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Cockfighting is Big Business in CA --A Growing Danger Worldwide

ANIMAL WATCH - Cockfighting and breeding “gamefowl” for export is rampant in California, “with fights occurring from San Diego to Monterey to Del Norte counties and with the sale of thousands of fighting animals to Mexico, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and other destinations throughout the world,” according to Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action (AWA), in a media release this week. 

“AWA obtained drone footage of the cockfighting complex, reportedly operated by Domi Corpus in Livermore, CA, in eastern Alameda County which shows a massive complex with an estimated 2,500 birds separated in cages or on tethers to prevent them from attacking each other,” Pacelle said. 

“In 2019, federal authorities brought charges against Joe Sanford from Ceres, Calif., for operating a massive 10-acre complex with approximately 3,000 gamefowl. This followed discovery by law enforcement of a “cockfighting stable” in Val Verde, in northern Los Angeles County, with “nearly 8,000 birds.” 

“Cockfighters are raising tens of thousands of birds in cockfighting yards and complexes all over the state for shipment on commercial aircraft to distant foreign locations, AWA and Los Angeles-based Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) contend, after obtaining official records. (Cockfighting: 9,000 Birds Illegally Shipped to Guam). 

“Undercover investigations have documented these fighting birds in videos, shipping live animals to U.S. destinations, driving birds to Mexico, and flying birds on commercial aircraft to the more distant foreign venues. 

“According to sources on Guam—whose major fighting arena is called ‘The Dome’—these shipments came exclusively through the U.S. Postal Service, with the birds placed in cardboard boxes and mailed to the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean,” Pacelle says. 

“There are no national laws against cockfighting in Mexico or the Philippines, but in the United States, it has been illegal to transport birds in interstate or foreign commerce since 2002. These activities have been subject to felony penalties since 2007, thanks to a successful legislative effort led by former Congressman Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley. 

“It has been illegal to stage or participate in cockfighting in any part of the U.S., including the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands, since an amendment to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 took effect in December 2019,” he explained. 

DANGERS TO POSTAL EMPLOYEES AND OTHERS 

This raises serious concerns regarding the potential exposure of U.S. postal workers to diseases, in addition to the inhumaneness of shipping live animals without food and water for several days. 

“Movement of animals, either short or long distances, is the primary mode of infectious disease introductions for all species, wild or domestic,” noted Dr. Jim Keen, former-USDA infectious disease specialist and a former-faculty member of the University of Nebraska Veterinary Medical School, who is now the director of veterinary sciences for the Center for a Humane Economy. 

“When animals are stressed (e.g., by long-distance transport), Dr. Keen advises, “they are vulnerable to becoming ill themselves and contagious to other conspecifics or to humans if infected with a zoonotic agent.  For fighting roosters, zoonotic avian influenza and zoonotic antibiotic resistant salmonellosis are probably the two most likely outcomes of high-stress transport across state lines or across oceans.” 

WHERE ARE ALL THESE FIGHTING COCKS ULTIMATELY GOING?  

“Undercover investigations have documented these fighting birds in videos, shipping live animals to U.S. destinations, driving birds to Mexico, and flying birds on commercial aircraft to the more distant foreign venues,” AWA contends. 

At that time Monterey County Civil Grand Jury’s 2019 report concluded there were up to 1,000 cockfighting operations in that county alone. 

AWA also obtained drone footage of the cockfighting complex, apparently operated by Domi Corpus in Livermore, in eastern Alameda County. That drone footage shows a massive complex with perhaps as many as 2,500 birds in cages or on tethers.  

Cockfighters separate birds by caging or tethers to prevent birds bred for fighting from attacking others of their kind. 

BRIEF HISTORY OF COCKFIGHTING 

Cockfighting is a brutal blood sport, held in a ring called a cockpit, where the birds (males) fight until one is dead or too severely injured to continue. Both animals usually suffer significant physical trauma.  

“The combatants, referred to as gamecocks (not to be confused with game birds), are specially bred and conditioned for increased stamina and strength. Male and female chickens of such a breed are referred to as gamefowl. 

