MORGANTOWN, Ky. (WKRC) - Cockfighting is illegal across the country but in Kentucky, fighting roosters continue to fly.
That’s why national animal rights groups are calling out the Commonwealth for not cracking down and are blaming local and state police who, they claim, are looking the other way.
Plus, the groups claim the fighting rooster may be carrying a deadly biological threat.
KENTUCKY IS GLOBAL HUB FOR COCKFIGHTING
During a Zoom news conference, Wayne Pacelle, the president of Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy, made it clear.
"Kentucky is a hub for cockfighting traffickers," Pacelle said, adding Kentucky’s illegal cockfighting businesses are tied to the worldwide trade in fighting roosters.
"Kentucky remains central, not just to the national cockfighting industry, but to the global cockfighting industry,” he said.
FAILING TO CRACKDOWN ON COCKFIGHTING
For more than two years, Local 12 has investigated cockfighting across the Tri-State, capturing cockfighting inside arenas and the illegal activities and violence associated with the blood sport.
At the news conference, the Pacelle says SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) has now documented 16 cockfighting arenas across Kentucky, part of what is now estimated to be 100 cockfighting arenas that now dot the state.
The groups complain that cockfighting continues to be big business in Kentucky because most police in the Commonwealth are failing to crackdown.
“They absolutely will not do anything,” said Steve Hindi, president of SHARK about most police in Kentucky.
When he captures cockfighting on camera, Hindi says he reports it to local and state police, who he says usually don’t show up or, if they do, they don’t take action.
BEATEN BUT STILL CATCHING COCKFIGHTING
As we reported, Hindi was nearly killed on Jan. 3, 2021, when he tried to capture cockfighting at an arena near Ironton, Ohio. He was beaten outside that rural property by the owner, James Newcomb. Another SHARK employee in a car was run off the road, crashing in a ditch. On Nov. 5, 2021, Newcomb was convicted of felony and misdemeanor assault for the incident. Newcomb was also convicted of felony theft for destroying SHARK’S drone and controller.
Since the attacks, Hindi has continued to fly his drones, locating cockfighting arenas. Lately, he’s been busy in Kentucky, including an arena he captured in McGoffin County, Kentucky, where he captured people running to their cars.
"Here now, they've gotten a call,” Hindi said, narrating the images of the crowd exiting below the drone, adding “They've gotten word somehow that the police have been called."
He sees it all the time.
"You cannot persuade me that these criminals and the police are not operating hand-in-hand," Hindi said.
FIGHTING ROOSTERS FOR THE WORLD
Cockfighting is illegal at the arenas and down on the farms.
Hindi revealed more drone video during the news conference of a farm that he says breeds and raises fighting roosters.
Pacelle says Kentucky contributes hundreds of thousands of fighting roosters for cockfighting, adding they are sold and sent across the planet.
"A huge amount of birds to Mexico, the Philippines, and 25 other countries around the world," Pacelle said.
And Pacelle and Hindi both emphasized that cockfighting is a magnet for other illegal activities, too.
Hindi began to rattle them off.
"Drug trafficking... prostitution. The weapons... the illegal gambling,” he said.
AVIAN INFLUENZA EFFECT
While the criminal cockfighting is happening in plain sight, the biggest threat from the fighting roosters might be something carried by the birds that no one can see.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Jim Keen, D.V.M., Director of Veterinary Sciences, Center for a Humane Economy, the fighting roosters are connected to the spread of avian influenza, which has decimated the poultry industry around the world.
According to Dr. Keen, Kentucky’s billion-dollar business in poultry is threated by the fighting birds that come from far flung states to fight in the arenas.
"Kentucky has a lot to lose from cockfighters bringing in avian influenza right now into those commercial operations," Dr. Keen said, adding that avian flu has already jumped to humans, as well.