Cockfighting is as American as apple pie, Milk Dairy Game Club


Taxation is theft by government.

And could be robbery and illegal detention if you not pay your taxes aka protection money to the government.

Gambling is choice.

There is nothing wrong with gambling. Only that the government wanted a monopoly on gambling from lottery, casino, and many others.

– Gameness til the End

Cockfighting a grand tradition

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 8:22 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 8:59 PM
By Jan Moller
Capital bureau

TICKFAW — Carter Kinchen vividly remembers his first cockfight. It was 1965, and he had recently returned home from a two-year stint in the Navy during the Vietnam War when a friend took him to one.

“I thought that was the finest thing in the world,” Kinchen said. In the 6-pound bird, whose willingness to fight is instinctive, he saw the same qualities of bravery and tenacity that he imagined in himself.

“When I went and seen it, all I could see was me,” he said. “From that day forward I fought roosters, and it was legal for me to do so.”

Twelve years after that fight, after his family’s dairy farm went bust, Kinchen and his wife, Barbara, opened the Milk Dairy Game Club to hold regular cockfights on the rural spread where Kinchen, 64, was born and raised.

Today the Milk Dairy club is closed, shuttered since 50 police officers launched a raid March 30 after a yearlong undercover investigation, and Kinchen stands accused of the types of crimes normally associated with organized crime figures: illegal gambling, racketeering, money laundering and drug possession.

The Kinchens have not been charged, and their attorney says they are innocent. Nevertheless, the fate of the Milk Dairy club could be a harbinger for the dozens of other clubs in Louisiana, many nestled in and around Acadiana, where residents and tourists gather on weekend nights to watch roosters fight to the death in a tiny pit, much as they have for generations.

When the New Mexico legislature voted in March to outlaw the bloody sport that has been widely condemned for its brutality, it left Louisiana as the only state in the country where it remains legal. That, combined with the recent passage by Congress of tough new measures to crack down on the interstate transport of fighting animals, has put Louisiana’s long history with cockfighting in the national spotlight as never before.

It’s a glare that politicians find uncomfortable, and people on both sides of the issue say it’s no longer a question of if, but only when, the sport will be banned.

Several bills to outlaw the practice have been filed for the legislative session that starts Monday. The major point of contention is whether to ban the sport immediately or phase it out over a period of up to three years so that gamefowl breeders and others who make their living from cockfighting will have time to recoup their investments.

“A bill is going to land on the governor’s desk. I can’t tell you what that’s going to look like,” said Rep. Michael Strain, R-Covington, a veterinarian who represents a rural district and has signed on to two anti-cockfighting measures.

It’s a development that’s cheered by animal-welfare groups that have fought for years to ban the sport in the few places where it remained legal into the 21st century, and they are leaving little to chance.

The Humane Society of the United States, which favors an immediate ban, has hired two lobbyists to press the issue. “As a society, we no longer accept that it’s OK to stage fights between animals, to engage in illegal gambling and for the thrill of the bloodletting,” Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said. “We’re beyond this as a culture.”

But if mainstream culture long ago rendered its verdict on cockfighting — Pacelle cites polls showing 80 percent of Louisiana residents favoring a ban — the changes are hard to swallow in the pockets of the state where it remains a part of life.

Some legislators said the ban has less to do with statewide public opinion than with concerns that Louisiana’s national image will take a beating if they fail to act.

“People do not want Louisiana looked at as a barbaric state,” said Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, where in previous years anti-cockfighting bills have gone to die. “Cockfighting is not an issue that we want to be focused on. We want to be talking about economic development.”

It’s an image problem the sport’s biggest defenders acknowledge, even as they insist it isn’t true. “This picture they paint of us as if we eat our younguns is just not so,” said Frank Massa, a former head of the Louisiana Gamefowl Breeders Assoc. “I’m an ex-Marine officer. You’ve got decent, law abiding citizens. They paint us as if we’re gangsters.”

According to Massa, Louisiana is home to an estimated 2,750 gamebird breeders, who tend to carefully preserved bloodlines that sometimes go back hundreds of years. In the two years before roosters enter the pit for fights that can be as short as a few seconds or as long as an hour, they receive far better care than chickens in commercial farms, he said.

Massa said cockfighting has an economic boost to rural communities that goes far beyond the pits. “This thing filters down into the community,” he said. “If you ask any feed store what their No.¤1 customer is and they’ll tell you gamefowl breeders.”

Visiting cockfighters fill up motel rooms and diners in areas of the state where economic activity often lags, while breeders buy a range of supplies that keep feed stores in business, Massa said.

That is of little concern to the sport’s opponents, who say the manner in which the roosters die is enough to justify a ban.

“The public doesn’t like cockfighting because it’s a slow, often gruesome death,” Pacelle said. “But second, there’s just no compelling social purpose to the exercise.”

Kinchen knows what people think about his sport. That it’s barbaric. Brutal. A relic of bygone days. He knows the media loves to focus on the blood and the gore, how the roosters’ talons are fitted with knifes, or gaffs, to make the fights quicker and deadlier.

To the sport’s defenders, cockfighting is as American as apple pie. Taking a visitor for a tour of the 10-acre spread northwest of Hammond that has been home to four generations of his family, Kinchen wants people to know that they played the national anthem every weekend before the fights start, and proudly fly the American flag.

