February 27, 2008

In the news from the Old Dominion, a truly heroic attempt to reverse the anti-cockfighting legislation in the Virginia Assembly was brushed aside.

But the pathos of this moment is almost too terrible to behold, as the last line indicates:

Enter the Virginia Gamefowl Breeders Association, whose members are known as "cockers." The legislation affects them because cockfighting per se is not illegal under current law. It becomes illegal with the presence of gambling.

The association wanted to exempt its nine private clubs from the scope of the law. The clubs are located in Franklin, Henry, Wise, Rockingham, Dickenson, Albemarle and Culpeper counties.

In a letter to the attorney general's office, association President William-Bernard Britton said the birds are treated well. The association's cockfights do not permit gambling, drinking, attendance of minors or the presence of firearms.

Scott Johnson, an association lobbyist, said the birds fight for only 10 minutes and are not outfitted with blades or gaffes.

He said the bill would force members to give up their birds because it makes it a crime to possess them for the purpose of fighting.

Owners have such an emotional attachment to their birds that saying goodbye would be difficult, Johnson said. He distributed a photo of Britton with a prized rooster.

"I think the look on that bird's face and the look on Billy's face says it all," he said.

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