The National Chicken Council, the trade association for commercial chicken producer-processors, urged Congress today to pass a bill to crack down on cockfighting, which it termed an “inhumane practice” that presents a continuing threat to the health of commercial flocks.
Fighting birds were “heavily implicated” in an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in Southern California in 2002 and 2003, NCC noted, adding that the traffic associated with cockfighting could also spread avian influenza.
“Member companies of the National Chicken Council are in the business of producing and processing chickens for food,” the group said in a letter to key members of Congress. “We consider cockfighting to be an inhumane practice.”
Fighting birds are bred to be aggressive and are often injured or killed in matches. Cockfighting is illegal in all but two states, Louisiana and New Mexico, but continues to flourish in many states on an underground basis. Interstate transportation of birds for fighting purposes is banned by federal law, but fighting birds are often sold as “show” birds.
The letter from NCC President George Watts said the group supports HR 1532 and S 736, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. The bill would amend the federal Animal Welfare Act by increasing from one year of imprisonment to two the penalty for violating of the animal fighting provisions of the act, including the interstate transportation of birds for fighting. The bill would also ban the interstate sale or transportation of the razor-sharp blades or spurs that cockfighters attach to the birds’ legs to make the fight quicker and bloodier.
The size of the interstate traffic in fighting birds is unknown but is believed to be considerable. Health care of fighting birds is “rudimentary,” NCC noted in its letter.
“The commercial chicken industry remains under considerable threat because it operates amidst the presence of a national network of game bird operations,” the letter said. “On the basis of both humane treatment of animals and protection of the health of the commercial flock, we urge you to support HR 1532 in the current session of Congress.”
The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process and market chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.