Organization says bust shows international trafficking in cockfighting paraphernalia, birds is ongoing concern
Washington, D.C. — Today, Animal Wellness Action praised U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who last Thursday seized nearly 100 illegal rooster blades used for cockfighting, in what is just the latest bust of cockfighting contraband at the U.S. border.
The confiscation occurred on the Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge, one of four vehicular international bridges located in the cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, that connect the United States and Mexico over the Rio Grande.
In recent months, there was an enforcement action at the Loredo port of entry and an interdiction at the border in California. Border Patrol and Customs seized this shipment of fighting implements from Mexico City.
Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, issued the following statement:
“There is a massive trade in fighting birds and implements between the United States and Mexico, involving millions of dollars, drug cartels, and other organized criminals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “The knives confiscated by the border are affixed to the birds’ legs to enhance the bloodletting in the staged battles. We urge officers to be on alert to transborder shipments of this contraband that are occurring every day of the year.”
Animal Wellness Action estimates that more than a million fighting birds are trafficked every year to Mexico from gamecock operations in the United States, with operations centered in Alabama, California, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
The shipment of fighting birds from Mexico into the United States has been tied to the transmission of avian zoonotic diseases. Virulent Newcastle disease has entered the United States by illegal smuggling of infected cockfighting roosters from Mexico at least ten times, causing that epidemic in southern California in 2002-03 and also a massive outbreak in 2018-20, collectively producing 16 million dead birds and $1 billion in outlays from the federal government in containment costs.
To augment enforcement of our anti-animal fighting laws, both lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have introduced the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act, and the authors hope to include the provision as an amendment to the Farm bill. Both pieces of legislation were driven by concerns for the barbarism of animal fighting, other criminal behavior comingled with it, and disease threats to poultry posed by transporting fighting roosters. The measures have broad bipartisan support and are endorsed by more than 250 organizations and agencies, including law enforcement, agriculture groups, gaming companies, and animal welfare and conservation groups.
The FIGHT Act, amending Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, would enhance the enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasting and gambling of animal fighting ventures; halting the shipment of mature roosters (chickens only) shipped through the U.S. mail (it is already illegal to ship dogs through the mail); creating a citizen suit provision, after proper notice to federal authorities, to allow private right of action against illegal animal fighters; and enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property for animal fighting crimes.