Legislators Push For Tougher Punishments For Cockfighting

Mar 11, 2015

A bill that would enact tougher punishments for cockfighting is on the verge of passing in the Utah Legislature.

Currently in Utah, cockfighting-associated offenses are considered misdemeanors under state law. But Senate Bill 134 would make a third offense a third-degree felony. The bill was proposed by Democratic Senator Gene Davis of Salt Lake City—though his original draft called for felony charges upon first offense.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives fiercely debated the bill late into floor time on Tuesday night. Representative Earl Tanner, who is firmly opposed to the bill, argued that gamecocks have better lives than most chickens that are slaughtered for their meat. The West Jordan Republican even quoted Shakespeare to prove his point.

“I’d like to close with just one quote that just spoke to me about this matter, it comes from Macbeth scene five, ‘Life’s but a walking shadow. A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more,’” Tanner said. “That is a fair description of chickens and men.”

But Republican Representative LaVar Christiansen, a supporter of the bill, disagreed. He told his colleagues that cockfighting goes against Utah’s values.

“We as a state are acting like, that this is just something like a little sideshow before they make their way to KFC,” Christiansen said. “This is one of the most reprehensible and heinous things. For people to relish this, to gamble on it, to find entertainment in it—is just unbelievable.”

Senator Davis’s Game Fowl Fighting Amendments bill passed the House 41-33. It will go back to the Senate for confirmation of changes.