(AR - US) New law to ruffle industry's feathers

Snugglezzz at aol.com Snugglezzz at aol.com
Sun May 11 13:43:47 EDT 2003



New law to ruffle industry’s feathers

Gamecock breeders banned from transporting birds, gear
BY CRISTAL CODY
ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE 

SPRINGDALE — Cockfighting breeders and handlers will be in a whole new 
ballgame starting Wednesday, when a federal law takes effect that will ban 
the transport of game birds and fight paraphernalia across state lines.

   The law, part of last year’s farm bill, will make it illegal to ship 
chickens bred for fighting to other countries as well. It also will prevent 
shipping the animals through the United States Postal Service. Violators face 
up to $15,000 in fines and a year in jail for the misdemeanor.

   That could spell an end to the estimated $18 million gamecock industry in 
Arkansas, where breeders and handlers now can take their birds to Oklahoma, 
Louisiana or New Mexico, where cockfighting is legal.
   "We hope it will cripple the cockfighting industry and rid the nation of 
this barbaric and gruesome practice of having birds hack one another to death 
for the amusement of spectators," said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president 
of the Humane Society of the United States.
   Cockfighting critics also say the matches spread avian diseases, since 
birds from a wide region come together to fight and then return home. 
Cockfighting supporters say that’s not true.

   Gamecock breeders say cockfighting isn’t cruel because the birds have a 
natural tendency to fight.

   Enforcing the law will be dif- ficult. Police say that when they stop 
someone hauling chickens they’ll look for paraphernalia or other evidence 
that the birds are going to a cockfight.

   Pacelle said the Humane Society intends to "help law enforcement by 
documenting the movements of illegal cockfighters," including staking out the 
parking lots at fight clubs for outof-state vehicles.
  Cockfighting has been banned by 47 states, including Arkansas, but breeding 
the colorful birds is not illegal. Breeders sell roosters across the country 
and export them to Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and other countries. 
The fights were outlawed in Oklahoma in a November referendum, but a state 
judge placed a temporary injunction on enforcement of the new law.
   Animal welfare advocates say the new law means there’s no reason to breed 
thousands of fighting roosters in Arkansas each year.

   "The question for all these guys in Arkansas that have hundreds of birds 
on tethers with little A-frame huts or barrels — why do you have these birds? 
It’s not legal to fight them in Arkansas and it’s not legal to ship them 
anywhere else," Pacelle said. "There’s no other market for these birds. The 
show bird industry is tiny and could never accommodate the number of 
gamecocks that are raised in Arkansas."

   
ARKANSAS INDUSTRY
   
About 1,500 game fowl breeders operate in Arkansas, which ranks about 10th in 
the country in number of breeders, according to the United Gamefowl Breeders 
Association. Nationally, each gamecock farm has an average of 315 birds.
   Two of three magazines devoted to cockfighting are based in Arkansas. 
Oklahoma and Louisiana fight pits are located near the Arkansas borders.
   Verna Dowd, publisher of The Feathered Warriorin De Queen, has about 9,000 
monthly subscribers. She said the federal ban won’t prevent her magazine from 
continuing or advertising products.

   "They don’t have any laws against the magazine — not yet anyway," she 
said.

  United Gamefowl Breeders Association, with about 14,000 members, has 
retained an attorney to fight the federal law and expects an injunction to be 
filed shortly after the ban takes effect, said Larry Mathews, an Oregonbased 
spokesman and founder of the group.
   "Action of that law will be very short-lived," he said.
   Mathews, who has gamecock breeding farms in Oregon and Louisiana, exports 
trios, or a rooster with two hens, to the Philippines for prices up to 
$2,500, he said.
   "The big money is not in America," he said. "The big money is in Mexico 
and the [Asian] nations."
   Mathews doesn’t sell any game fowl in Arkansas, but he does trade birds 
with a partner in the state to prevent lineages from becoming inbred. Game 
fowl also are used in other areas besides fighting, he said. The birds’ 
feathers are used for decoration and fishing flies. Game bird meat is sold to 
the public, and some birds are used in nonfighting exhibitions, he said.

   THE DISEASE FACTOR
   

The breeders association doesn’t agree that cockfighting spreads avian 
diseases, saying germs are often spread by visitors to farms, such as feed 
trucks and even electric meter readers. The association has held meetings 
with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate members about the disease 
and has voluntarily closed poultry shows, he said.

   The California Department of Food and Agriculture says an outbreak of 
Exotic Newcastle disease in California spread from backyard chicken flocks 
and gamecocks. State and federal officials have spent $101 million and killed 
more than 3 million chickens in California to fight the disease, which 
spreads through manure, mucus and eggs. The virus since has spread to Nevada, 
Arizona and Texas.
   Symptoms of the disease, which is fatal to birds but does not affect 
humans, include diarrhea and respiratory problems. The poultry industry in 
Arkansas’ region got a break last week when tests showed an Oklahoma flock of 
game birds did not die from the disease, as first suspected. The Department 
of Agriculture is testing to determine what did kill the birds.

   Before the test results were known, Arkansas officials banned the 
exhibition and sale of all fowl from flea markets and other avenues to 
prevent the virus from taking hold. On Thursday the Arkansas Livestock and 
Poultry Commission rescinded the ban. 

 

 


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