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Cock & Bull

Posted by gamecocksunlimited on May 22, 2013

Cock & Bull

March 28, 2006 / by jimbeers

COCK & BULL

I recently received a request to sign a petition to ban bullfighting in Spain. Words like “barbaric” and “torture” then appeared in follow-up e-mails as supporters asked for signatures. Somehow I figured this was coming after the Spanish election. The Socialists were elected after terrorists blew up trains in Madrid and they represent (among other things) a “green” or environmental agenda. Things such as outlawing bullfighting, outlawing hunting, outlawing guns, outlawing the use of dogs for hunting, and creating a more powerful European Union government in Brussels by supporting a European Constitution are what we can expect from this Spanish government. That said it is only natural that the backers of these socialist causes are not wasting time getting their goals achieved.

I am reminded by this of a news article several weeks ago concerning a raid in Georgia of a cockfighting ring in a thick woodland. The article spoke of Mexicans and wounded game fowl and “a pile of dead birds.” The men arrested claimed they did not know that fighting gamecocks was illegal.

Why would I; a wildlife biologist, owner of many dogs over the years, and someone who has never attended a bullfight or a cockfight; want to speak up for those who attend bullfights and cockfights? I have many reasons and here are but a few.

1.) PRECEDENT: If bullfights and cockfights can be outlawed when there are many people who enjoy them, the same rationale and legal proscriptions can be applied to circuses and rodeos and hunting and fishing and a whole host of wild and domestic animal uses. I believe that whether you like or hate bullfights and cockfights, if you own or use animals in any way, you should be very careful about invoking government force to deny others something they enjoy when it does not harm you.

When I hunt ducks and geese, I occasionally wound birds that take quite a bit of time to recover and kill. Sometimes they get away altogether and die either a lingering death in heavy cover or providing a meal for a fox. When I have good hunting, my partners and I often have a “pile of dead birds” in fact we take pictures of them. Trappers occasionally lose animals. Archers occasionally wound deer that are never found until vultures reveal their whereabouts. Bear hunters who use dogs often witness confrontations between the dogs and a bear. The same goes for cougar hunters. Fish often get off the line to die later and fishermen are notorious for “piling” dead fish in coolers. Dog trainers and others who want certain animals to behave in a certain way, often discipline the animal in a way that offends some people. Choke collars, electric fences, electric collars and a range of other devices all have people who find them “barbaric” and who claim they “torture” the animal. Those who use these things or who enjoy seeing these animal confrontations should all think long and hard about the precedent of banning bullfighting and cockfighting.

2.) LEGAL: Who owns the bull or the cocks? Is ownership of animals a granted privilege from government? Does an American citizen “own” his dog like he “owns” his home? What about a “European?” Does this latter matter? Do we want to live under a Republic as our Constitution has provided for two centuries or do we want to be more socialist like the European government(s)?

There are two kinds of (animal) property for the purposes of this discussion. There is private property such as your dog or a ranchers steers or a flock of Perdue chickens or bulls for the ring or gamefowl for the pit. There is also publicly held property (wildlife) such as songbirds and fish and deer and bears. Recent years have seen a serious erosion of the principle of private ownership in this country. The Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act have aided this erosion by diminishing the ownership rights of citizens in animals and in real property. The same can be said for the publicly held property of all citizens. Legislation such as the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act and a plethora or bureaucratic regulations and court rulings have combined to diminish the management and uses of such public property (plant, animal, and real) to meet the agenda of a powerful minority of radicals and extremists.

I stand for ownership of animals by private owners and the renewable uses of publicly held animals for the widest possible range of citizens. In other words, those who own the gamefowl and the bulls, and those who run the pits and fight the bulls should be free to offer these events to persons who wish to witness them. There is no difference here between them doing that and my own continued hunting or dog training and use. Those who are offended by the bullring or the cockfighting pit are also offended by my hunting or my wife’s fur coat. Those who don’t realize that fact will soon realize it when it is too late. The government of the United States is charged to “insure domestic Tranquility”, not eliminate everything that offends some citizens but is enjoyed by less than a majority.

3.) POLITICAL: Obtaining legislation to ban bullfights or cockfights is like obtaining legislation to ban guns or hunting or trapping or raising hogs or making pâté de foie gras. There is sure to be segments of the population who neither eat pâté nor trap animals and who are offended by it. As these people are pandered to by politicians seeking their vote; traditions, cultures, businesses, and diverse lifestyles are all steadily eliminated. As I read in National Geographic many years ago when an old Maine woodsman was asked what he thought of those opposed to trapping (his only annual source of cash), he said “the first thing people do when they want to start reforming is find something that doesn’t affect their style of living and then brother can they reform.”

