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April 3, 2009

Aloha Says Goodbye to Cockfighters

Airline ceases inter-island shipping of fighting birds

The Humane Society of the United States


  • Aloha Airlines will no longer facilitate cockfighting cruelty in the islands. The HSUS

Alerted by HSUS investigators that cockfighters were using their cargo services to ship fighting birds, two Hawaii-based airlines—Aloha Air Cargo and Island Air—flew into action. Since February, both airlines have issued an embargo on the inter-island shipment of poultry, joining Hawaiian and Go! Airline in severing their ties to cockfighting activity.

A Cock-and-Bull Story from Cockfighters

While federal law banned the interstate shipping of fighting animals in 2002, that law was broadened last year to apply to situations in which fighting-animal shipments would affect interstate commerce. The amped-up law makes even the inter-island shipment of fighting animals illegal, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

However, gamecock breeders in Hawaii continued to ship their birds inter-island in defiance of the law, with the unwitting help of Aloha Air Cargo and Island Air. Using the cover that the birds were being traded either as "pets" or as food, cockfighters in Hawaii would ship their birds to neighboring islands either for breeding or to be fought in deadly, illegal matches.

But with no legitimate pet or meat trade in roosters—and at $40 a head to ship each rooster inter-island—these justifications fell flat. Once alerted to the cockfighters' lies, Aloha Air Cargo and Island Air refused to buy into them.

"We commend Aloha Air Cargo and Island Air for issuing an immediate embargo. By refusing to ship poultry inter-island, Aloha Air Cargo is helping to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act and stop the cruel and illegal practice of cockfighting," said Inga Gibson, Hawaii State Director for The HSUS. "More importantly, the airline has helped deliver another blow to the cockfighting industry."

Trying to Turn the Tide

Despite the strong federal law on the interstate commerce of fighting animals, cockfighting remains popular in parts of Hawaii, thanks to a weak state law that makes it only a misdemeanor crime. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, Hawaii's cockfighting law ranks 46th, with only Idaho, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky having weaker cockfighting penalties.  

In addition to helping ensure compliance with federal animal fighting laws, The HSUS is working to turn things around in Hawaii. In August 2008, The HSUS partnered with U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo, the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement and local law enforcement on The HSUS' Animal Fighting Reward Program. The program, which has been immensely successful nationwide, offers up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in illegal animal fighting in Hawaii.

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