The first documented use of the word gamecock, denoting use of the cock as to a “game,” a sport, pastime or entertainment. was recorded in 1634.  But it was during Magellan’s  voyage of discovery of the Philippines in 1521 when modern cockfighting was first witnessed and documented for Westerners. 

Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. These blood sport events are now broadcast on the Internet and the object of betting, which recently has been adapted to an on-line activity. 

GAFFS / SLASHERS SHIPPED TO U.S. FROM MEXICO 

The growth of interest and involvement in cockfighting is also apparent in other countries. On September 16, 2021, the following article appeared in the El Paso TimesBlades used in cockfighting shipped to US from Mexico, which reports: 

Steel gaffs or spurs are shaped like a curved ice pick and are fastened on gamecocks over their natural spur. Knives, or slashers, are curved blades.

“Customs officers at the Memphis air cargo hub seized 5,029 spurs, knives or gaffes used in cockfighting during the past two fiscal years, compared with seizures of 50 pieces during the previous three – an increase due in large part to Neipert's focus on targeting the contraband.  (Cockfighting is legal in Mexico.) 

WHY THE PHILIPPINES ARE IMPORTANT IN THIS ISSUE 

“The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; later ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War, and in 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II.  US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence.” 

Therefore, the Philippines does not fall under the same U.S. laws as Guam in regard to USPS shipping “game fowl” for fighting, since the prohibition applies only to U.S. territories. 

IS COCKFIGHTING LEGAL IN THE PHILIPPINES? 

According to “The laws and legalities of cockfighting in the Philippines,” by Bridigo LaGuardia on Sept. 18, 2021, “When it comes to sports, Filipinos cannot live without …cockfighting.” Admitting that the “sport of cockfighting is more about the gambling, he points out that “many people are also involved in breeding gamefowls as both recreation and business.” 

Cockfighting in the Philippines is both legal and illegal depending on where the game is held and to what level. The “Cockfighting Law of 1974” enacted under then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos, regulates the game in the whole country and has never been amended. It can be read in its entirety here. 

COCKFIGHTING GOES ON-LINE AND FURTHER DANGERS TO SOCIETY 

Although the growing use of the internet to broadcast cockfights (and dog fights) has been no secret, organized gambling condoned and controlled by the government in the Philippines has developed and grown since the COVID-19 epidemic, as a way to support a pervasive industry, but alarming ads are appearing openly online.  Is this—or will it—result in a greater market for imported fighting cocks? 

Here are some of the recent ads referencing “cockfights” appearing on-line: 

Private search engines – Hide your IP address - Search Cockfights Online with Privacy 

“Browse Cockfights with anonymous view which masks your identity while viewing other sites.” “We protect your privacy and safeguard personal identity by masking or changing your IP address…” 

CURRENT ADS ON AMAZON AND EBAY

Gamefowl Equipment on Amazon - Low Priced Gamefowl Equipment

Gamefowl Keeps - Great Prices On Gamefowl Keeps  (Author’s note: “Keeps” are special diets, exercise routines used to increase endurance and prepare an animal for a fight.) 

Rooster Gamefowl - Rooster Gamefowl Sold Direct

Find Cockfighting Gaffs. More Information. Explore Info. Find It Now. Fast Answers. Find It Here. Instant Answers. Reliable Results. Services. All You Need To Know. 

COCKFIGHTING—AN OLD SPORT—WHY THE NEW POPULARITY? 

In an excerpt from “Animal Blood Sport: A Ritual Display of Masculinity and Sexual Virility, an explanation of the appeal of “blood sports:” an interesting referenced-perspective is provided by Linda Kalof, Sociology of Sports Journal:  “While animal blood sport is a form of human driven sport related violence that involves the abuse and suffering of other animals, it also provides an “identity prop”: All male competitive sports and games provide men with a way to demonstrate masculinity by feminizing opponents.” (See paper here.) 

Whether we agree that this applies to all sports, this is not the only time that the “feminizing” of the looser has been explained in cockfighting lore. Sadly, young boys are taken to, and involved in caring for fighting cocks by their fathers to teach them the value of “winning” by destroying any opponent.  This also desensitizes young men to the value of life and can lead to a disregard for pain and suffering, death and societal laws. 

