Originally created 11/26/03

Cashing in on cruelty



There's no place in a civilized society for a so-called "sport" like cockfighting.

This is not about sport anyway. Cockfighting has nothing to do with athleticism, and everything to do with illegal gambling - cashing in on cruelty to animals.

Moreover, what's sporting about attaching razor-sharp spurs to a couple of roosters' legs and then watching them slash and gouge each other unto death? Sometimes the loser dies in minutes; sometimes the fight rages on for hours before one of the roosters succumbs to its wounds.

But however long it takes, cockfighting is, quite simply, an unconscionable, barbaric abuse of innocent animals. It is the kind of brutal activity that gives zany "animal rights" organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals a good name.

Oddly, PETA and cockfighting apologists come together in arguing that cockfighting is no less cruel than the fate that befalls chickens sold in supermarkets or KFC. They ignore a crucial difference. Regular chickens are slaughtered to eat, not to attract sadists and gamblers.

Cockfighting is banned in most states, including South Carolina and Georgia, which explains why Aiken County sheriff's deputies, state law-enforcement officers and SWAT teams swooped down on about 120 people, some from as far away as Nebraska, attending a cockfight Saturday at a "Carolina Club" arena near Wagener, in a rural, northern section of the county.

We applaud Sheriff Mike Hunt for making the battle against cockfighting a priority. It was the first such raid in Aiken County in 11 years. But putting cockfighting out of business would be easier if it were classified as something more than a misdemeanor.

The maximum penalty for those gambling or watching a cockfight is a several-hundred dollar fine and 30 days in jail. Seldom is the maximum punishment meted out, but when it is, it is just a minor annoyance for most people involved in cockfighting.

The cruel "sport" is, after all, a multibillion-dollar industry. Its lifeblood comes from gambling and cockfight breeders. Fighting birds run about $200.

If Aiken County authorities add gambling to the misdemeanor charges - as we urge them to do - it would make life a little more difficult for the cockfight participants.

The only fighting gamecock we want to see in our two-state area is the University of South Carolina mascot.

Now, that involves real sport.