Protests against legalizing cock fights gain momentum

POSTED: 06/19/12 11:59 AM

“Animal fights are qualified as abuse all over the world”

St. Maarten – “Everywhere in the world cruel activities that previously were considered traditional or cultural, like for instance bull fights, dog fights and cock fights, are prohibited. Organizing cock fights has always been prohibited in St. Maarten. Approving article 539, third paragraph of the criminal code is at odds with the global trend in the field of animal protection and the wellbeing of animals,” Animals R Friends president Monique Hofman wrote in a letter to Ombudsman Nilda Arduin on Friday.
When the parliament approved the criminal code on May 25, Hofman announced in this newspaper immediately that she would take action against the by now infamous exception to article 539. The article basically prohibits cruelty against animals, but the exception the parliament approved (“cultural expressions or structural activities that use animals in an organized manner”) makes organized cock fights legal.
An online petition against the decision collected up to yesterday already more than 1,500 signatures, some of them of prominent St. Maarteners like Louis Engel and former Commissioner Michael Deher, but also from all over the world. The signatures go straight to the cabinet of Governor Holiday and to the office of Ombudsman Arduin.
In the elucidation to the exception cock fights are specifically mentioned with the annotation that they have been organized for a very long time already. “Organizers and owners of animals that take part in these organized events are obliged to prevent that no unnecessary harm is inflicted on the animal then for the purpose of the event and the observance of the tradition.”
The wording of the elucidation contains a double denial (see the italics printed part above) that makes it look as if organizers of cock fights are allowed to inflict all the pain and suffering on cocks that comes to mind. This part of the elucidation should have read “to prevent that unnecessary harm is inflicted.”
Monique Hofman refers in her letter to the Ombudsman also to article 22 of the Constitution that obliges the government to promote the wellbeing of animals.
“Animal fights, and also cock fights, are qualified as animal abuse all over the world and they are prohibited in practically all countries,” Hofman wrote. “Cocks are mutilated prior to a fight and equipped with razor sharp knives on their legs. Then they are forced to fight whereby they often sustain serious injuries and therefore suffer a lot of pain. The often heavily injured animals are discarded at the end of a fight on a regular basis, or they are thrown away without treatment. It may be clear that the animals suffer pain and that injuries are inflicted upon them.”
Hofman referred to a 2004 survey: “It shows that 68 percent of the population in St. Maarten opposes every form of animal fights.”
The Animals R Friends president says that legalizing these cruel practices violates article 22 of the Constitution. From the elucidation on this article, Hofman quotes that the legislator has to make sure that the interests of animals are treated on equal footing in the consideration between the use of animals and their intrinsic value and wellbeing. “The elucidation also indicates that the obligation to take care of animals as living beings prevents that the user-function for humans becomes the only standard to which the self-esteem of the animal is made subordinate.”
But Hofman notes that this is exactly the situation that the exception to article 539 brings about: “This is unacceptable and violates (the spirit of) article 22 of the Constitution.”

Hofman furthermore notes that cockfight attract a lot of people, among the children. “This way children get at an early stage the perception that abusing or causing harm to animals is acceptable. That is an extremely undesirable development for our society.”
Another aspect of cock fights is gambling. “The often high stakes could be cause of violent confrontation,” Hofman notes. “There is also alcohol and drugs at the location of these fights.”
Hofman says that these negative side effects are also a violation of article 22 of the constitution, because this article obliges the government to take care of the inhabitability of the country and the protection and improvement of the living environment.
Up to yesterday afternoon it was unclear whether, or when, Governor Holiday will sign the ordinance that regulates the new criminal code.

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