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– Gameness til the End
LETTER REQUESTING SPONSORSHIP FOR A BILL TO LEGALIZE GAMEFOWL FIGHTING IN WEST VIRGINIA.
AGDN LEGISLATIVE ACTION: 2/24/2014 – firstname.lastname@example.org
The folks from West Virginia are organizing and focusing on a strategy. Requests for sponsorship are an excellent place to start. Although getting a bill sponsored this session will be difficult, finding a sponsor for a bill now would allow the legislation to be pre-filed for the 2015 session. Start the discussion!
Feel free to write a letter, or copy and paste the one provided, and send it to your West Virginia Senators and Representatives. Calling can also be beneficial. Contact information can be found here: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/mobile/senate.cfm
FORM LETTER: FEEL FREE TO COPY AND PASTE INTO EMAIL.
To All West Virginia Legislators,
I am writing to urge you to consider sponsoring legislation that would legalize and protect Gamefowl Fighting in the state of West Virginia. It is time to restore Gamefowl Fighting to its rightful place as a celebrated and legally regulated activity. Gamefowl Fighting has been misrepresented and condemned by stereotype without regard for history and tradition based on the false assertions of cruelty and criminal element concerns. Upon deeper analysis, after all of these misconceptions unravel, legalization is clearly the only justifiable policy decision.
First, cruelty assertions are completely unfounded. Cockfighting has been stereotyped as an inhumane blood sport amounting to animal cruelty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Gamefowl cannot be forced or trained to fight. They are genetically predisposed to fight. We are not discussing dogs. It is perfectly legal to feed a baby chick to a snake and film the carnage. Gamefowl Fighting does not meet the statutory definition of animal cruelty relative to other activities, arguably more egregious, that are currently protected by the law. The Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 specifically excludes poultry from humane slaughter requirements. This means poultry have there beaks cut off and their feet clipped without stunning or anesthesia, so they won’t kill each other when they instinctually fight.
Moreover, trophy hunting and trapping are perfectly legal activities. Killing for sport. Remember, these animals are more conscious and sentient than a chicken and prolonging their pain, suffering, and death is completely protected.
Specifically, the legality of falconry in West Virginia is an on-point justification for the legalization of cockfighting. According to the West Virginia Falconry Society:
“It should be noted without equivocation or apology that falconry is not pet-keeping; it is a blood sport. In falconry–as in nature–animals die so that other animals may live. Such is the economy of predation.”
The law condones pitting predator birds against prey birds and smaller pest animals as a spectator sport. According to falconry experts, what many don’t understand is that the falconer doesn’t allow the falcon to to kill the prey, only viciously wound it. The falconer must perform the kill or the conditioned appetite control cycle fails and the falcon would not return. (See wingmasters.net, Julie Anne Collier and Jim Parks, raptor education specialists licensed in raptor rehabilitation, Massachusetts)
This means that falconry, by definition, prolongs suffering and death, the legal definition advanced as cruelty by opponents of cockfighting. And remember, falconry is protected largely due to its historical and traditional value dating back thousands of years. The tradition of cockfighting was incontrovertibly engrained in the culture of America and even embraced by the Founding Fathers as a matter of course. (See Oklahoma Historical Society) Cockfighting certainly deserves the same protection as falconry in West Virginia. Indeed, amending falconry statutes to accommodate gamefowl would be an efficient mechanism to protect this important rights base in West Virginia.
Not only are all of these contradictions in policy illogical, they should also be Constitutionally impermissible. The courts have placed the responsibility to regulate cockfighting in the hands of the legislature. Importantly, the West Virginia 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 West Virginia heritage and the persons that participate in its traditions.
The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution stipulates that all similarly situated persons must be granted equal protection under the law. The concept of equal protection is also inherent in the West Virginia Constitution. (Israel v. West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Division 1989). The only meaningful differences between commercial slaughter, hunting, and cockfighting is a matter of taste and economics. These differences do not overwhelm a legislator’s imperative to implement consistent with Constitutional principles.
Second, specious assertions that gamefowl fighting is driven and controlled by the 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) Also, 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.
