By Stacy Kranitz
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Gamefowl Breeders Rally to Keep Cockfighting Legal
By TIM TALLEY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Gamefowl breeders demanded legislation Wednesday that would exempt rural Oklahomans from a voter-approved ban on cockfighting, calling the blood sport part of the culture of rural America. About 500 gamefowl breeders from across the nation, including many Hispanics, crowded into the state Capitol, where lawmakers and breeders alike hammered animal rights groups that spearheaded the drive to ban cockfighting in Oklahoma. “Our belief in our freedom is what it’s about,” said Sen. Frank Shurden, who has authored a bill to authorize cockfighting on a county-option basis. “What the Humane Society [of the United States] and the people of Oklahoma did was wrong,” said Shurden, D-Henryetta. “What we’ve got to do is counteract this thing. We have our way of life.”
Nativo V. Lopez of Los Angeles, national director of the National Mexican Brotherhood, said his organization supports Hispanic gamecock breeders who continue to operate in Oklahoma. “Our culture and our history was cockfighting,” Lopez said. “The founders of our country were cockfighters.” Breeders, many wearing T-shirts that read “Unity is Strength,” shouted “Viva Mexico!” as Lopez addressed Hispanic breeders in Spanish. “This has never been about chickens,” said Kelly Barger, a gamefowl breeder from Pawnee. “This has been about personal rights, personal freedoms, and personal liberties that we were granted under the Constitution.”
Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society, said the statewide ban should remain in effect in Oklahoma and that cockfighting should also be banned in Louisiana and New Mexico, the only two states where it remains legal. “We think there should be no safe haven for cockfighters in the United States,” Pacelle said. “Cockfighters instigate fights between animals for amusement and illegal gambling. In a society that bans dogfighting everywhere, cockfighting should be banned with a similar reach,” he said.
Legislation proposed in Congress would make it a felony to transport birds or other animals for fighting. The measure also would ban the transportation of gaffs, the spiked steel blades worn by game cocks during a match.
A statewide referendum that made cockfighting a felony in Oklahoma passed by a 125,000-vote margin in November 2002, but it failed in 57 of the state’s 77 counties, mostly in rural areas. Breeders have won injunctions against enforcement of the ban in 34 counties where cockfighting is still legal. Cockfighters claim the ban is unconstitutionally vague and deprives them of their property. The ban makes possessing game cocks for fighting and taking part in cockfights a felony. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has been asked to decide the issue.
Shurden has also proposed legislation to reduce cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. “We have better ways to spend our money than making our good citizens criminals,” said Anthony W.H. DeVore, a native of Durant and criminal justice program director at the Southeastern Career Institute in Dallas. Shurden said gamefowl breeding is a $100 million business in Oklahoma and that the ban has hurt breeders and communities where breeders operate. “This is not chicken feed. This is big stuff,” Shurden said.
Speaker #5 from California (listen to the speech here)
Like a bird is caught up in the fowler’s net, man is caught up in a time of evil. We live in a time of evil. What is happening to us because of the Humane Society is nothing but tyranny in its basest form—a tyranny of one minority over another, a tyranny of urban over rural—and the man that Larry Mathews [United Gamefowl’s founder and spokesman] just mentioned, I won’t mention his name, but I have renamed him the Vice President of the Dogcatcher’s Association—that’s all he’s worth.
I was gonna’ start this speech off with a joke, but there’s nothing funny about tyranny. You can’t find any humor in oppression. There is no wit in coercion. Now I’ll make a few statements from the real men of history, and I’ll start out with one who was called “the great lawmaker,” Solon. He lived about 500 and some, B.C. He was also known as a poet, and when the great King Croesus was sitting on his high throne bedecked by every jewel he could find, he looked down at Salon and said, “Do you think there is anything more beautiful than this?” And Solon, rather indiscreetly, said, “Yes, a rooster in all his fine pretty feathers and strutting walk, is a lot more pretty.”
Next we go to Themistocles. And everything that I say here—I haven’t made it up, it comes from books written by men who were there thousands of years ago. I won’t say who they are, but if you want to know afterward I’ll give you my sources. Greece was invaded by the Persians in 499 B.C., and the Greeks were outnumbered ten, fifteen to one. And Themistocles, a smart well-educated man, was going to fight no matter what happened. And so he mobilized the Greeks, and as they’re marching to Marathon they passed by a cock pit and there were guys fighting roosters there. Themistocles stopped his army and said: “Behold these cocks that fight. They don’t fight for household gods, they don’t fight for their children’s security, they don’t fight for honor or for liberty—they only fight because one will not yield to the other.”