Political pandering by trampling on the rights of those who do not matter has been raised to a high art form in recent years. Some of this is due to a growing and more powerful central government and diminishing state governments. Some is due to a Senate that since 1913 has been elected by popular vote instead of being appointed by state legislators. This latter has meant NO advocates for state powers as enumerated in the Constitution have any say in Federal power-expanding legislation. Much of the problem is simply our own unlimited expectations for government to do everything we want. Prescription drugs, day care, social security and other such government provisions lay the groundwork for asking government to stop all that hunting and trapping and to “free” pets and to take away guns and to close public lands to humans and uses. This is exactly what we see in Europe with the increasing presence of socialist governments and a growing central government in Brussels. Regulations proliferate, more and more human activities are proscribed, and the increasingly powerful central government becomes increasingly remote and unaccountable. Heck, the Founding Fathers knew all this 225 years ago.

4.) MORALITY: It is always dangerous to speak of morality in this period of relativism and significant pagan morality both in this country and in Europe. While “eggs” of migratory birds are fully protected by Federal law and “progeny and offspring” of marine mammals and other protected animals are likewise preserved by Federal laws and UN regulations, humans in the womb or the birth canal receive little or no protection. While religious symbols are attacked with the vigor shown the Taliban and it is common to hear that “your ideas of right and wrong are different than mine” or that “there is no right or wrong, only a scale and we all occupy various points on that scale” I will nevertheless make a moral observation about animal use. I hold that animals have no more rights than we give them and that we have somehow lost sight of that fact as we “protect” animals as if they were equal to or superior to us. They are and should remain the property of their owner and government ought not either diminish the private property rights of animal owners or the traditions and uses of publicly held animals. These are morally sustainable assertions in my view.

I am a Christian and I do not purport to know much about other religions. Based on both the Old and New Testament I believe that we have dominion over the plants and animals and that we have a duty to use them for our benefit, preserve them for succeeding generations and not cause them needless suffering. It is no more needless suffering to kill a bull in a ritualistic manner or kill a whale with a harpoon than it is to shoot a duck or reel in a fish. The fascination with watching and guessing which gamefowl will prevail in a fight (whether in the jungle where first observed or in a pit today) is as old as civilization wherever such birds occurred. To say that it is somehow immoral to watch these two traditions that each go back thousands of years is not logical. Man v. bull and two fighting cocks whose genes mimic the birds watched millenias ago are contests that have fascinated and continue to fascinate men, women, and children.

5.) FREEDOM: I believe that those who find gaffing a fish “barbaric” are well advised not to go fishing. Likewise those who find bullfighting and cockfighting to be “torture” should avoid these spectacles. I believe America was founded for and has room for tolerance of diversity and embracing the traditions of minorities. This means more than just forcible disclosure on forms of sex and race for government preference purposes. Tolerance in a Republic means tolerating others and the things they do which you do not like and do not support so long as they do not harm you or other citizens. Diversity means the broadest possible range of traditional and cultural practices. The freest country in the world should strive for no less.

This opportunity to consider what this Spanish Socialist government is evoking from Spaniards and others alike should give us all pause to consider what is possible here in the United States if a government is elected that advocates (whether openly or surreptitiously) reduced animal uses, reduced property rights, and a more powerful central government. The arguments used for bullfighting and cockfighting apply all the way down the spectrum past hunting and fishing to pet ownership, gun ownership, and even what you will be allowed to eat.

I ask you to give this some thought if you are asked to help eliminate bullfighting in Spain or to eliminate cockfighting where it is permitted or to deny local governments the authority to allow cockfighting where their constituents want it. I met a man recently in Texas whose family had been raising and fighting gamefowl since before the Civil War. I was told recently about a man who lost his family business of running a cockfighting pit for decades when Oklahoma banned cockfighting. I am quite sure that there are even longer lineages and family traditions concerning bullfighters and bullfighting associated businesses in Spain. Like the Northwest loggers and their families destroyed by spotted owls or ranchers put out of business by wolves the human cost of eliminating what “doesn’t affect your style of living” is but one more hidden cost of radical agendas.

As for me, I ask you to tolerate my uses of animals and I promise to fight for your rights to do the same.

Jim Beers
14 June 2004

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