A Bristol lawmaker is continuing his efforts to put some teeth into Tennessee’s notoriously weak law against cockfighting.
Sen. Jon Lundberg is once again sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 0194) to change the penalties for cockfighting from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony.
Tennessee legislators have routinely declined to get tough on cockfighting.
Some have even defended this hideous practice as part of the tradition and culture of many rural communities since Colonial times.
Over the years, these misguided supporters of animal fighting have argued that the father of this country, George Washington, was himself a cockfighting enthusiast. We would point out to those people that Washington was also a firm believer in bloodletting, a medical practice of the 18th century that some historians believe contributed to his death.
In recent years, bills that would have returned cockfighting to a felony offense have stalled in the state House Agriculture Committee. Lundberg has again filed his bill in hopes it will find favor in the new legislative session.
Sadly, legislators have refused to crack down on cockfighting even after hearing testimony from federal agents who say Tennessee is part of the infamous “Cockfighting Corridor,” where criminals who engage in this blood sport flock to ply their horrifying trade.
An FBI agent once told legislators that the operator of a busted cockfighting pit in Cocke County boasted that he bribed a state lawmaker nearly 20 years ago to lower the penalty for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. Since that time, Tennessee has seen its reputation as the cockfighting capital of the South grow.
As law enforcement officials are quick to point out, cockfighting is not a harmless diversion. There’s an obvious link between cockfighting and interstate gambling, prostitution and illegal drugs.
Those who engage in cockfighting should be punished as the barbaric criminals they are. It can be argued that a Class E felony is too light of a penalty for a despicable crime, and one that rightfully deserves more than a slap on the wrist.
That’s why the Humane Society of the United States pays a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cockfighters.