Judge Tosses Cockfighting Charges; Says Kentucky Law Is Too Ambiguous

Montgomery District Judge William Lane recently threw out charges against more than 500 people who were issued citations after a raid of a cockfighting operation in April. Lane said that the state statute cited by prosecutors which bans attendance at cockfights was ambiguous and could not sustain the charges against those cited.

The problem appears to be with a practice that is quite common and usually drives animal rights activists through the roof. The statute cited as banning cockfighting is quite clear that it is illegal for spectators and vendors to appear,

. . . at an event where a four (4) legged animal is caused to fight for pleasure or profit.

As the judge noted in throwing out the charges, chickens have only two legs. Typically, though, state and federal agencies have a habit of classifying animals for the purposes of law enforcement in ways that defy common sense, such as the USDA’s habit of defining non-bird species as poultry and thereby exempt from certain parts of the Animal Welfare Act. It usually has very good reasons for doing so — namely that Congress hasn’t appropriated it enough funds to actually oversee the care of the redefined animals — but it also goes against common sense. In Kentucky, prosecutors and police seem to be treating chickens as four-legged animals for the purpose of this statute.

The law also contains a highly ambiguous section that exempts “sporting activities,” but does not define that term. Lane noted that common definitions of “sporting activities” could easily encompass cockfighting, and that it is unclear what the legislature meant in that instance.

Michael Endicott, a lawyer representing some of those charged with attending the cockfight, told the Lexington Herald-Leader,

It’s not a very well-written statute. The judge is right. If the legislature wants to make cockfighting illegal, they should spit it out.

Police and prosecutors disagree. A police spokeswoman told the Lexington Herald-Leader,

We respectfully disagree that cockfighting is exempt as a sporting activity according to the statute.

The newspaper reported that prosecutors and police were still deciding whether or not to appeal the decision.

John Goodwin of the Human Society of the United States wants prosecutors to appeal. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader,

This ruling could have huge repercussions across the state. We believe it must be reviewed by a higher court.

Of course the risk there is that a higher court could agree with Lane and instead of having one district judge throwing out charges, the entire statute could be invalidated as far as cockfighting is concerned.


Judge tosses out cruelty charges from cockfight. Peter Mathews, Lexington Herald-Leader, August 16, 2005.

Memo to JP Goodwin: Think First, Then Write

Awhile ago I mentioned a presentation by a researcher named Stephen Davis that argued that a mix of ruminant/pasture agriculture would cause fewer animal deaths than a strictly vegan agricultural system. A newspaper in Connecticut picked up this story, which apparently infuriated JP Goodwin who, typically, didn’t bother to actually carefully read the story before writing an angry reply. Here’s the text of a letter from Goodwin being circulated on the Internet,

I hope the piece in your April 1st issue describing
veganism as a “killer diet” was some sort of April
Fools joke. If not, then I have now officially heard
every absurd argument ever conceived.

This article reported on a certain agriculture
professor from Oregon that claimed a strict vegetarian
diet caused animals to suffer. He made this point by
arguing that animals are butchered when crops are

What this meat industry apologist failed to mention is
that far more crops have to be grown to fatten
livestock than would ever be consumed by human beings.

If you are concerned about field mice being hurt when
corn is harvested, then don’t eat meat. Most of that
corn is used to feed livestock. A vegetarian diet
would drastically reduce the amount of crop land
needed to feed billions.

John Goodwin
PO Box 21780
Washington, DC 20009
202 251 2748

The emphasis on the next to last paragraph is mine, because it’s a good example of the sort of nonsense Goodwin spouts. Of course the article in the Connecticut newspaper clearly indicated that this was not the case,

On the other hand, grazing animals produce food and reduce the need to drive farm equipment into the fields. Mr. Davis said less wildlife is lost to the mower blades and more find stable habitat in grazed and untilled fields.

Apparently these two sentences went over and above Goodwin’s limited reading comprehension ability so let’s be very clear. Davis is not arguing that fewer animals are killed in the current agricultural system than would be killed in a hypothetical vegan system. Instead, he is arguing that a hypothetical agriculture system that relies on pasture grazing cows and plant agriculture would result in fewer animal deaths than a hypothetical vegan agriculture system.

His point, which is apparently difficult for some animal rights activists to comprehend, is that the vegan view poses a conundrum for utilization of land ideal for bovine grazing. If you eliminate the cows and put that land into crop production, the result is clearly far more animal deaths than if you simply allow cows to graze the land and kill the cows for food.


Veganism is a killer diet. The Waterbury Connecticut Republican American Newspaper, April 1, 2002.

Untitled Letter. John Goodwin, April 2, 2002.

Longtime ALF Activist Hired by HSUS

Last week the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade sent out a press release saying it was reorganizating. It turns out that the Humane Society of the United States recently hired CAFT’s JP Goodwin. Fur Commission USA has an excellent article, Careers in the Conflict Industry, on Goodwin and HSUS.

As the Fur Commission USA article makes clear, Goodwin has a long history of arrests. In 1993 he plead guilty to vandalizing several fur stores. In fact, the Fur Commission USA article includes a nice photo of Goodwin wearing a shirt emblazoned with Animal Liberation Front.

Now, Goodwin has the backing of the Humane Society of the United States’ tax free millions.


Careers in the Conflict Industry. Teresa Platt, Fur Commission USA, August 12, 2001.

More Details on Jacques Ferber Inc.'s RICO Lawsuit Against Animal Rights Organization

Fur Commission USA, which represents
over 400 fur farms, recently issued a press release on the Jacques Ferber Inc. lawsuit against the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, the Animal Defense League, and Vegan Resistance for Liberation. Under the civil provisions
of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Ferber
alleges that these three groups as well as four named individuals engaged
in a series of acts that amounted to a criminal conspiracy to
interfere with a legitimate business enterprise.

