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November 17, 2009

Alabama Cockfighting Poll

Mason-Dixon Poll Shows State's Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Tougher Penalties for Illegal Cockfighting

The Humane Society of the United States

An overwhelming majority of Alabama voters want tougher penalties for cockfighting, with 82 percent in favor of making cockfighting a felony crime, according to a new survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

"These survey results confirm what we have long known: Alabamians won't tolerate the cruelty of cockfighting or its association with gambling, drugs and other illicit crimes," said Mindy Gilbert, Alabama state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "An anemic penalty for such a serious crime is out of step with the mainstream values of Alabama voters. We need a legislative remedy to set meaningful penalties and provide a real deterrent."

Alabama has the nation's weakest anti-cockfighting law.  Cockfighting is a felony in 39 states; in Alabama it is just a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $50 penalty. That's just a minor cost of doing business for cockfighters who gamble large sums at these cruel events.

The Mason-Dixon Poll found that regardless of race, gender or political affiliation, substantial majorities of Alabama respondents supported tougher penalties for cockfighting. 

Eighty-two percent of voters agree that cockfighting is animal cruelty and should be a felony crime, while only 5 percent say cockfighting is a tradition and should be preserved — a smokescreen often voiced by criminals who back cockfighting. By a twelve-to-one margin, voters say they are more likely to support a political candidate who backs stronger penalties for cockfighting.

The statewide survey of 625 Alabama voters was conducted Nov. 2-4, 2009, and the margin for error is plus or minus 4 percent. The complete poll results are available here.

Rep. James Fields, D-Cullman, will introduce legislation to set meaningful penalties for this crime in the upcoming legislative session.

"These polling numbers are a clear statement that the citizens of Alabama do not condone this violent activity and want to see it stopped. This is why I am sponsoring legislation to further criminalize cockfighting in Alabama," Rep. Fields said. "Cockfights are a conduit to illegal drugs, gambling and child endangerment. I want to arm law enforcement with the tools to end cockfighting in our communities, and the current maximum penalty of $50 is not a deterrent." 

Cockfighting Facts

  • Tens of thousands of people are involved in cockfighting nationwide.
  • In a cockfight, two roosters fight each other to the death while people place bets on the outcome of the fight.
  • Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with razor-sharp knives or gaffs resembling ice picks.
  • Law enforcement raids across the country have revealed that cockfights, which are frequently attended by children, involve illegal gambling and — as a result of the large amount of cash present — firearms and other weapons are also often present.
  • Law enforcement agencies have documented a strong connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs.

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Cockfighting B-roll and high-resolution images are available at video.hsus.org.

Follow The Humane Society of the United States on Twitter.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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