RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new investigation by an animal rights group found North Carolina is one of the top suppliers of roosters used in cockfighting.
It results from an extensive investigation by Animal Wellness Action which says during a 4-year period over, 1,000 roosters were shipped from North Carolina to places like Guam and the Philippines where cockfighting is very prevalent.
“We discovered a vibrant, barely underground industry of cockfighting in the state of North Carolina and we have to dismantle it,” said Animal Wellness Action President Wayne Pacelle.
The group said all roosters were shipped overseas by U.S. Mail according to records it obtained in Guam.
It claims North Carolina is the hub of the cockfighting trade the on the eastern seaboard.
“We did a records request in Guam that revealed massive shipments of fighting animals to Guam from the states,” said Pacelle. “North Carolina was one of the top 5 states with 1,000 animals shipped over the past 4 years.”
After gathering evidence, the group said it sent letters Thursday to U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts telling them about their findings and naming eight North Carolina residents it claims are involved in the training and selling of the birds.
The group said one of the big problems is that local law enforcement tends to turn a blind eye to cockfighting industry where these birds are trained.
“They don’t consider this a priority item,” said Drew Edmondson, a former Oklahoma attorney general who is now the head of the Animal Wellness’s Law Enforcement Council. “They look at it as taking place overseas or in areas where people do it voluntarily.
The group said cockfighting flourishes because it’s part of the culture in the South.
“It’s a legacy of weak statutes.” said Pacelle.
He also said people have developed a belief system it’s OK.
“They got involved at a young age and it’s passed along as a legacy.”
Cockfighting is a felony under federal law and calls for sentences of 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000.
Cockfighting is also a felony under North Carolina State law and the group says in addition to notifying U.S. attorneys, it’s also asking Attorney General Josh Stein’s office to investigate too.