As I’ve mentioned before,
RICO was originally meant to help prosecutors go after legitimate businesses
that were used as fronts by organized crime, but it is the civil provision
of the act that has gained the most notoriety. Pro-choice groups recently
won big victories in two separate civil cases against pro-life groups
and individuals that advocated or approved of illegal acts against abortion
clinics, but did not actually participate in such illegal acts. Juries
in those cases agreed with the plaintiffs that even though the defendants
did not commit illegal acts, by their advocacy of illegal acts they were
part of a conspiracy that did commit such acts and as such could be held
liable for the illegal acts.

The Fur Commission USA release
noted that since 1995 Ferber was subjected to almost weekly protests by
animal rights groups and on April 24, 1999, “vandals wearing hoods
smashed the store window.” Ferber argues that the three animal rights
groups and the four individuals named in the suit engaged in a pattern
of harassment intended to intimidate the company and ultimately force
it out of business. The Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that juries should
be allowed to decide whether or not this sort of activity constitutes

Ferber might have an even
stronger case than did the pro-choice groups if Fur Commission USA’s information
is accurate. It quotes one of the activists named in the suit, Brett Wyker,
but in a footnote at the end of its release claimed:

In January [1999], Wyker e-mailed FCUSA’s Terry Platt: “hey,
what did oyu [sic] think of the Fur Farmers convention in WI? FUR IS DEAD

The convention in question
was the International Mink Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where several
masked animal rights activists tried to gain entrance to the show. According
to Fur Commission USA, among those activists was Gary Yourofsky, an activist
recently jailed in Michigan for releasing mink from a farm there, and
CAFT’s John Paul Goodwin.

These sort of links between
those who commit illegal acts and nominally nonviolent groups and individuals
is exactly the sort of evidence that led to the pro-choice plaintiffs
to win their cases. Lawyers in those cases produced evidence showing
all sorts of connections between the allegedly nonviolent activists pro-live
activists who did commit crimes and told the jury that it
was absurd to claim that the two were not part of an organized, illegal
attempt to shut down a legitimate business.

Ferber’s lawsuit is apparently
at a standstill while lawyers try to find and serve the four individuals
named in the lawsuit, but once that is taken care of this will be an interesting
test case of the RICO statute. If it can prevail it could be the beginning
of the end of common practices used by groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others (in much the same way that pro-life groups
have had to radically alter their tactics in the last decade). On the
other hand, since animal rights issues have a far lower profile than abortion
issues, this case might not receive nearly the same treatment as the case
against the pro-life groups did, and could potentially lead to another
round of judicial review of the RICO statute.

Jacques Ferber, Inc., Files RICO Lawsuit Against Animal Rights Groups

Jacques Ferber, Inc., a Philadelphia
furrier, recently filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, the Animal Defense League, and Vegan Resistance for Liberation charging the groups with illegally conspiring to shut down
the furrier.

In its lawsuit, Jacques Ferber,
Inc., maintains that the furrier has been the subject of weekly protests
since 1995 by the three groups. Ferber maintains the protests have escalated
to a campaign of vandalism including incidents where windows have been
smashed, the store’s doors glued shut, and its customers and employees
threatened and harassed.

Ferber’s lawyer, Bruce E.
Rodger, also outlined several other actionable incidents including the
printing of “wanted” posters that depicted a Ferber principal with the
text “Wanted for Murder” and “Considered Extremely Violent.”

John Paul Goodwin, executive
director of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, told the Philadelphia
that the suit under the |Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization| statute was a threat to
civil liberties. Goodwin also predicted Ferber would be unable to prove
the charges saying, “The fact is they don’t know who’s doing that. Any
lawsuit that says the (the individuals named in the suit) did is grossly

Whether or not RICO lawsuits
threaten fundamental civil liberties is still a hotly debated question,
although the Supreme Court so far has upheld civil lawsuits under RICO
(for the record, I think at a minimum the RICO statute needs some additional
clarification or it could just as easily snag anti-animal rights groups
as it will pro-animal rights groups).

As for the factual requirements
under RICO, however, they are rather minimal. Goodwin is mistaken if he believes
that in order for Ferber to win it must show that the defendants committed
specific illegal acts. In fact, if the precedents from the recent RICO
suits against pro-life groups apply here, all Ferber will need to show
is that the groups named in the lawsuit engaged in an organized way in
advocating or aiding the harassment or vandalism.

The recent verdict against
a pro-life web site that displayed “wanted” posters of doctors who performed
abortions, for example, found that the mere online posting or physical
distribution of such a poster could constitute an actionable act under
RICO. So could speech that merely suggested or described the creation
of such posters.

Similarly, even if none of
the three groups had members who participated in the vandalism, if it
can be shown that any of the three groups held strategy meetings at which
any of the vandals did attend, the groups might be liable.

Realistically a lot depends
on how the animal rights activists and the furrier are perceived by a
jury. Clearly, for whatever reason, the pro-life activists were seen as
very unsympathetic by juries, especially in light of the spate of physical
violence up to and including murder perpetrated by some fanatical pro-lifers.
Whether a jury will see animal rights activists as more like the pro-life
movement or more like the civil rights movement (albeit misguided) remains
to be seen.

Clearly a suit like this has
the best chance of winning if it were filed by a research institute against
groups that advocate or condone acts of violence against important medical
research. Unlike furriers, which many Americans seem ambivalent toward,
medical research still continues to enjoy a lot of support. Besides which
almost all Americans, and certainly every member of any conceivable jury,
would have benefited directly from medical research. It is hard to imagine
those who would condone or advocate for “direct action” against medical
facilities would be the receive much sympathy from a jury considering
a RICO charge.