Louisiana Pastor Says Cockfighting Ban Violates Religious Rights

Louisiana pastor Lloyd Plumbar of the Holy Fight Ministries claims the state's cockfighting ban is in breach of his constitution religious freedoms. He is seeking legal action against the district attorney and Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office after being arrested on route to a "spiritual cockfight."

Cockfighting has religious significance in various countries. Remains of cockerels have been found at important religious sights dating back to the Iron Age. The recent lawsuit claims the practice represents the "struggle between good and evil".

Attorney Jim Holt outlined in the case: "Reverend Plumbar, Holy Fight Ministries and its congregation hold the sincere religious belief that cockfighting represents that while they strive for CHRIST, they have a necessary symbolic physical manifestation, an epiphany through the fighting cock, a religious mandate of the struggle between good and evil, a struggle for life or death for the Salvation of the soul, and thus cockfighting is an integral and essential part of their religious faith,"

Part of the argument in the lawsuit is that "man has dominion over animals." It cites Bible verse Genesis 1:26: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

The lawsuit goes on to cite the peyote exception, in which certain groups are allowed to use the peyote drug for religious reasons within the Native American Church, despite the substance conflicting with the "Controlled Substances Act." The case for cockfighting states that if done in a religious context, like peyote use, it will not influence the public domain.

"There is no evidence that [peyote use] has 'undercut' the Government's ability to enforce the ban on peyote use by non-Indians," states the lawsuit.

Cockfighting remains prevalent in some countries, including Indonesia, where it is practiced to banish evil spirits. Meanwhile, the Philippines is considered the epicenter of cockfighting. They host a cockfighting tournament named the 'World Slasher Cup' dubbed the "Olympics of Cockfighting."

Animal rights group PETA strongly condemns the practice of cockfighting. "Many of these birds spend most of their lives tethered by one leg near inadequate shelter, such as a plastic barrel or small cage. Breeders 'condition' the birds to fight through physical work, including attaching weights or blades to their legs for 'practice fights'," explains PETA on its website. The birds are usually never set free during their lifespans. "The fight doesn't end until one rooster is dead or nearly dead. 'Losing' birds are often discarded in a barrel or trashcan near the game pit, even if they're still alive," states the organization.

PETA also claims there are further deep-routed criminal connections to cockfighting, including "illegal gambling, robbery, drug use or selling, and even murder".

Cockfighting is illegal in the U.S. The last state to outlaw cockfighting was Louisiana, where a ban went into effect in August 2008. The government has recently made a move to ban cockfighting in U.S. territory Puerto Rico, where the practice is hugely popular.

Fighting cock in Indonesia
Fighting cock in a Balinese garden, Indonesia, in 2019. Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images)

A cockfight is a blood sport that takes place in a cockpit. It is a practice dating back 6000 years. It uses specially bred birds, and bets are often taken on the outcome of the fights. Sharp metal spurs are usually added to the bird's natural spurs before fights. Fights cause physical trauma to the birds, and birds are usually severely injured or killed during the fight.