More of a Fowl Situation
By Eugenia Jones
(SHARK, an Illinois based animal rights activist group, recently posted a second video to Facebook concerning alleged cockfighting activity and lack of law enforcement against the activity at a location on Low Gap Road in McCreary County. The video was widely shared and commented on locally and across the nation. In last week’s edition, “The Voice” shared the Sheriff’s Department response to allegations made against their office in the video-with Sheriff Randy Waters explaining SHARK did not call 9-1-1 on weekends as needed for dispatch. This week, we continue our coverage.)
The SHARK video continues its account of McCreary County by detailing SHARK’s contact with the Kentucky State Police (KSP.) In the video, KSP Troopers are shown responding on two consecutive weekends in June 2020 after being called by members of SHARK who reported alleged cockfighting activity at an address on Low Gap Road. SHARK President, Steve Hindi, narrates the video footage which was filmed over a period of hours by SHARK members using their own hidden cameras and drones. Hindi alleges KSP failed to do its job by not taking immediate action against the alleged rooster fighters. The video documents live roosters being carried into and dead birds being carried out of a building identified as being at the Low Gap address. The footage also highlights weapons or blades being removed from dead birds. Razor- sharp blades resembling ice picks (gaffs) are routinely attached to roosters involved in fights that leave birds dead or severely injured. In general, the birds are forced to fight until death regardless of how tired or injured.
When we contacted KSP for a response to the allegations made in the second video, a spokesperson advised us that KSP has an ongoing investigation involving these incidents and no further details are available at this time. The KSP spokesperson stated KSP Post 11 encourages anybody with information regarding criminal activity to contact them.
Cockfighting is a felony in most states; however, in Kentucky, it is classified as second degree cruelty to animals-a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Because of lax state laws, Kentucky is a prominent player in cockfighting activity that often draws participants and spectators from surrounding states and across the nation.
Many proponents of cockfighting consider the activity a sport or part of their heritage. Some argue gamecocks fight naturally; however, most natural fights are over food, territory, and mates or to establish dominance. Natural fights usually do not lead to death or severe injury. Organized cockfighting involves birds bred for aggression (and sometimes on steroids or other drugs) being forced to fight in pits with no escape.
Recently, there has been increased scrutiny of cockfighting activity. Opponents of cockfighting specify several reasons for enforcing current laws and legislating tougher laws against the activity. Obviously, halting cruelty to the birds is a key objective to those who oppose the bloody sport. However, other reasons are cited as being equally important.
According to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Cockfighting Fact Sheet, law enforcement raids across the nation have unveiled other concerns associated with the activity. Gambling is routine at most cockfights with thousands of dollars being exchanged. Law enforcement officials have also documented a strong connection between cockfighting and distribution of illegal drugs. In addition, HSUS points to the presence of children at cockfights as being especially disturbing in that exposure to cockfighting activity can promote insensitivity toward animal suffering and enthusiasm for violence.
Experts caution there is also the threat of human disease associated with cockfighting due to the potential for spread of viruses such as COVID-19 among spectators and participants who attend cockfighting events. Health authorities, including the World Health Organization, have also found links between cockfighting and zoonotic diseases including the spread of the highly lethal bird flu virus from birds to humans through contact with blood and feces.