RED POLE-- Some call it a blood sport. Others call it a way of life. But whatever the view, as of Friday cockfighting will be illegal in Louisiana, the last state in the nation to outlaw it.
Those on both sides of the battle to end the spectacle that pits roosters with razor-sharp gaffs on their feet in a fight to the death, concede that the law will not eliminate the practice, but only send it deeper into the shadows. "You will have people saying they are going to keep fighting their roosters, " despite the law, said Chris..snip
"They will probably go to other states" where violating state laws amounts to a slap on the wrist, said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues with the Humane Society of the United States.
He said Alabama's law banning cockfighting dates to 1896 and calls for a $50 fine -- harsh for the time, but negligible today.
'A double whammy'
Goodwin said Louisiana's law falls in the middle of the pack in severity, making a first conviction a misdemeanor, with a fine up to $1,000, and a second conviction a felony and a fine up to $2,000. Cockfighting in 33 states is a felony for all convictions, he said, and the next move by the organization will be a push to increase the penalties in states with weaker laws.
After the gambling bill passed last year, Goodwin said that half of the 20 or so cockfighting pits on the society's watch list closed.
"There has been a double whammy for cockfighting in Louisiana, " Goodwin said. "The federal government upped the penalties" to a maximum of five years and a $250,000 fine for importing or exporting birds, transporting them across state lines or using interstate commerce to sell supplies related to cockfighting.
"When Louisiana passed its bill to ban cockfighting its effects were felt beyond the borders of the state, " he said. "It said no more fighting in the United States" although it is legal in the American territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, Samoa and the Virgin Islands.
Cajun cultural context
Carolyn Ware, an associate professor of folklore and English at Louisiana State University, said that in a cultural context "cockfighting is part of a rural way of life" especially in the Cajun community. "It is a symbolic thing. People (who fight roosters) identify with them for their toughness."