2011 has barely begun, and already a major cockfighting ring has been exposed in Texas. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, sheriff’s deputies  arrested 169 people and seized 114 roosters after a New Year’s Day raid of a cockfight site in North Texas. Unsurprisingly, drugs were also found on the scene, along with more than $10,000 in gambling money. “The number of people present at this event tops most raids in the last few years,” said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues at the Humane Society of the United States. “The size of this event shows how pervasive the cockfighting problem still is, particularly in states where penalties are lax or where significant loopholes exist.”

Only a few days earlier, police raided another cockfighting ring, this one just outside of Dallas. Police say about 75 people fled the scene as police arrived Saturday, leaving behind 100 roosters, 30 to 40 of which were dying, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Two big cockfighting rings, both in Texas, both uncovered within two weeks of each other … To borrow a phrase from Thomas Frank, what’s the matter with Texas?

What’s the matter is loopholes in Texas law allowing cockfighting to thrive in the Lone Star State. In an excellent article, The Texas Tribune explained that while “it is a felony in Texas to make roosters fight, it is not illegal to raise fighting game cocks, to attend a cockfight or to possess paraphernalia such as the razor blades, called gaffs, that owners strap to the birds’ legs to enhance their fighting prowess.”

Essentially, people attending a cockfight — an illegal activity — are not themselves committing an illegal activity. “As the law stands right now, there is not an offense for being a spectator at a cockfight,” said Jeff Swain, a Texas assistant district attorney who attempted to prosecute participants arrested in an earlier cockfighting raid. “In our case, all that we could show for nearly all of the people arrested was that they were watching the fights or gambling on them.”

As it stands, Texas law is not strong enough to dissuade those who participate in the estimated two dozen large cockfighting rings operating in the state. A 2009 bill making being a spectator at a cockfight or possessing an animal with the intent to fight illegal failed. The HSUS continues to be involved in investigating cockfights and in assisting law enforcement, but without a tougher law, change will be slow to come.

Take a stand against this cruel, barbaric activity. Urge Texas lawmakers to crack down on cockfighting.

Photo Credit: The HSUS

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