Then they passed a law proclaiming that everyday there’d be cockfighting, and young boys were required to watch cockfights to give them courage.
Next we go to Socrates, the founder of philosophy. He said, “I value a friend as some value a gaming cock or a racehorse.” That’s the first time in history that the gamecock and the racehorse are mentioned together, but it wouldn’t be the last, because as most of you cockfighters know, horse manure has the number one vitamin for roosters: Vitamin B12 in its most natural state.
That’s why they go together.
Plato, as you know, was a student of Socrates. He founded the Academy in Athens, which lasted for nine hundred years, and he taught philosophy and everything else he could teach with an open mind. One of his students came in one day and said, “Plato, what is Western man?” and Plato said, “Man is a biped without feathers.” You take it from there.
Anyway, the Greeks called the rooster Hermos Phonos, the “day caller.” The Romans took it up just as much. Varro, who was appointed public librarian by Julius Caesar, wrote six hundred twenty volumes one of them on the rooster. Columella, the scientist, wrote a book on it. Pliny the Elder, who was asphyxiated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, wrote a whole article on the chicken. But that was the last we heard of the chicken for fifteen hundred years. It was the Dark Ages after that, and no one said a word about the chicken or anything else because they were like the Humane Society—they were into myths. They were into lies and innuendos. But during the Renaissance, Aldrovandi wrote a book he didn’t publish until he was seventy-seven years old called The Chicken. A lot of information we have today, we have because of what Aldrovani wrote. From that point on, cockfighting was at its zenith everywhere—in England, in the United States. There are so many quotes I could read I’d have to stand here for a week, and I know you’d get tired of me by then. As Mr. Mathews said, George Washington—you go to his place right now—Mt. Vernon, there’s gamecocks there—Greys. He liked Greys.
You go to Andrew Jackson, another general, and with his men, no doubt he was the cockfightingest, horseracingest, most rollicking guy. A woman wrote that on him. And you go to Andrew Jackson’s house at Nashville, Tennessee, at the Hermitage, and there’re gamecocks there. You go to Charleston, South Carolina, where you get your ticket to visit Fort Sumter, and there’s a plaque there that says “Thomas Sumter was Respectably Known as a Gamecock.” He was a general during the Revolutionary War, and of course we know that’s when the Civil War started.
We’re continuing on through history, and now we’re up to 1847, when Captain William Sherman was in Monterey, California. He went to church on a Sunday morning, and he said when he got out of church, walking down the main street of Monterey, “Some were fighting cocks, others were racing horses.” There it is again. Horses and cocks go together—they always have.
Next, the picture, we’re up to 1864. There’s Ulysses S. Grant right there.
[Holds up and points to a large photograph]
“‘A Fancy Group, Army of the Potomac,’ by David Knox, August, 1864, in front of Petersburg, Virginia.” In honor of black history, the two handlers are black men. Possibly one of them is Chicken George. The rest of them are Union officers and they have Robert E. Lee trapped to the South there somewhere. He was under siege. And the guy who took the picture, David Knox, calls ‘em “A Fancy Group.” That makes the Humane Society look bad. They always say these people are uncivilized, they don’t have any class, they do this, they do that. They lie. There’s the guy who took the picture and they’re a fancy group.
Next we go to Mark Twain, 1876. He said he never saw a cockfight before, and he went to one in New Orleans and said that, “If you took a man and blindfolded him, that he wouldknow when it was quiet if it was a prayer meeting or a revival.” And he said there was one absence he noticed, one conspicuous absence: “There were no hard faces.” He said it twice: “There were no hard faces.”
This week, thirty years ago, the roots were put out, and in those thirty years, I don’t know, the Humane Society, they like to kill two birds with one stone. They pick on the blacks. They pick on cockfighting. Forty-nine states have made cockfighting a felony since 1974. And you take the Humane Society, how many minorities are in it? They’re all rich white men or women.
I want to read one more quote. This is my last quote, and this is by a man who wrote a song in 1951, old Hank Williams. He wrote this song for his wife, Mrs. Audrey, mother of Hank Jr., and in this song he said, “It’s a long road, that never takes a turn, and it’s a hard heart that has no chance to yearn.” And I say to the legislators of Oklahoma, these are your people, they’re yearning. You’ve taken away their history, their culture, and their customs, which is the job of government to keep. You should be secure in your possessions and your right to freedom, just like everybody has said here, including me.