Agriculture Economy

An animal rights advocacy group published a report Thursday that says Kentucky is “a center” for illegal cockfighting breeding that ships tens of thousands birds across the world to the Philippines, Mexico, and other countries.

The Animal Wellness Action report details video interviews and social media posts of seven suspected breeders, ranging from Bowling Green in west Kentucky to Manchester in east Kentucky, as evidence of these operations. 

In one example, the group cites a man named Chris Copas near Bowling Green who claims to have participated in the World Slasher’s Cup 2020, an international cockfighting tournament in the Philippines. Copas finished in second place, according to a social media profile. 

Copas is also interviewed by Philippines-based network BNTV about being a breeder for cockfighting, in a video showcasing the best “gamefowl farms.” Copas in the video describes how he’s visited the Philippines for fights, and how “cutting ability” is key in birds he raises.

Federal law prohibits people from buying, selling, transporting or delivering any animal used for animal fighting. The advocacy group said it sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Russell Coleman and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Robert Duncan, urging them to enforce federal law. 

“Law enforcement need not intervene with fights to arrest the perpetrators. They can simply go to these massive complexes and otherwise, and prove that these birds are being raised for fighting,” said Wayne Pascelle, president of Animal Wellness Action based in Washington D.C.

The group also wants Kentucky to enhance state law against cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony. Democratic State Senator Morgan McGarvey joined the group’s virtual news conference Thursday to say that he will introduce next year legislation to make cockfighting and associated activities a felony. 

“We will be working in a bipartisan manner to do this. And you can find agreement among Democrats and Republicans that torturing and fighting animals is wrong,” McGarvey said. “Oftentimes the people who are fighting and abusing these animals are also abusing people. We’ve got to crack down, we’ve got to do better.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in July that a separate animal protection group was seeking an investigation after two sheriff’s deputies attended a cockfight in east Kentucky and didn’t charge anyone for animal cruelty.