Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s Governor Fights Back Against Federal Government By Legalizing Cockfighting

Who doesn’t love traveling the world and experiencing new cultures and traditions? Some of them are bizarre, but others are quite fascinating. The main thing to remember when going outside of your comfort zone is to have an open mind and never judge others. Just because you don’t conduct yourself the way others in various parts of the world, doesn’t mean it is wrong. It’s just not what you are accustomed to. However, having said that, there are definitely new regulations that are being placed, and some people aren’t too happy about it. 

Last year, the U.S. Congress signed a new order that would make cockfighting illegal in U.S. territories — but Puerto Rico said they would not comply.

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Among other new regulations, the U.S. Farm Bill calls for protecting animals, and that extends to banning cockfighting. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, under the new Farm Bill, there’s a clause called the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, which amends the Animal Welfare Act. That extension puts a federal ban on dogfighting and cockfighting to U.S. territories. 

“The PACE Act will clarify federal prohibitions on animal fighting activity and ensure they are extended to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories,” Sen. Susan Collins said last year. The problem here, at least for Puerto Rico, is that cockfighting is a big money-making industry. 

Former Governor Ricardo Rosselló had lobbied against it, but his efforts failed. Now the newly installed governor signed a law to keep cockfighting in Puerto Rico open for business.

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Gov. Wanda Vazquez signed the law this week that will allow people to continue to organize this brutal sport in which two roosters fight each other in a ring. However, just because Vazquez says it’s okay, doesn’t mean people won’t get arrested for it. 

“Let’s talk this through,” Vazquez said, according to CNN. “This is an industry that represents income for thousands of families, and we have to take them into consideration.” Her colleague, Rep. Gabriel Rodriguez Aguilo, who also co-wrote the bill, added to her sentiment by saying, “We will have to wait and see how the federal government reacts,” he said. “Cockfighting is a cultural tradition.”

This is a new federal mandate, however, if Puerto Ricans go along with what the governor says, that doesn’t mean they’ll be protected. If federal agents find them conducting a cockfight, they will be arrested. 

While cockfighting dates back to centuries ago, it is a very inhumane sport that leaves roosters fighting for their life.

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According to the Humane Society, “Cockfighting often goes hand in hand with gambling, drug dealing, illegal gun sales, and murder.” Well, we can understand that. Some people find it kind of odd that lawmakers care so much about the lives of roosters when they treat chickens like anything but animals. Farmers have chickens locked up, among countless other chickens, and they are there for one purpose: to die and be eaten. So what’s the difference between how the U.S. treats chickens and how Puerto Ricans use roosters as a sport? 

The cockfighting industry in Puerto Rico generates $18 million a year for the island and has 27,000 employees. Banning the sport would put all those people out of a job, and the island’s revenue would suffer. 

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The New York Times reports that cockfighting has been a sport in Puerto Rico for the past 400 years and was introduced to the island by the Spanish colonizers. “It was legalized again in 1933 and has been regulated ever since, with 71 licensed cockpits across the island of 3.2 million people,” the Times reports. 

Wayne Pacelle, the founder of Animal Wellness Action, told CNN that Puerto Rico’s cockfighting practice has nothing to do with tradition and has everything to do with ego. 

“It’s pure showmanship,” Pacelle said to the network. “The politicians are encouraging illegal behavior, and they’re putting those people at risk with the false hope that their legislative maneuver has any legal effect. It does not have any legal effect.”

Yet still, it will be a contested issue whether the people of Puerto Rico are ready for it or not.

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“I already told my wife, and I told my mother,” José Torres told NPR in October, “that anyone who comes and tries to take one of my roosters will have to kill me first. And I’m not the only one. There are thousands of us.”

Now that will definitely be a real fight. 

READ: A New Report Finds That Puerto Rico Is The Most Vulnerable Country When It Comes To Climate Change

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