Last night, ESPN viewers saw the results of one of our many cockfighting investigations carried out in Texas. In April, our investigators took an ESPN crew member undercover to a fight in Gunter, Texas, a small town about 45 minutes from Dallas, where he filmed roosters bloodied, battered, and killed in these spectacles of entertainment and violence.
We thank ESPN E:60 for showcasing the true, ugly nature of cockfighting and what it translates into for the beautiful, innocent birds hacked up in these staged fights. We’re also grateful that the network featured our work in cooperation with local law enforcement to bust the well-entrenched fighting ring last Saturday, where dozens of suspects were arrested and dozens of roosters seized.
Footage from numerous HSUS investigations was peppered throughout the show, and the Gunter Chief of Police, Bryce Kennedy, expressed an important sentiment about cockfighting—that it is a blight on the communities where it exists, and that weak laws in Texas make it particularly difficult for law enforcement to crush it.
Our undercover investigations unit has infiltrated dozens of illegal fights in Texas over the last year, releasing undercover footage taken throughout the state and prompting three major raids in six months that led to the apprehension of more than 60 suspected cockfighters. We’re always ready to assist law enforcement to shut down these cruel operations and help the birds.
Unfortunately, cockfighting thrives in Texas because of loopholes in the law. Every state that borders Texas outlaws the possession of a bird that is being prepared to fight. In Texas, that remains legal. Nearly every bordering state outlaws attending cockfights. That also remains legal in Texas even though spectator admission fees fuel this criminal industry. Even worse, during raids cockfighters will claim they were only present to watch, using the spectator loophole to avoid prosecution.
Now it’s up to the Texas legislature to close these gaps by passing HB 1043 and SB 939. Gambling, guns, and drugs are all deeply interwoven with this bloody enterprise. Children, too, are often brought to the fights—no doubt becoming desensitized to suffering and accustomed to illegal activities. As the legislative session approaches its close, Texas elected officials must act quickly to end the embarrassment of being a haven for this depraved activity.