GAMING REGULATOR: “ON-LINE COCKFIGHTING BRINGS IN P400 PER MONTH… 

In a September 6, 2021, interview with ABC-CBN, the Andrea Domingo, Chairperson of the PH Amusement and Gaming Operations for the Philippines, states that P38 billion is expected to be earned in 2021 from e-Sabong (on-line cockfighting), with P400 million being earned per month now.  (See here: Gaming regulator says online cockfighting brings in P400 ...)THE GROWING OBSESSION WITH E-SABONG 

In a Sept. 21, 2021 article, “What is Online Sabong and How Does it Work,” by Brigido LaGuardia, he explains that “The Coronavirus pandemic has left many Filipinos jobless but one industry is thriving. Since the mass gathering is not allowed,at  actual cockfights. 

“Online Sabong, or eSabong, or online cockfighting, has been exploding in popularity with many making a living by just being “agents” or “cockers “sabungeros” can now place their own bets on line,” he explains

It is regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation with online/remote or off-site wagering/betting on live cockfighting matches streamed or broadcast live from cockpit arena/s licensed or authorized by the Local Government Units having jurisdiction thereof.

The eSabong fights are being streamed live online and bettors can place their bet through different agents that use different platforms…a mobile phone or a computer with an Internet connection is needed. There are several apps for Android and iOS but one can also watch through a browser. 

THE GROWING OBSESSION WITH E-SABONG 

In a Sept. 21, 2021 article, “What is Online Sabong and How Does it Work,” by Brigido LaGuardia, he explains that “The Coronavirus pandemic has left many Filipinos jobless but one industry is thriving. Since the mass gathering is not allowed at actual cockfights. 

“Online Sabong, or eSabong, or online cockfighting, has been exploding in popularity with many making a living by just being “agents” or “cockers “sabungeros” can now place their own bets on line,” he explains.  

It is regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation with online/remote or off-site wagering/betting on live cockfighting matches streamed or broadcast live from cockpit arena/s licensed or authorized by the Local Government Units having jurisdiction thereof. 

The eSabong fights are being streamed live online and bettors can place their bet through different agents that use different platforms.  A mobile phone or a computer with an Internet connection is needed. There are several apps for Android and iOS but one can also watch through a browser. 

OPPOSING E-SABONG 

An article also appeared on November 26, 2021, opposing the approval of e-Sabong, Filipino Lawmaker Warns Online Cockfighting, Gambling Are Country’s New Pandemic. Some members of the Philippine legislature and the Catholic Church expressed opposition and concern that this new obsession will have a debilitating effect on youth and the economy of the country, because of the accompanying e-Sabong gambling component. 

Requested legislative franchises would last for two and a half decades, enabling the e-sabong companies to operate wagering stations located off-site. This is subsequent to the country’s lawmakers “passing the November 2020 bill regulating and taxing blood sport.”  The House of Representatives has already approved a legislative franchise bill that would enable one company to build and operate both on- and off-cockpit betting stations.  

Ruben Pinatacan explained on Quora, “Considering that the local government has the authority over activities conducted within its jurisdiction, cockfighting exists by reasons of political convenience, business, customs and traditions and most because of corruption. The “rule of ‘for the boys’ is part of the corrupt culture unabated and uncontrollable. There is big money in gambling, and the society continues to close its eyes because they are part of it.” 

ANIMAL WELLNESS ACTION CAMPAIGN IS VITAL 

“Last Friday, 36 Members of Congress pressed the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the service, to crack down against illegal animal fighting shipments that continue to be uncovered by AWA in their ongoing investigations.  The lawmakers specifically call out the shipment of thousands of fighting birds shipped through the U.S. mail from cockfighters in the states to the U.S. territory of Guam,” according to Wayne Pacelle.   

There is no other organization in the U.S. that is visibly attempting to stop this dangerous industry that now can invade every part of the world in an instant through media that is accessible to anyone. 

The United States government and the U.S. Postal Service must insist that laws are upheld to stop this invasion by blood thirst. This is not just an animal issue anymore!

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and contributing writer to CityWatch.)