The debate over a Louisiana bill that would expand a ban on cockfighting took an odd turn on Tuesday after one state Republican complained that the bill would endanger something called “chicken boxing.”
The Associated Press reported that state Sen. Elbert Lee Guillory (R) made his objection known during a state Senate Judiciary Committee meeting regarding Senate Bill 523, which would expand the definition of “chicken” under the 2008 ban to include game fowl, roosters or other birds.
“There is a legitimate sport known as chicken boxing,” Guillory was quoted as saying. “It has nothing to do with cockfighting, and it is clear that this bill would interfere, would criminalize that legal enterprise.”
Guillory told the committee the sport, practiced in his district, involved chickens kicking at one another while wearing makeshift gloves, with veterinarians on hand to treat potential injuries.
“I represent a rural area where people raise a lot of chickens,” Guillory said. “Including chickens that are 15th- and 20th-generation fighting birds that are exported legally and legitimately to other nations.”
However, Guillory told the committee, those chickens were not raised for fighting, since that would violate the state law.
“I have no knowledge whatsoever on chicken boxing so I cannot speak to that,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. J.P. Morrell (D), was quoted as saying. “I have never heard of that. It sounds like something to circumvent cockfighting.”
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the committee also heard testimony from James Demoruelle, a 53-year-old “veteran cockfighter,” who argued that cockfighting is not cruel because the chickens do not fight unless they feel like it.
“God put the fight in the chicken, not man,” he was quoted as saying.
Despite their protests, however, the committee voted 4-2 to send the bill to the Senate floor to debate. and Guillory’s claim was called into question by the Humane Society of the United States, which said “chicken boxing” did not exist.
The society’s director of animal cruelty policy, John Goodwin, characterized Guillory’s argument to the AP as “a creative excuse the cockfighters have come up with to mask their real agenda, which is to maintain the weakest penalties for cockfighting possible.”
[Image: “Traditional Free Range Poultry Farming,” via Shutterstock]