He wants them to know there have only been five fist fights at the Milk Dairy club in the last 30 years, less than some bars see in a week.

In the restaurant that adjoins the cockpit, Kinchen points to a sign above the door advising patrons that “no whiskey, drugs or guns” are allowed on the premises, and that “vulgar language” is also banned.

Next to that sign is a photo of the Statue of Liberty, while elsewhere in the small cafe are paintings of game roosters and collages of old articles from magazines devoted to the sport.

Like other cockfighting aficionados, Kinchen is quick to point out that its roots go back to the ancient Egyptians, and that America’s cockfighting tradition dates to the Founding Fathers. Abraham Lincoln, according to an early biographer, helped establish his “honest Abe” reputation by deciding the winner of a disputed cockfight.

“If he was living today he’d be arrested,” Kinchen said.

Frederick Hawley, a criminal justice professor at Western Carolina University who wrote his doctoral dissertation on cockfighting, said he’s not surprised to see Louisiana as cockfighting’s last redoubt.

“It carries a lot of weight in a state that values its heritage as much as Louisiana does,” said Hawley, a Louisiana State University graduate. But even Hawley is surprised that the sport has remained legal as long as it has. His 1982 doctoral thesis predicted cockfighting would be finished within 20 years.

It has persisted in Louisiana, Massa said, because of a number of factors. For one, the state’s climate is ideal for raising roosters. “It’s just like Kentucky is for raising Thoroughbreds,” Massa said. And when the political pressure to ban the sport began to escalate, the breeders hired one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists — Randy Haynie — to make their case. Attempts to ban the sport were most often sidetracked or killed in committee.

“He’s kept the legislators apprised of what we do,” Massa said.

Even if the current drive to ban the sport is successful, it’s likely to continue, albeit in a far less visible fashion, Hawley said. “The people who are really committed are going to stay involved, because it appeals to an aspect of their personality and their heritage that they value deeply,” he said.

That’s certainly the case with Kinchen, as he points with pride to one of the fenced-in areas where he is raising 75 game roosters, each of them separately leashed to keep them from fighting the others and protected from the elements by small metal teepees.

“This is God’s creature,” Kinchen said.

To demonstrate the birds’ gameness, he invited a visitor into the pen as he untied one of the birds, which promptly raced a few feet over to its nearest neighbor and began to fight.

The feathers flew until Kinchen intervened.

Over the years people have come from as far away as Mexico and the Philippines to fight their birds at the Milk Dairy club, Kinchen said. Local politicians have come, too, though Kinchen refused to name them.

It’s a scene that’s repeated in dozens of similar pits, some large enough to attract national or international reputations in the closed-knit cockfighting world, but most of them small and catering to a local clientele.

“It’s a family thing. It’s a way of life,” Kinchen said.

At the Atchafalaya Game Club in Breaux Bridge one recent Saturday night, about 150 adults packed themselves into wooden bleachers that rose above two square pits. A thick cloud cigarette smoke hovered over fights that would last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and ended when one of the roosters was killed.

If the action got too slow, the fight was moved into the secondary pit — or “drag pit” in cockfighting parlance — while two new combatants fought in the main pit.

Before each fight, members of the mostly male crowd make bets with one another, mainly in $10 or $20 increments, which are shouted across the arena and settled once the fight is over.

Attendees are well aware that their sport is under attack. Several patrons sported jean jackets with a rooster on the back under the inscription, “Cockfighting is a sport, not a crime.” Others wore T-shirts, belt buckles and caps advertising the sport.

The Kinchens are convinced that the political glare that has fallen on their sport in recent months is the only reason they were raided by police.

“We were always under the notion, or impression, that we were running a legal, legitimate operation,” Barbara Kinchen said.

Carter Kinchen spent four nights in the Livingston Parish Jail. Barbara was released the day after the raid. Twelve of their employees also were arrested.

Authorities have not yet filed charges against the couple. Gary Jordan, the Kinchens’ lawyer, says his clients are innocent and that they weren’t doing anything different than they have for the last 30 years.

The Kinchens don’t deny that there was gambling on the premises. But they say it was customers betting with each other, and that they never sought a cut of any the proceeds. Their only profits came from the $20 admission fee and the money they made on concessions, Carter Kinchen said.

But a Louisiana State Police spokesman said the Kinchens are breaking the law simply by allowing their customers to gamble.

“They were maintaining a premise for the purpose of gambling,” spokesman Markus Smith said. The Milk Dairy investigation — and a similar raid that took place in Logansport the same night — came after a year-long undercover probe, he said.

Smith said the raids were the first in recent memory, and said they were sparked by complaints that came to State Police.

Whatever the outcome of the case, and whatever the Legislature decides to do this spring, it remains to be seen how effective the ban will be and how many law enforcement resources will be devoted to snuffing it out.

“It’s not going to stop us from fighting roosters,” Carter Kinchen said. “We might not be able to run our pit, but you’re not going to stop people from fighting roosters.”

Jan Moller can be reached at or (225)-342-5207.

poultry gamefowl chicken gamecock

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.