Cockfighting opponents criticize proposed rooster boxing

Monday, January 31st 2005, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Opponents of cockfighting say an Oklahoma state senator's proposal to make the sport more humane will not work.

Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, has introduced a bill for the legislative session that begins Feb. 7 that would allow roosters to fight, but they would be fitted with little boxing gloves rather than the razor-like spurs that are traditional for such contests.

Oklahoma voters banned cockfighting in 2002. The practice is still legal in Louisiana and New Mexico.

``One of these days, he will figure out it's a bloodsport whether these roosters don boxing gloves or not,'' said Jay Sabatucci, a Dallas-based regional coordinator for The Humane Society of the United States. ``This is not like a boxer who gets paid a million dollars to fight. These are two animals who are pitted against one another. They have no choice.''

Gamecock breeders have used sparring ``muffs'' _ or miniature boxing gloves _ for decades to train their birds while preventing serious injuries. They sell for as little as $10 a pair.

Cynthia Armstrong of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting calls Shurden's bill ``a ruse.''

``I hope people won't be fooled by these misleading assurances by Senator Shurden,'' Armstrong said. ``I don't think these people have any intentions of fighting with gloves. If they had, they would have done it long ago. This is not a kinder, gentler fight. It's all the same.''

Special agent Joseph Pentangelo of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York is appalled by Shurden's bill. He said news of Shurden's plan spread quickly among his colleagues.

``How do they prevent the birds from pecking and scratching each other?'' Pentangelo said. ``And what happens to these birds should they not fare well in a fight? What happens to them then?

``I still think it's inhumane to pit any two animals in a fight, no matter how it's done.''

James Talley, Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association president, said the little boxing gloves would protect the birds.

``I think it would be safer than the Golden Gloves,'' he said. ``Everyone knows the natural spurs are what cause most of the damage during a fight, and that would be eliminated with the muffs.

``I don't know how receptive people will be to it, but it will work.''

Talley said gamefowl breeders have suffered since the U.S. Supreme Court in November rejected an appeal to overturn Oklahoma's cockfighting ban. Since then, he said he has watched his organization's membership plummet from about 11,000 members to ``a little more than a 1,000.''

``Look, I think cockfighting will be around until the end of time,'' Talley said. ``In Oklahoma, people are simply looking for a way to raise roosters and use them in a useful way. This would give them that chance.

``The ones who can't live without cockfighting are the ones out there doing it now anyway. But this bill would bring everything out in the open, and give people an honest and legitimate reason again to raise their birds.''