Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Cockfighting

By on January 24, 2012 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In my speaking engagements throughout the country, I often say that opposition to cruelty is a universal value. No matter what traditions you consult―secular or faith-based, or both―there’s no escaping that humans have a moral duty to be merciful to animals. Our opposition to cruelty is no modern invention, but a moral fiber that can be traced back for a century and a half in our nation, and even longer in the wider world.

Rooster rescued from fighting in 2011
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Watch the new anti-cockfighting video.

The HSUS was founded by people who embraced that tradition and sought to build on it. Indeed, since our founding in 1954, we’ve worked relentlessly to fortify the social, cultural, and legal frameworks against cruelty. Throughout, we’ve always been driven in part by faith-based values; in fact, the two prior CEOs came from the ministry before leading the organization, and people of virtually every faith tradition have been strong supporters.

That’s why I am so pleased that The HSUS is now partnering with Dr. Richard Land and Dr. Oran Smith―leaders, respectively of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Palmetto Family Council―on a campaign against cockfighting. Both Christian leaders remind us that we do not have the right to kill animals for our entertainment because animals are not ours to do what we want with. They belong to God―He made a covenant with them. Watching animals hack each other to death, with knives affixed to their legs, and gambling on the outcome finds no safety net in the Christian tradition. You'd never find Jesus at a cockfight, Dr. Land observes in this video.


Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, but it’s only a misdemeanor in 11 states, most of them in the South. A few states have particularly anemic penalties; in Alabama, cockfighting faces a minimum $20 fine and a maximum of $50. The weakest of these laws provide essentially no deterrent. It’s time to make cockfighting a felony in these states, and to make it a federal crime to be a spectator at an animal fighting venture.

We cannot tolerate this kind of cruelty in our communities. It’s not consistent with our values as a nation.

Animal Rescue and Care

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