Animal Rights Group Slams Hawaii for Having Weak Cockfighting Laws

Animal Wellness Action (AWA), a national animal rights organization based in Washington D.C., has slammed Hawaii for having weak cockfighting laws.

Recently, the group praised Hawaii’s police for a cockfighting bust at Hawaiian Paradise Park, however, AWA also stated that Hawaii is still considered among the worst states in the US for crimes related to animal cruelty.

AWA is calling for federal intervention to toughen cockfighting penalties, saying that there are tens of thousands of fighting birds in Hawaii. The group also says that the islands are the center for shipping between the continental U.S., the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries.

In 2023, a deadly shooting at an illegal chicken fight in Maili left two people dead. Many animal rights groups said they expected Hawaii to toughen its laws after the shooting. However, a bill that would have elevated cockfighting to a class C felony did not pass the Legislature.

Wayne Pacelle, president of AWA, said, “Lawmakers were too timid. They buckled because people claimed that they were not cockfighters, but they just had chickens.”

Aside from Hawaii, the group mentioned that Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Idaho are the states that only have misdemeanor penalties for cockfighting. But opponents of tougher laws say it’s their right to raise chicken, adding it supports small businesses. They also say their love of their birds is part of their lifestyle and culture.

“I think it’s an insult for people to say it’s a cultural practice. This is not something that your average Filipino person of Filipino descent thinks as part of their culture,” said Pacelle.

On the other hand, U.S. senators have introduced the Fight Act to crack down on cockfighting by banning simulcasting and gambling on animal fighting ventures. The law would also stop the shipment of mature roosters through the U.S. mail.

“There are efforts to call attention to the fact that this is something that is already a crime and we shouldn’t promote it in any way, shape, or form,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and also a co-sponsor of the bill which is waiting for a hearing.