A few days ago, I wrote a post about some Hawaii politicians wanting to recognize cockfighting as a “cultural activity.” Sadly, on Monday, the House Tourism, Culture and International Affairs Committee passed the resolution in a 4-2 vote, moving it to the House Judiciary Committee.

One of those voting against the resolution saw the absurdity of lawmakers honoring an activity that has been against the law for over a century. “We’re sending mixed messages,” said Rep. James Tokioka of Kauai, quoted in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Why do we pass it if we’re not going to get to the next step?”

The “next step” Tokioka is referring to is legalization. And the cockfighters are salivating at that possibility. “We are tired of being arrested. The thing is when we practice our culture, they come and arrest us,” said Pat Royos, using the term “culture” rather loosely. She and her husband raise roosters to fight to the death. “Maybe it could lead to legalization but it is a long process, a slow process,” said Royos told KITV news. “But, hey, we have been waiting this long. It has been over a hundred years, so what’s a couple more years.”

It’s not just for cultural reasons some lovers of bloodsport want cockfighting legalized. Think of the financial bonanza! “We lost the sugar cane. We lost the pineapple. What we have now is, we are depending on tourists … Why not legalize chicken fighting?” asked Oahu resident George Senen. Hey, George, while we’re at it, lets legalize prostitution as well, especially underage prostitution. Why let Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries corner the sex tour market? Perhaps he would be interested to know some animal lovers on Facebook are already discussing boycotting Hawaii because of the cockfighting resolution.

I could go on quoting the cockfighters all night. Some of my favorites involve people who say they hate being seen as criminals because they like to gamble on cockfights, even though both cockfighting and gambling are illegal in Hawaii, meaning they are criminals.

Fortunately for island roosters, the chances of cockfighting being legalized are pretty slim. There were about 260 public written testimonies against the resolution honoring cockfighting, versus only about 20 in favor. A Ward Research poll once found that most people in Hawaii oppose cockfighting as cruel (91 percent) and agree it should be illegal (82 percent). This echoes similar polls from new Mexico and Louisiana, the last states to outlaw cockfighting. In each of the two states, according to survey data released by Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals, more than 80 percent of voters supported banning the practice.

While legalization is extremely unlikely, the fact that even a small number of lawmakers would support cockfighting, combined with the misplaced passions of the small but vocal minority of Hawaii bloodsport enthusiasts, is still troubling. It could very well mean Hawaii’s already very lax laws against cockfighting (i.e., it’s one of only 11 states in which the activity is not a felony) are not going to get tougher. As long as our politicians are willing to pander to those who try to rationalize an illegal and immoral act as an expression of culture, Hawaii’s animal cruelty laws will remain little more than a joke.

Postscript: Tuesday evening it was reported that the Hawaii State House of Representatives scuttled the pro-cockfighting resolution by sending it back to committee. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Rep. Joey Manahan, who sponsored the resolution, is “disappointed the measure didn’t advance because cockfighting enthusiasts put so much effort and enthusiasm into getting official recognition from Hawaii’s elected officials … Manahan says he will consider reviving the issue next year.”

Photo credit: Thomas Pix