Opinion: More about cock fighting

POSTED: 06/19/12 11:47 AM

The online petition against cock fighting in St. Maarten had collected more than 1,500 signatures yesterday. The umber surpassed the initial goal to have 1,000 signatories; the new goal is 2,000. The protests are sent directly to Governor Holiday and to Ombudsman Nilda Arduin.
While many signatories from the Netherlands Antilles (the petition does not give the option to sign as a citizen of St. Maarten) do not want to have their name displayed on the internet, there are some notable exceptions. St. Maartener Louis Engel for instance went beyond the petition by placing a media ad last week complete with a picture of him and his family, stating that they all oppose cock fighting.
Other notable signatories are David Christian, former Commissioner Michael Deher, Safe Haven President Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet, the sisters Nina and Laura Bijnsdorp, and notary Meredith Boekhoudt.
The protests are therefore increasing, but everything hinges on two questions: will the Governor sign the criminal code the parliament passed? And if the governor does lend this legislation his signature, will then the Ombudsman send it to the Constitutional Court for review?
The arguments we have heard in favor of the amendment to article 539 are rather lame. The amendment makes an exception to the ban on cruelty against animals for cultural and organized events.
Proponents mutter that the protests are coming from “people from other countries.” Even if this were true it would be pretty much a non-argument. The cock fight is not about where you are from and distinguishing the opinions of people based on their origin seems to be an outright violation of article 16 of the constitution that prohibits discrimination on any grounds.
But we have seen on earlier occasions that Members of Parliament are not too bothered with these basic citizens’ rights when they do not fit their agenda. With the cock fighting issue they have been put to the test once more – and again, our parliamentarians failed.
It is obvious that the exception to article 539 of the criminal code violates article 22 of the constitution. That article states, as we have noted before: “It shall be the constant concern of the government to keep the country habitable and to protect and improve the natural environment and the welfare of animals.”
The key question in this whole debate will now revolve around the question up to what point lower legislation, like the criminal code, is allowed to contain articles that violate the constitution. The correct answer to that question seems to be that there is no leeway whatsoever for lower legislation to be at odds with the constitution.
If that holds up, there is no way the Governor is going to sign off on the legislation the parliament approved and in that case the parliament will have to do its homework again. Stalling the new criminal code offers no solution – at least not to those who promote cock fighting – because in the current criminal code (the one that is in effect until the new legislation is officially promulgated) cock fights are actually explicitly prohibited.
Another argument we have heard is that people’s grandfathers and great-grandfathers were already involved in cock fights. So what is suddenly wrong with cock fighting now? This is also a non-argument, one that denies the reality that our society has evolved since our great-grandfathers’ times.
If we remember correctly, slavery was abolished almost 150 years ago, and nobody is calling for installing traditional slavery “because our great-grandfathers were involved in it.” That we now have modern day slavery is beside the point – though it is telling that this does not seem to be of any concern to our politicians.
Should we then let it all go and give in to these non-arguments? Should we let the barbarians among us have their way? Should we pretend that it is okay to organize cockfights? Ask the Tourist Bureau to promote St. Maarten around the world with a slogan lime amaazing coock fighting? Should we make the so-called cultural event cock fighting part of the school curriculum to make sure that our children will carry on with it in a responsible way?
Or is it a better idea to come to our senses, respect the constitution, respect animal rights and do away with this blood sport, like, forever?

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