Animal welfare groups pushing for stricter laws against cockfighting in Ala. as bird flu continues to spread

Cockfighting rings and bird flu risk
Cockfighting rings and bird flu risk
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 9:54 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Animal welfare groups are calling on Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to push for harsher laws against cockfighting in the state.

Leaders said the illegal activity is contributing to the spread of bird flu and putting the commercial poultry industry at risk.

“Alabama by far has the nation’s weakest cockfighting law,” President of Animal Wellness Action Wayne Pacelle said. “It’s a 1896 statute that has a minimum penalty of $20 and a maximum penalty of $50.”

Pacelle said there are hundreds of cockpits all across the state.

“This law has enabled cockfighters to have a free ride in Alabama, under state law,” he said. “They are taking advantage of this and running cockfighting operations from Mobile to Huntsville.”

Pacelle said this means thousands of fighting birds are being transported across the state, which he said is helping spread the already infectious bird flu.

“The pathway here for avian influenza is that wild birds on migratory fly always have low pathogenic avian influenza,” he said. “They fly over parts of Alabama, where cock fighting roosters are outside, and the waste can infect the fighting birds. Then, the birds get infected, the cock fighters are running them throughout Alabama and the U.S., and that is an immediate pathway for an explosion of avian influenza.”

Pacelle said they’ve found cockfighting farms close to commercial poultry operations in Alabama. He said making cockfighting a felony can protect that $15 billion a year industry in our state.

“Treat cockfighting in the same category as dog fighting, which is a felony, and protect Alabama’s poultry industry,” Pacelle said.

Federal laws against cockfighting include a $250,000 fine and a maximum of five years in prison. Pacelle said he thinks if state laws mirrored national law, there would be less cockfighting in the state.

Get news alerts in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or subscribe to our email newsletter here.