BY MERRITT CLIFTON
One of these days Lee County, Mississippi sheriff Jim Johnson may be forcefully reminded by agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allowing cockfights to go on practically under his nose is not just a matter of ignoring state and federal law.
It also happens to be a matter of putting the regional economy and public health at risk. Memphis, Tennessee, just 115 miles northwest, is the hub of the U.S. poultry industry.
The U.S. poultry industry is stressed lately by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. Since February 2022, 58.6 million poultry, mostly chickens, have either died of H5N1 or have been killed to try to stamp it out, according to USDA data published at the end of March 2023.
47 states have reported outbreaks
Transporting gamefowl in connection with cockfighting is suspected as perhaps the #1 way in which the H5N1 avian influenza moves from place to place, infecting new flocks even inside supposedly biologically secure poultry barns.
The H5N1 pandemic has now spread to 47 states. Wild birds are also afflicted, including eight highly endangered California condors who were recently found dead after possibly having scavenged infected gamefowl.
The disease has even occasionally jumped into mammals, including––just among species found in Mississippi––black bears, bobcats, coyotes, ferrets, fishers, foxes, lynx, opossums, otters, pigs, and raccoons.
Fighting avian flu & cockfighting are under the same federal agency
The same agency, the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA-APHIS for short, is charged with both combatting H5N1 and with enforcing the 2007 and 2018 federal laws that make cockfighting illegal in all U.S. states and territories.
Preoccupied with responding to H5N1 outbreaks as they occur, USDA-APHIS has not yet gotten around to stamping out country sheriffs with chicken shit on their shoes who think “chicken fighting” is no more serious a problem than a barnyard crap game.
But when the national effort to stop H5N1 does finally get around to addressing vectors as well as cases, USDA-APHIS may be very interested in the extensive dossier compiled by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, with the help of the Humane Farming Association, on sheriffs and state troopers not doing their jobs, even as thousands of gamefowl move interstate from cockpit to cockpit in frequent proximity to outbreak locations.Click here to see more...