Loophole in Texas law allows barbaric cockfighting rings to thrive despite nationwide ban
By David Gardner for MailOnline
Updated: 05:19 BST, 27 December 2010
Loopholes in the law have allowed cockfighting rings to flourish in Texas in spite of new efforts by animal activists to shut them down.
The bloodthirsty bouts have been illegal in the Lone Star state for decades, as they are in the rest of the country.
But while it is a felony in Texas to make roosters fight, it is not illegal to raise fighting gamecocks, to attend a cockfight or to possess paraphernalia such as the gaffs, or razor blades, that are strapped to the birds legs to make the fights even more violent.
Texas loophole: It is illegal to organise a cockfight in the U.S. but, in Texas, it is not illegal to raise the fighting birds or own paraphernalia such as razor blades
Powerless: Despite undercover operations, raids and arrests, it is not illegal to attend a cockfight as a spectator
The Humane Society of the United States said the loopholes make it virtually impossible to successfully clampdown on cockfighting, even though the penalties for orchestrating the fights range from six months to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
An attempt to push through wider legislation to criminalise activity associated with the outlawed sport failed at the last procedural hurdle last year.
Undercover informants told the Texas Tribune that cockfighting attracts prostitution rings, drug dealers and gambling organisations.
After a year-and-a-half-long investigation, the Humane Society said it has uncovered nearly two dozen active cockfighting rings in Texas, with one going on almost every weekend in remote spots during the season.
Worldwide tradition: Fans of the so-called sport say it has been going on for centuries around the world – such as this recent fight in Kabul, Afghanistan
Cockfighting pits were found in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and in rural East Texas. Investigators said some people even took their children along to the fights.
In one invitation-only meeting caught on video, guests paid $200 each to attend and thin needles were attached to the birds’ legs to allow them to fight longer and bleed to death more slowly.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues at the society, told the Tribune: ‘It’s certainly heartbreaking to see all these birds just completely injured and S128 app suffering greatly.
‘The fact is that it’s just extremely cruel. This crime is primarily about financial gain.’
‘It’s certainly heartbreaking to see all these birds just completely injured and suffering greatly. The fact is that it’s just extremely cruel. This crime is primarily about financial gain’
However, fans of the sport say it has been going on for centuries and new laws will only drive it further underground.
Chicken farmer Richard Barnes, who is quick to point out he doesn’t raise fighting cocks, said: ‘I mean a chicken’s a chicken. I don’t care if it’s a show chicken, a laying chicken or any other kind of chicken, cocks will fight each other.’
He told the Tribune that at least the birds can defend themselves in the ring rather than being slaughtered for food.
He said: ‘They have a 50-50 chance. And they’ve been bred thousands of years to fight all over the world.’
The last state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana three years ago. The most high-profile bust in Texas last January ended up with more than 100 arrests, but only a handful ended up being charged with misdemeanor gambling offences.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain said: ‘As the law stands right now, there is not an offence for being a spectator at a cockfight. In our case, all that we could show for nearly all of the people arrested was that they were watching the fights or gambling on them.’