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Editorial: Utah needs tougher penalties for cockfighting

Toughen cockfighting penalties

First Published Mar 11 2014 04:40 pm • Last Updated Mar 11 2014 08:51 pm

It’s really irrelevant in any debate over the appropriate penalty for cockfighting that some people believe there is nothing wrong with it and even teach the "sport" to their children.

Such backwoods traditions — which also include dog fighting — should have been left far behind in civilized parts of the world, which we assume would include Utah.

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Cockfighting pits roosters against each other in an arena surrounded by screaming spectators who urge their favorite bird to slash the other to death. It is a holdover from medieval times when things like dogs attacking tethered bears were accepted entertainment in the public square. Surely we have moved beyond considering it fun to watch animals suffer and die.

The Utah Legislature should approve HB112, which would increase the penalties for cockfighting to a class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a third-degree felony on subsequent convictions. It would also make being present at a cockfight punishable as a class B misdemeanor.

While cockfighting is illegal, Utah law now specifies the lowest penalties in the nation and attracts people who want to participate in this blood sport in dark corners outside the law. Most Utahns would agree they don’t want their state to be known as a haven for cockfighting.

Although Salt Lake Tribune reporters were able to interview two men who defend cockfighting as a "traditional pastime," their misguided idea of entertainment should not influence legislators.

Fighting is natural behavior for these roosters, they say. But humans have honed their natural aggression into a form of violence that goes far beyond what would happen in a barnyard setting. And being entertained by it encourages the basest instincts of humans.

These men and anyone else involved in this despicable activity should be prosecuted, and once HB112 becomes law, they would face a more appropriate penalty if convicted.

The argument that cockfighting must be innocuous because some people even teach their young children to enjoy watching animals used in this way, sacrificed only for entertainment, is not an accepted argument against HB112. They are encouraging illegal behavior and a disregard for the value of life that will not serve their children well in adulthood.

Only severe penalties, strictly enforced, has any chance of eventually convincing participants that their "traditional" multigenerational family blood sport is unconscionable and society will not tolerate it.

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