Virgin Islands Senator Defends Cockfighting in Face of New Federal Animal Fighting Law

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St. Croix Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, most recently in the headlines for voting against a measure to remove V.I. law exempting spouses from rape, is speaking out in favor of cockfighting in the wake of a new federal law making it a federal crime to attend animal fights of any kind.

“The federal laws and our territorial laws do not align, and so our people are rightfully concerned about whether they can participate in this activity that has been a part of the Virgin Islands culture and tradition for many, many years,” said Hansen in a press release issued by her office. “We had expected our Delegate to Congress to obtain an exception to the new federal cockfighting laws for the Virgin Islands based on the cultural significance of the activity for us. However that did not happen, and now there’s confusion.”

The Farm Bill, which was signed into law last month by President Barack Obama, makes it a federal crime to attend any animal fighting event. The Virgin Islands Department of Justice is awaiting an opinion from the Solicitor General on whether the law will apply in the USVI, where cockfighting is still legal under territorial law, Chief Deputy Attorney General Wayne Anderson said earlier this month.

The V.I. Police Department is also waiting to hear how the law will be clarified in the territory, VIPD spokesperson Melody Rames said earlier this month.

Recent testimony by Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen indicates cockfighting will remain legal in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Christensen submitted a statement to the V.I. Legislature last week stating the intent of the Farm Bill was to ban attendance in places where it is already illegal. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 U.S. states, and is legal in all U.S. territories.

Despite her testimony and Hansen’s support of cockfighting, many others hoped the Farm Bill would bring an end to animal cruelty in the Virgin Islands once and for all.

“As a 12th generation Virgin Islander, I can tell you that cock and dog fighting were never a part of OUR culture,” St. Thomian Alana Mawson said in a letter to senators in the wake of the Farm Bill’s passage. “It is part of a ‘lowlife’ culture that was brought here from elsewhere and it is now time for it to be eliminated. There is nothing cultural to be proud of about setting animals to fight to their deaths while inflicting extreme pain and agony on them in the process just so one can gamble on it.”

St. John Animal Care Center manager Ryan Moore shared his hope that cockfighting will eventually be made illegal in the territory.

“People always say that roosters fight in the wild, but they don’t have razor blades tied to their legs in the wild,” he said. “That’s the big issue. It’s illegal in the states and we feel it should be illegal here.”