Federal action comes a year after Animal Wellness Action released a report featuring Brent Easterling and other Alabamians involved in trafficking of fighting animals
(Washington, D.C.) — Animal Wellness Action (AWA) and the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) applauded federal law enforcement authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, for taking a set of preliminary actions against several major cockfighting traffickers based in Alabama. Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama unsealed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Orders for Brent, Billy, Tyler, and William Easterling. Authorities searched the property about one month ago and have ordered the Easterlings not to move animals from their property, as they are suspected for use in fights. The United States has identified a possible fighting pit nearby their two game fowl farms.
More than a year ago, in early June 2020, Animal Wellness Action and AWF released a detailed report identifying Brent Easterling as a major trafficker in fighting animals and implements. The groups presented extensive evidence to the United States about his involvement and shared a dossier on him with the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama and with other federal law enforcement officials. (That report is available to the media on request.)
“Alabama is the ‘cockfighting capital of the South’ and our investigation put several members of the Easterling family at the center of this organized criminal activity,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “The Easterlings are involved in cockfighting, but also are part of a far larger network of animal fighters in Alabama and throughout the United States that have made America the breeding ground for the global cockfighting industry. While some are destined for fighting pits inside the U.S., hundreds of thousands of birds move from cockfighting farms here to dozens of nations throughout the world.”
That June 2020 report also noted that several Alabamians illegally shipped fighting birds to Guam. The three biggest Alabama shippers to Guam come from the same tiny town of Nauvoo, Ala. One of the three shippers, Jerry Adkins of Slick Lizard Farms, told a Filipino television broadcaster that he sells 6,000 birds a year. With some birds fetching as much as $200 each, that could generate millions in gross sales. For Adkins and his son, Guam has been, but a minor market compared to Mexico, where they sold 700 birds to a single purchaser in just one year.
Brent Easterling was not, according to our records, shipping birds to Guam, but he was moving them to Mexico, the Philippines, and to other states, including New Mexico. Brent Easterling’s L&L Game Farm Facebook page had frequent posts and boasts about his cockfighting activities, as did his personal page. Swiftcreek Game farm is the farm frequented by Brent Easterling’s brothers Billy and Bobby and Billy’s son Tyler.
AWA presented information to federal authorities revealing Mr. Easterling being interviewed by the Philippines-based cockfighting channel BNTV. That video has since been removed but we obtained a copy prior to the purging of the content. AWA also obtained BNTV videos where 10 other cockfighters in Alabama extol the prowess of their birds.
According to our investigation, the Easterling family members have used the U.S Postal Service for shipment of fighting birds and, in some cases, fighting implements.
“If law enforcement is going to shut down illegal cockfighting, that work can only be by the Dept. of Justice because cockfighting is effectively decriminalized in the Yellowhammer State,” noted Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action and a native of Mobile. “While dogfighting is a felony in Alabama, cockfighting warrants less in the way of penalties than a parking ticket, and the law hasn’t been updated since the 1800’s.”
Under current federal law, it is a crime to:
- Knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture;
- Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;
- Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;
- Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or using a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.;
- Knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.
Penalties for each violation of any one of these provisions allows for a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult in attendance are 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.