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Protect Cockfighting in Kentucky After Spectator Provision
AGDN CALL TO ACTION – 2/4/2014 – firstname.lastname@example.org
With the imminent Spectator provisions of the Farm Bill becoming law it is critical that Kentucky unite and seek legislation designating gamefowl enthusiasts as a protected class and cockfighting as a basic right in Kentucky. The AGDN believes that this is the only way to protect Kentucky from federal preemption and crackdown.
Please follow the instructions and send a letter, one you write or the one provided below) requesting that Representative Stumbo sponsor legislation in Kentucky:
- Copy and Paste the letter below and send to Representative Greg Stumbo: email@example.com
- Include your contact information. Name, email and phone number.
- Call Representative Stumbo at Capitol Phone: (502) 564-3366.
FORM LETTER (copy and paste into an email)
The time has come to protect gamefowl enthusiasts as a class in Kentucky. It is important to remember that anti-cockfighting laws are being driven by the same political forces that opposed the legislation you sponsored in Kentucky to protect hunting and fishing Constitutionally. The exact same core rationale asserting cruelty is advanced as an argument to abolish all of these activities. Kentucky, with your sponsorship, responded to pressure from animal rights groups in 2012 by making hunting and fishing constitutional rights. Citizens of Kentucky are again under attack by these same elements. I respectfully request that you sponsor legislation to protect gamefowl enthusiasts as a class and cockfighting as a fundamental right in the State of Kentucky.
Anti-gamefowl advocates have made it clear that newly approved federal spectator provisions are the tool they have been waiting for in order to crackdown on Kentucky, a state that has frustrated their anti-animal use agenda because cockfighting is only a misdemeanor. Indeed, the President and CEO of the HSUS has called Kentucky cockfighting laws “anemic” and stated, “The federal provision in the Farm Bill, in the House bill and the Senate bill, to crack down on spectators and people bringing children to….cockfights, really is going to do very, very important work in Kentucky, given the prevalence of this activity.” (The Public News Service-Kentucky, reported in July 2013)
Unless something is done to protect gamefowl enthusiasts as a class, federal preemption and federal felony laws mean Kentucky state law will be ignored, providing no protection in cases of federal prosecution. Only when the Kentucky state legislature passes legislation designating gamefowl enthusiasts as a protected class, and cockfighting as a fundamental right to harvest, will Kentucky be able to deflect Federal targeting and prosecution. The Supreme Court has made it clear that federal government action that harms a class that a state legislatively seeks to protect violates the Due Process and Equal Protection guarantees dictated to the states under the 14th Amendment and the federal government under the 5th Amendment. (See Windsor v. U.S. (2013)
Hunting enjoys protection from federal encroachment in Kentucky. In 2006, with your help, Kentucky amended the state constitution and added, “The citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, using traditional methods, subject only to statutes enacted by the Legislature, and to administrative regulations adopted by the designated state agency to promote wildlife conservation and management and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.” The threat of animal rights groups asserting the cruelty of sport hunting motivated the drive for constitutional protection explicitly based on tradition and economic benefit. Proponents argued that constitutional protection was necessary because “anti-hunting extremists in the future could convince the Kentucky legislature to outlaw or restrict hunting and fishing, perhaps as part of an animal-rights agenda.” (Lexington Herald-Leader, October 13, 2012). Unfortunately, cockfighting has been relegated to the shadows and denied these protections arbitrarily and in violation of constitutional equal protection guarantees of the Kentucky State constitution and the US constitution.
Unfortunately, constitutional justifications for cockfighting have been rejected by the courts. The courts have placed the responsibility to regulate cockfighting in the hands of the legislature. Importantly, the Kentucky legislature has the unique opportunity to analyze cockfighting beyond a mere rational basis test, the criteria currently applied to cockfighting restrictions judicially, and conduct a thorough examination that reveals the necessity to protect this important Kentucky heritage and the persons that participate in its traditions.
Cockfighting should be protected based on the rationale of tradition, heritage, and economic importance, the exact same rationale used to protect hunting, fishing, and farming. Cockfighting dates back thousands of years before the inception of America and the settlement of Kentucky and also contributes millions to the state economy through breeding and related businesses. Independently, legalized cockfighting elsewhere in the world proves that a regulated industry would generate millions upon millions in revenue beyond what is currently being generated in an unregulated environment. Specifically, cockfighting is a multimillion dollar industry in Kentucky alone. (Lynn Marrow, Director of the Local Records Preservation Program at the Missouri State Archives, History They Don’t Teach You, A Tradition of Cockfighting, White River Historical Quarterly, Fall 1995)
Remember, the 14th Amendment to the US constitution requires that no state “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Kentucky constitution also reaffirms and codifies the concept equal protection. If the state of Kentucky protects hunting based on tradition and heritage then cockfighting deserves the same equal protections guaranteed by both the 14th amendment and the Kentucky state constitution.
The same rationale extends to the commercial poultry industry. It is incontrovertible that commercial poultry are treated more egregiously than gamefowl. In fact, poultry are excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 because they are legally considered less sentient than other commercially slaughtered animals. Certainly cockfighting deserves these same protections.
Next, specious assertions that cockfighting promotes gambling and a criminal element are patently false. The only comprehensive study concerning game-cocking in America proves that “people engaged in this recreational form are basically conservative, highly concerned with health and outdoor life, strongly patriotic and strongly in favor of obeying laws and preservation of public order.” (Professor William C. Capel, Clemson University and Professor Clifton Bryant, VA Poly-technical Institute and State University, AMERICAN COCKERS: RESULTS FROM A NATIONAL SURVEY CONDUCTED IN 1974 THROUGH 1991)
Gambling issues addressed within the context of regulation would be a superior alternative to embracing unconstitutional policies based on the non-unique issue of illegal gambling on sporting activities. Remember, billions of dollars are illegally wagered on legal sporting events every year. This fact has not led to the abolition of football, for example. Importantly, if there is any legitimacy to the claims of illegal gambling and a criminal element related to cockfighting, then those claims are made worse by driving the activity underground where it remains hidden from public scrutiny and potential regulation. The majority of cock-fighters are patriotic and law abiding citizens. The arbitrary legislative targeting of cockfighting only risks turning ethical Kentucky citizens into felons and leaves the sport vulnerable to the criminal element because many law abiding citizens are being driven out of the sport.
The movement to designate gamefowl enthusiasts as a class, and cockfighting as a fundamental right, needs your help in order to protect an under-represented but no less important segment of Kentucky’s population. Remember, gamefowl enthusiasts are a celebrated class in the pages of history, engrained in the heritage of both the US and the State of Kentucky. The courts have clearly placed the decision in the hands of the legislature. As a representative to the people of Kentucky, you have an opportunity to once again preserve the rights base of thousands of law abiding citizens and exercise the critical role all state legislator’s play in constitutional and rights based policymaking.