Cockfighting rings pumped an estimated $18 million into Puerto Rico’s economy each year.
But they won’t in 2019, at least not legally.
On Wednesday, Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico) introduced legislation that would repeal Congress’s ban on cockfighting, which officially took effect last month as a part of the 2018 Farm Bill. While the sport was already outlawed in all 50 states, it was legal in all U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“Some people may say $18 million is not a big number in an economy of the United States, but it is in the territory of Puerto Rico after a hurricane,” Gonzalez-Colon said.
Gonzalez-Colon’s bill would repeal section 12616 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which would then allow for legalized cockfighting in the territories once again.
“This ban is an overreach from Congress to the U.S. territories,” she said during a news conference Wednesday in Washington.
Representatives and delegates from all five U.S. territories are expected to sign onto the legislation.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the federal government to go into states’ rights,” said Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.). “We do not engage in cockfighting in the same way that they do in Mexico or other places.”
The economies of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are still rebounding from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. Farmers and gamecock owners are among those who received federal small business disaster loans following those storms, Gonzalez explained. Outside of the fights, cockfighting trickles down to everything from housing the birds to growing and harvesting the grain that they eat.
Now, Gonzalez-Colon said, recipients may not be able to repay their loans without this sport legalized once again and fears a now deregulated, more dangerous system could develop.
“This abrupt provision of cockfighting will likely force the highly-regulated industry in Puerto Rico to become an underground industry.”
The provision permitting cockfighting had been included in multiple Farm Bills prior to the 2018 reauthorization and has been law since 2002.