That’s not entertainment

Eric Sakach is director of the Humane Society’s West Coast Regional Office in Sacramento

News reports of the recent raid on a large cockfighting operation in south Sacramento County elicited many calls to our office. Some came from people wanting to report information about suspected animal-fighting activities, but many were from people who simply wanted to know why such activities exist at all.

I’ve asked myself that question hundreds of times during 28 years of investigating the countless ways people can be cruel to animals. Animal fighting as a public spectacle has a long and brutal history but is now banned in most jurisdictions. Cockfighting is illegal in every state except Louisiana and New Mexico, and dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states. Yet, these savage shows continue in a murky world, often associated with illegal firearms and drugs.

The Sacramento raid is a case in point. That investigation began with an anonymous call about domestic violence, and it reportedly resulted in the arrest of a parolee on an outstanding no-bail warrant. He also was allegedly charged with two drug violations. Three other people subsequently were cited for possession of several hundred fighting cocks and related paraphernalia, including a collection of razor-sharp slashers (designed to be attached to the legs of the feathered gladiators), training equipment, veterinary supplies and surgical instruments.

Though it is true that cockfighting is an activity that has been practiced for centuries in various countries, including the United States, “old” does not necessarily mean good, and “cultural” does not automatically mean acceptable. At one time, America allowed slavery, had no child-abuse or child-labor laws and did not extend the vote to women.

To assume that someone would be predisposed to such activities automatically just because they are a member of a particular ethnic group would be erroneous and prejudicial, and doing so ignores the fact that the activity has been outlawed for years in a number of Latin American countries.

Cockfighting and dogfighting still exist largely because of the illegal gambling involved and because of the disparity in state laws. We’ve seen a dramatic upsurge in illegal cockfighting operations in California since the enactment of felony laws in bordering states.

Though these are all contributing factors, the sad fact is that some people simply are entertained by watching animals die horribly in a pit. And that may be the most difficult condition to change.