Citizens Crowing to Keep Cockfighting Legal

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County wants to prohibit animal fighting in Virginia and toughen the penalties for violators. But one man in Page County wants to keep his right to fight.

Al Taylor has been raising game birds for 50 years.

"I got hooked on game chickens when I was 10 years old. I think they're the most beautiful bird in the world. I admire them for their courage," says Taylor.

His backyard is home to 150 hens and roosters.

"Some of 'em I fight. Some of 'em I just keep," he admits.

Animal fighting is legal in Virginia as long as there is no gambling involved and no admission charges. But the law may soon change.

Delegate Bell is proposing legislation that would make dog fighting rules tougher and prohibit people from hosting or attending cockfights. Penalties would be increased and even the possession, training and selling of fighting animals and related equipment would become illegal.

Taylor says the legislation infringes upon the rights of game fowl breeders. He also fears his birds would be slaughtered by the state.

"If this passes who's to say that hunting, fishing, horse racing, what's next?" Taylor says.

Taylor and other members of Virginia's Cockfighting Association have been calling on local lawmakers to prevent Bell's bill from passing. And their fight is bringing them a lot of new and mostly unwanted attention.

"We as a society of game fowl fanciers try to keep it out of the public eye as much as we can because we know that there are people who are opposed to it," says Taylor.

Some local farmers fear fighting cocks will bring the lethal Exotic Newcastle Disease to Virginia. The Virginia Department of Agriculture says the disease was first detected among game birds in California.


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