Crime

Animal Welfare Group Wants Feds to Investigate Seven Kentuckians on Cockfighting Allegations

For years, Kentucky has been known as the epicenter of horse racing, as numerous champion thoroughbreds have been born and bred in the Bluegrass State. However, on Thursday, an animal welfare group said the state is also a top breeding hub for cockfighting rings around the world.

A cockfighting ring in an undetermined location draws a crowd. On Thursday, Animal Wellness Action claimed seven Kentuckians were major breeders for cockfighting operations around the world. (Image: Animal Wellness Action)

Animal Wellness Action sent letters to the US Attorneys representing Kentucky’s eastern and western districts. They asked to investigate seven individuals who the group says breed birds for fighting purposes. That has been against federal law since 2002 and a felony since 2007.

The seven individuals were interviewed by a Filipino broadcast crew as part of a series on cockfighting. BNTV, Animal Wellness Action claims, televises cockfighting in the Philippines and showcased what is considered to be some of the best farms in the US.

Kentucky is at the center of the American and global cockfighting industry, with major operators shipping birds all over the world,” said Wayne Pacelle, Animal Wellness Action’s president said.

Cockfighting — which is illegal in all 50 states — typically involves side betting among those in the audience. In addition, owners pay hundreds of dollars to enter their birds in “derbies,” such as the World Slasher Cup in the Philippines.

“We’re talking about, globally, a multi-billion dollar industry,” Pacelle added. “I mean, it sounds absurd to throw the b-word out, but when you understand scale of the operations, that is absolutely the case.”

Target the Profit

While cockfighting is illegal across the US, it’s only a misdemeanor in eight states, including Kentucky. On Thursday, one state senator said he’s willing to push for legislation that would change that.

We’ve got to crack down, we’ve got to do better, and in 2021, you will see a bill introduced to ban cockfighting and to make many of the aspects surrounding cockfighting a serious crime in Kentucky,” said state Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville).

Former Kentucky Attorney General Chris Gorman said he was shocked and embarrassed that the state plays such a prominent role in the global cockfighting enterprise. The key, Gorman says, is to take the profit out of the activity in order to stop it.

One way to do that, Pacelle said, is to target the breeders.

“Like other sports involving animals, if you win derbies, if you win the World Slasher Cup… then you get a reputation as a good breeder, then you can sell your animals for a high price,” Gorman said.

Cockfighting Still Prevalent

While cockfighting is illegal in the US, fights still happen across the country in both rural and urban areas.

Last December, law enforcement in Georgia arrested 20 people during a session. Officers said nearly 50 people paid $600 to enter five birds, and the winner was set to take home more than $27,000.

The last legal bastion for cockfighting in the US was Puerto Rico and the other US territories. However, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act passed last year made cockfighting and dogfighting illegal in those jurisdictions.

When Puerto Rico passed a sports betting bill last year, it allowed former cockfighting rings to apply for a sports betting license at no cost for the next 10 years.

Steve Bittenbender

Horse Racing, Sports Betting, Gaming Legislation, Midwest and Gulfport Casinos----Steve Bittenbender is a veteran reporter, and brings more than two decades of experience covering sports, gaming business, and politics and legislation to Casino.org, which he joined in 2019. Based in Louisville, Kentucky -- the epicenter of the US horse racing industry -- Steve has also covered major collegiate and professional sports for the Associated Press and the Louisville Courier Journal, and is frequently featured on local network TV newscasts and podcasts for his horse racing business and legislative expertise. A Reuters contributor, he has also previously served as editor for Government Security News. Steve lives with his wife and son, and is an avid poker player, having learned from his uncle as a wholesome after-school pasttime with cookies and milk. Email: stevebittenbender@casino.org

View Comments

  • We do not support harming birds, but cocks love fighting! There are more important things to do than chase cock fighting operations.i don't attend. It should be legal is my position.

  • Cockfighting is cruel and causes immense suffering for NO REASON. The greed spurs this vile industry forward. It must end NOW as they are sentient beings who just want to be with hens and live without harm. Stop this barbaric practice now. Do under others as you would have done to you. Live with kindness. Stop inflicting suffering on them. They do not deserve this abuse, EVER.

  • Having watched recent footage of cockfighting operations in Kentucky, I urge that legislation be enacted and enforced in the state to ban this sadistic entertainment by whatever means necessary. I've watched footage of cock-fighters kicking and otherwise abusing young roosters to traumatize them mentally and physically to act out the vicious impulses of their abusers. And don't tell me that these roosters "want" to fight to the death in these staged encounters: I've been keeping rescued chickens, hens and roosters including birds rescued from cockfighting, for 35 years. I know from direct experience that they do not seek to torture and kill each other. They want to be with their hens. They want to perch and sunbathe and dust-bathe and forage in the soil. It's horrible seeing them at the mercy of human brutes.

  • Having watched recent footage of cockfighting operations in Kentucky, I urge that legislation be enacted and enforced in the state to ban this sadistic entertainment by whatever means necessary. I've watched footage of cock-fighters kicking and otherwise abusing young roosters to traumatize them mentally and physically to act out the vicious impulses of their abusers. And don't tell me that these roosters "want" to fight to the death in these staged encounters: I've been keeping rescued chickens, hens and roosters including birds rescued from cockfighting, for 35 years. I know from direct experience that they do not seek to torture and kill each other. They want to be with their hens. They want to perch and sunbathe and dust-bathe and forage in the soil. It's horrible seeing them at the mercy of human brutes. -- Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns

  • The "7 individuals" remain anonymous? They get more protection then their victims? What's wrong with this picture?

  • Animals die hideous deaths, yet the "7 individuals" remain nameless. These moral sinkholes get more protection than the animals they torture and exploit. What's wrong with this picture???

  • Ah, Kentucky. Home of the breeders and inbreeders. The shallow end of the gene pool. Dimmest bulbs in the chandelier. Parasites on the planet. Scum suckers and then some. And champeen cockfighters to boot. Yup, that’s Kentucky for ya!

  • It used to be said that if the U.S. needed an enema, you'd stick the nozzle in Texas. Seems the Lone Star State has some competition.

    Kentucky is near dead-last in animal protection laws. Making cock fighting a felony would certainly be a step in the right direction.

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Steve Bittenbender