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 West Virginia citizens into felons and leaves the sport vulnerable to the criminal element because many law abiding citizens are being driven out of the sport.
Third, criminalizing gamefowl fighting contributes to prison overcrowding resulting in resource strains and a threat to public safety. The Governor’s Commission on Prison Overcrowding warns “West Virginia borders on the “tipping point” of serious repercussions stemming from insufficient institutional correctional resources and the resulting stressful impact upon our Regional Jails.” Incarceration for non-violent offenses are the main cause of this overcrowding crisis. The Center for Economic and Policy Research stated in June 2010, “Stricter sentencing policies, rather than rising crime, are the main culprit behind skyrocketing incarceration rates.” (Center for Economic and Policy Research, The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration,John Schmitt, Kris Warner, and Sarika Gupta, June 2010).
The impacts of overcrowding can be devastating. Overcrowding leads to early release of real criminals. The Supreme Court has concluded that overcrowding can be cruel and unusual punishment which has led to the release of thousands of criminal inmates in overcrowded facilities in some states. This represents a direct threat to public safety from the influx of potentially dangerous inmates into society to make room for non-violent offenders like gamefowl fighters. The Center for Economic and Policy Development confirms that overcrowding also costs billions in strained revenue.
Reducing incarceration for nonviolent offenses could save state and local governments billions in incarceration costs and also reduce the threats overcrowding presents to society. Nonviolent gamefowl enthusiasts are a good place to start.
Fourth, the illegality of cockfighting costs state governments millions in potential revenue. The revenue generated in countries where cockfighting is legal is staggering. The vast potential economic benefits of a regulated cockfighting industry are clearly demonstrated by countries that regulate the sport internationally, from Asia to Europe to the Americas. Lynn Marrow, Director of the Local Records Preservation Program at the Missouri State Archives, explains:
“Those not acquainted with the economics of cock-fighting may find this last rationale a bit strange. However, the sport is no longer one in which faithful adherents of an archaic custom congregate. It is very big business in the Philippines, where thousands of American-strain gamecocks compete, some in Manila’s 10,000-seat arena. In Europe, one survey reported thirty-two legitimate arenas in northern France near the Belgian border, where the sport has thrived for decades. In the American territory of Puerto Rico, the island’s Department of Recreation promotes the contest on television for natives and tourists–600 arenas sponsor competition annually. In December 1993 the first Gamefowl Congress of the World was held in Mexico with representatives from eighteen countries in attendance.” (See 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)
There is every reason to believe that the revenue generation from cockfighting internationally would translate into much needed economic stimulation in the United States. For example,”banning the sport” has taken “millions of dollars from local economies.” With everything considered, even a small look into the gamefowl industry reveals this potential to generate public revenue.
Illegality costs tax revenue not being collected on the underground market. Because many have either retired from cockfighting or been driven underground, “reliable estimates for money that changes hands” is simply not available. “Nationally, observers can only assert that cockfighting has become a multimillion-dollar underground industry.”
Public resources spent on anti-cocking represent hypocritical policymaking. Independent of revenue potential and the constitutional implications of unfairly targeting cockfighting when it is perfectly legal for the state and hunters to exterminate 100’s of millions of birds, fish and animals annually, “other advocates see the time and money spent on anti-cockfighting as hypocritical when viewed in the greater arena of animal abuse.” The US Department of Agricultures Animal Damage Control program spends “$30 million in federal funds and $15 million in state monies” annually “to kill mammals and birds considered predators or pests.” More specifically, there are documented cases of gamefowl seizures and the state sponsored euthanizing of hundreds of birds at a time.
Once all of the evidence is framed correctly, the arbitrary and unconstitutional legislative targeting of the gamefowl industry is decimating an underrepresented but no less important segment of American society and having un-intended consequences on West Virginia’s economy. It is an indisputable fact that our Founding Fathers raised gamefowl as a matter of course. It is unlikely that the very hands that drafted the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the West Virginia Constitution, would also sign legislation designating gamefowl fighting as a criminal activity.
I urge you to support the gamefowl industry and consider sponsoring legislation that would legally protect cockfighting in West Virginia.