Plucky opposition to CNMI cockfighting ban grows

7:05 pm on 28 June 2018

A Northern Marianas lawmaker is hoping to drum up support for a resolution opposing a proposed ban on cockfighting in US territories.

Edwin Aldan wants a resolution drafted through the Legislature that would speak out against a federal ban under the 2018 Farm Bill which was passed by the US House of Representatives last week.

A man prepares his bird before a cockfight

A man prepares his bird before a cockfight Photo: 123RF

He claimed the blood sport was part of the local culture and had been for centuries.

Several local lawmakers have expressed opposition to the potential ban with some saying it would be a violation of the Covenant, which created the CNMI-US political relationship.

RNZ Pacific correspondent, Mark Rabago, said outrage was increasing among the Commonwealth's leaders.

"So anything that infringes on the islands' cultural identity, they frown upon that," he said.

"They think that their way of living has been infringed upon and this is another facet of island living.

"It has been very popular to the point that one bar just opened which specifically caters to cockfighting aficionados and it's in the middle of the tourist district," Mr Rabago said.

He said the people of the Northern Marianas didn't see cockfighting as cruel to animals.

Local legislation that is said to protect animal rights in the CNMI was recently passed, but Mr Rabago said lawmakers point out that it is also mindful of cockfighting, recognising the practice legally.

"If you look at the Bill it says 'animal fighting' [and] it includes dogfighting and all other sports that involve animals, but cockfighting in the eyes of the local population is a separate genre.

"It's cultural. It's something that was passed on by their great-great-grandfathers and their grandfathers and now the sons are getting an interest," Mr Rabago said.

Earlier, CNMI's Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan said the Farm Bill provision would override the local laws that already legalised and regulated cockfighting.

He said whether cockfighting should continue in the CNMI and was a matter for local officials to decide.

Earlier neighbouring Guam's congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said House Republicans had chosen to force a cockfighting ban on the island against its will.

She said because US territories were not allowed to vote in Congress, the move was paternalistic and deeply unfair.

The CNMI Governor has yet to make an official comment.

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