John P. Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) spent last week in Nashville lobbying for the bill.
"This is a very cruel activity," said Goodwin. "Since so many states around Tennessee have made the offense a felony, Tennessee has become a magnet state where people come from other states to participate." In a cockfight, sharp curved knives are attached to the feet of roosters, then the birds are let loose to fight until one dies or is seriously injured. A typical fight may have 100 entrants, each with four or five roosters. The entrant with the best record wins the pool of entry fees. Goodwin says it's not uncommon for 300 roosters to die in one cockfight.
Though the fights are more prevalent in eastern Tennessee, they do occur in rural counties closer to Memphis. Goodwin says some cockfighting rings are so sophisticated, they sell concessions and souvenir T-shirts.
Goodwin says some East Tennessee legislators support cockfighting, even though it's currently a misdemeanor crime. Cockfighting organizations have been lobbying the state legislature to vote against the bill.
If the state bill passes, Tennessee will become the 34th state to make cockfighting a felony.
- Bianca Phillips