By Chris Herlinger
A group of theologically conservative American Christian leaders is joining with animal rights defenders to advocate against cockfighting, calling the practice of watching and betting on roosters who fight to the death antithetical to biblical values.
“Christians should stand up and speak out against this barbaric practice which horrendously abuses God’s creatures,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in a January 24 statement.
Concern about cockfighting is focused on the state of South Carolina, where critics of the practice are trying to strengthen the state’s laws against it. Though cockfighting is illegal in all 50 U.S. states, it remains a misdemeanor in 11 of them, including South Carolina.
The Humane Society of the United States describes cockfighting as “a lucrative crime, with gambling winnings offsetting even the maximum misdemeanor fines,” and is working with such groups as the South Carolina-based Palmetto Family Council, a Christian advocacy group with ties to national pro-family Christian organizations, to toughen legislation against what some describe as a “blood-sport.”
Oran Smith, the Palmetto Family Council’s executive director, said that South Carolina is increasingly attracting people interested in watching cockfighting and betting on the outcome.
“As a matter of state pride, we must strengthen our laws now,” he said. Smith’s organization has produced a video that has drawn praise from the Humane Society for its strong stance against cockfighting.
The video argues that cockfighting is antithetical to biblical principles, citing Genesis 9:9-10, in which God speaks of establishing a covenant with both humans and animals. “Wonton cruelty toward animals is frankly unbiblical and unChristian,” Smith says in the video, which can be seen at www.youtube.com/palmettofamily.
In the video, Land says humans are called to “respect every living thing…Cockfighting is a pornography of violence. People who watch it are going to be brutalized by it.”
“Religious leaders had a founding role in the humane movement in the 19th century. Today in the 21st century, they remind us of our solemn responsibilities to other creatures,” said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society, praising the work of Christian leaders for working against cockfighting.
“Their voices can help guide the nation toward better decision-making and behavior when it comes to our treatment of animals.”