HSUS vs. the First Amendment

One of the few things I agree with the Humane Society of the United States about is that cockfighting is cruel and should be outlawed. Unfortunately, as they typically do, even in this matter the HSUS resorts to tactics that are simply wrong and ultimately leave the supporters of cockfighting look like the victims (leave it to HSUS to make cock fighters look sympathetic).

In this case the HSUS actually wants the editors of two Arkansas-based cockfighting magazines, The Feathered Warrior and The Gamecock to be prosecuted for doing nothing more than publishing their respective magazines.

HSUS’ Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press that the two magazines should be prosecuted under a provision of the Animal Welfare Act which makes it illegal to use the mail to promote “an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the limits of the States of the United States.”

If that is indeed what the Animal Welfare Act says then it is almost certainly unconstitutional given that cockfighting is still legal in Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. In fact, I suspect the statute would be ruled unconstitutional even if it were promoting cockfights in states where the practice is illegal (Pacelle might want to brush up on his First Amendment law — if promoting illegal acts could be outlawed, many animal rights activists would wind up in jail).

Like the attempted ban on transporting chickens across state lines, this is just another example of HSUS and others being unable to muster enough support to outlaw cockfighting in the three states that still allow the practice. With that avenue cut off, HSUS attempts to limit the rights of people outside those states who are not directly involved in cockfighting but cover it in their magazines or sell supplies to those who are involved in cockfighting.


Humane Society trying to shut down Arkansas cockfighting magazines. The Associated Press, August 8, 2001.

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