It’s bad enough that my home, Hawaii, is one of the five best states to be an animal abuser. Now some local politicians want to pass a resolution calling the barbaric, illegal act of cockfighting a “cultural activity” and a “long and cherished tradition.”

It’s not surprising. As I’ve written before, the Aloha State has little aloha for animals. Cockfighting is technically illegal, but happens all the time. It’s not uncommon to see T-shirts and bumper stickers celebrating the grisly bloodsport. And it isn’t as if politicians haven’t tried to woo the animal abuser vote before. For instance, one state representative, Rida Cabanilla, introduced resolutions in the 2008 legislative session asking the United Nations to “officially commemorate cockfighting as a global sport.”

Introduced by Joey Manahan, the proposed current resolution is both tiresome and just a bit odd. It’s odd because an elected official, sworn to uphold the law, is asking other elected officials to affirm an activity that has been illegal since King Kalakaua (a founding member of the Hawaiian Humane Society) outlawed cockfighting in 1884.

It’s tiresome because Manahan uses the same rhetoric of culture and tradition used by all those who stand in the way of a more humane  and just society. Throughout the resolution are references to cockfighting as “part of American culture since colonial times,” Abraham Lincoln’s “honesty as a cockfight referee,” cockfighting as “a proud Hispanic tradition” and so on.  Supporters of everything from female circumcision to Jim Crow laws have used similar arguments. Does Manahan realize an appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy?

Oh yeah… the resolution also notes that cockfighting is a “legal activity in Mexico.” How reassuring.

Local animal advocates are not too thrilled by the proposed resolution. In the Honolulu Advertiser, Jacque LeBlanc, Humane Society spokesperson, was quoted as saying, “It’s an ignorant claim to say cockfighting is cultural. It’s not cultural. It’s cruel and it’s a crime.” Jennifer Kishimori, co-founder of the Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, called cockfighting “barbaric and inhumane.” “In different cultures, it’s acceptable to have slaves. It’s acceptable to have multiple wives,” Kishimori said. “But just because that’s part of someone’s culture doesn’t mean it should be acceptable here in the United States.”

Surprisingly, Joey Manahan’s record on animal issues isn’t that bad. He has supported bills strengthening animal cruelty laws, as well as a bill to protect manta rays. Paradoxically, he was in favor of a bill making dog fighting a felony.

So why be against dog fighting but say nice things about cockfighting? According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Manahan said “he introduced the resolution after speaking with constituents, many of whom are of Filipino ancestry.” He also doesn’t expect the resolution to pass. Most likely, he thinks voters will remember his valiant effort on behalf of cockfighters and reelect him to office.

Joey Manahan is essentially playing the faux bloodsport of politics with the real bloodsport of cockfighing.

Photo Credit: Harry Willis

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