A group of theologically conservative American Christian leaders is joining with animal rights defenders to advocate against cockfighting, calling the practice of watching and betting on roosters who fight to the death antithetical to biblical values - writes Chris Herlinger.
"Christians should stand up and speak out against this barbaric practice which horrendously abuses God's creatures," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in a 24 January 2012 statement.
Concern about cockfighting is focused on the state of South Carolina, where critics of the practice are trying to strengthen the state's laws against it. Though cockfighting is illegal in all 50 US states, it remains a misdemeanour in 11 of them, including South Carolina.
The Humane Society of the United States describes cockfighting as "a lucrative crime, with gambling winnings offsetting even the maximum misdemeanour fines," and is working with such groups as the South Carolina-based Palmetto Family Council, a Christian advocacy group with ties to national pro-family Christian organisations, to toughen legislation against what some describe as a "blood-sport."
Oran Smith, the Palmetto Family Council's executive director, said that South Carolina is increasingly attracting people interested in watching cockfighting and betting on the outcome.
"As a matter of state pride, we must strengthen our laws now," he said. Smith's organisation has produced a video that has drawn praise from the Humane Society for its strong stance against cockfighting.
The video argues that cockfighting is antithetical to biblical principles, citing Genesis 9:9-10, in which God speaks of establishing a covenant with both humans and animals. "Wanton cruelty toward animals is frankly unbiblical and unChristian," Smith says in the video, which can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/palmettofamily.
In the video, Land says humans are called to "respect every living thing... Cockfighting is a pornography of violence. People who watch it are going to be brutalised by it."
"Religious leaders had a founding role in the humane movement in the 19th century. Today in the 21st century, they remind us of our solemn responsibilities to other creatures," said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society, praising the work of Christian leaders for working against cockfighting.
"Their voices can help guide the nation toward better decision-making and behaviour when it comes to our treatment of animals."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]