US Congress poised to ban cockfighting in the US territories

by Dec 11, 2018Congress, Headlines0 comments

As part of the measures of HR 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the “Farm Bill”, the United States Congress is poised to ban cockfighting in all five of the US territories, a measure supported by the Humane Society but opposed by all five territorial representatives in Congress. After being passed in the House of Representatives in June 2018, the bill contained no measure addressing cockfighting, despite efforts to the contrary. Once the bill reached the Senate however, the cockfighting ban in the territories was reintroduced, and approved by the Senate in June. Today, the Senate fast-tracked the conference report to reconcile the difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and this latest version also includes the cockfighting ban.

If the measure becomes law, the territories would have a 12-month transitional period prior to the elimination of the fights.  Discussions that could determine the bill’s fate are still ongoing due to the inclusion of some controversial provisions, such as work requirements in order to participate in certain United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs.

Puerto Rico officials have been stressing their opposition to the measure, with Governor Ricardo Rosselló (NPP,D) announcing a trip to Washington, DC to lobby against the ban, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP,R) restating her opposition in a press release. “This amendment did not have a single public hearing. We have been working with all other territorial delegates to ensure it fails, but the reality is that this is the crudest portrayal of being a colony.  Under the territory status, Puerto Rico lacks two senators and a voting delegation in the House.  This prohibition is just another example of the outrageousness [sic] of living as a territory, without the necessary voting and representational power to impact changes in legislation.  Last May, each of the territorial delegates, myself included, raised our voices on the House floor to oppose the amendment, and while at the time the bill was not approved, the amendment was included,” said González-Colón.

Because of the large amount of provisions in the bill, this change is going largely unnoticed in the mainland. In the territories however, the proposed ban is garnering attention, as sectors across the US territories claim the practice of cockfighting is a cultural and traditional one with economic benefits. As territories however, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands have no representation in the Senate, and only a voice in the House through their delegates, rendering them powerless.

The House is expected to take up the conference report on HR 2 on December 13, 2018. While GovTrack has the bill with only a 4% chance of passing, the fact that it has been scheduled for a vote means the House leadership is expecting it to get a majority of yea votes. The bill will likely head to the President’s desk for his signing, and as of publishing time, the White House has given no indications it might veto the bill, signifying the bill will likely become law. Expecting the bill’s likely approval, González-Colón indicated the only alternative might be new legislation in 2019.