Cockfighting: Issue of Privacy and Police Power
Published 16 Aug 2016
Cockfighting is an activity that involves two roosters placed in a small arena to fight each other. Attached to the rooster’s leg is a razor blade called gaff which the routers use to fight against each other. The objective of the game is for the roosters to strike each other using their picks or their blades until one of them is dead or can no longer fight. Most of the cockfights end up in the death of either one or both of the roosters since even the victorious rooster may suffer severe injuries that could lead to its death. The roosters used in cockfights are fed, bred and trained to become real fighters in the arena. Most owners inject drugs to these roosters like amphetamines and epinephrine to make them stronger, more aggressive and to enhance their performance.
Outside of the arena is a large crowd of people. They pay up to $200 per seat for a chance to get to watch the roosters go at it to the death. The bets and winnings for a lucky gambler may amount to more than a hundred thousand dollars. For them, cockfighting is a gentleman’s sport. This alludes to the manner by which the betting is done which does not require written contracts. A few words and nods and the agreement is eventually completed by a handshake.
In view of the violence that attends every cockfight, it has been illegalized in most states in the United States. The first state to ban cockfighting in 1836 was Massachusetts. The last state to ban it is New Mexico. The only state which allows cockfighting nowadays is Louisiana.
Despite its illegality and the punishment involved, cockfighting still continues to flourish in some parts of the United States. The proof of this is the number of Americans who continue to breed fighting cocks within their own backyard. Their number one argument is that cockfighting is part of their culture. Most Hispanics who breed roosters say that preventing cockfights is tantamount to stopping their great culture and tradition which dates 3000 years. For a large number of cockfighting aficionados whether in Mexico and in other parts of the country, they consider that stopping cockfighting is like declaring a war against culture.
From a constitutional standpoint, it can be argued that it is the right of everyone to engage in any activity he chooses. Any person is given sufficient freedom to spend his time in any sport or worthwhile activity so long as he does not do any harm or inflict injury upon other people. In the case of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court declared that though the Constitution does not explicitly mention the people’s right to privacy, it has recognized that a right of personal privacy does exist under the Constitution. The Supreme Court declared that the decision to terminate the pregnancy is within the pregnant mother’s right to privacy.
The right of privacy is broad enough to include the person’s desire to participate in any activity like cockfighting. If the Supreme Court has considered the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy as within the right to privacy then there is no reason why a person who wants to engage in cockfighting should be prevented from doing so.
On the other hand, from the standpoint of the government, it can also be argued that the rights protected under the Bill of Rights are not absolute. No right is absolute. The exercise of everyone’s rights carries with it the presumption that no one will be harmed or injured. Cockfighting, however, is not similar to the decision of a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy. In cockfighting, no one’s health will be placed at risk by illegalizing all cockfights. It must be stressed that even in Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court declared that after the first trimester of the pregnant woman, the state may already regulate the abortion procedure for the purpose of protecting the mother’s health. The decision to terminate one’s pregnancy is subject to the limitation that it can be exercised only within the first trimester. Further, though the constitution does not mention the term police power, this concept is one of the most recognized innate powers of the government. It refers to the power of the state to regulate the behaviour of its citizens for the purpose of promoting morality, public welfare, and public safety. Cockfighting contributes to the perpetuation of violence in our society. It tolerates animal cruelty for the purpose of enjoyment of some people. It also encourages vices such as gambling. Since roosters are being transported from one state to another it is also believed to be one of the contributing causes for the spread of bird flu in the United States. Thus, for the protection of public health and public safety, the state may in the exercise of its police power illegalize cockfights.