by participating in a Jan. 2 raid on a large-scale cockfighting operation in Parker County, Texas. Working with outstanding personnel from the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, they together raided a cockfighting pit, arresting 176 people and seizing 118 birds. Also confiscated was a custom-made trailer that had stalls in the back for transporting roosters to cockfights, and special features designed for any enthusiast of this barbaric pastime. The trailer was to be auctioned for fundraising purposes, perhaps to raise money to fight legislation we are readying in Texas to upgrade penalties for illegal cockfighting. While cockfighting is a felony in Texas, it's still perfectly legal to attend cockfights and own fighting birds and weapons.
Parker County Sheriff's Office
Sheriff's deputies arrested 176 people in a Jan. 2 cockfighting raid.
This derby principally featured short-knife fights, with each bird fitted with a one- to one-and-a half-inch blade on the left leg. HSUS staff found half a dozen birds who had probably won their fights, but were suffering from severe injuries that were inflicted by their opponents' knives. An equal number of dead birds had been discarded along the fence line, treated like trash as their bodies were piled up along with empty beer cans and bottles of whiskey.
On many occasions I have noted that violence toward animals is often an indicator of a similarly coarse or callous attitude toward human beings. Sadly, this phenomenon was in evidence at this raid. Some of the cockfighters brought their children to the fights—about 10 to 15 of them—and as sheriff’s deputies raided the facility, the cockfighters abandoned their children and fled the scene. Fortunately, Child Protective Services was on hand to help.
My special thanks go to Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler. "It was deeply disturbing to see the way in which live animals were handled and were expected to die by such a gruesome death," Sheriff Fowler told the press in a prepared statement.
At The HSUS, the eradication of cockfighting has long been a top priority. We launched three successful ballot initiatives within the last decade to outlaw the practice in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and then finally succeeded in getting Louisiana and New Mexico lawmakers to pass anti-cockfighting legislation in 2007. Now that we’ve banned cockfighting in all 50 states, we are working to make cockfighting a felony in the last 11 states where the barbaric practice is just a misdemeanor.
In 2010, priority states include Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Cockfighters have demonstrated that they’ll migrate to misdemeanor states, so we have to make it a felony everywhere if we want to root it out for good.
In 2009 we saw the number of states with felony cockfighting laws grow to 39. Two of the three underground cockfighting magazines went out of business. We also saw a record number of raids on cockfighting operations by law enforcement, indicating police are cracking down on all forms of animal fighting.
But there are still millions of roosters that will be forced to fight in the coming year. They will suffer severe injuries, and more than half will die. The cockfighters will laugh. They jokingly refer to a rooster with his eye gouged out as a “blinker,” or a rooster with a punctured lung as a “rattler” because of the noise he makes as he struggles for air. This sort of cruelty and pathological behavior has no place in the society. We’ll not relent until the carnage is stopped.