State lawmakers spent a portion of Tuesday morning discussing the finer points of a “sport” known as chicken boxing. And no, it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke.
It happened in the Senate Committee for Judiciary C when state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, began discussing his Senate Bill 523.
The bill is meant to tighten the language in the state’s 2008 cockfighting ban.
The legislation would expand the state’s ban on cockfighting to include all types of chickens. It also would make it a felony to possess paraphernalia, such as razors, spurs, leather spur covers and other items commonly used in the sport that once was prevalent in south Louisiana but is now illegal.
Senators had few questions, except for state Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, who said the legislation would shut down the sport of “chicken boxing,” a nonfatal form of cockfighting in which the birds aren’t outfitted with razors and spurs.
Guillory said he was especially concerned about the part of the law that deals with paraphernalia.
“Leather spur covers and plastic spur covers, um, that are used in the legitimate sport of chicken boxing might be considered paraphernalia,” Guillory said.
“Wait, wait, wait ... chicken boxing?” Morrell said.
“Yes, chicken boxing,” Guillory replied.
At that point, it took Morrell a few stops and starts before he could articulate his point. A moment later, he was able to muster: “I appreciate your passion for your constituents, (but) I have no knowledge whatsoever on chicken boxing, so I cannot speak to that.”
Morrell continued, “If chicken boxing ... I can’t even speak on chicken boxing. Honestly, I have never heard of that. It sounds like something to circumvent cockfighting.”
It was at that point that Guillory explained chicken boxing.
“No, no. Let me explain to you, senator,” Guillory said. “Just as dueling is a blood sport, two men fighting each other with swords is a blood sport that is illegal. Similarly, two men with boxing gloves on can box each other as a sport that is legal. This is the same distinction between chicken boxing and cockfighting.”
Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, was perplexed over the mechanics of chicken boxing.
“I would be very interested to find out how some chicken stands on two legs while it boxes,” Adley said. “I understand how humans do it, but I’m trying to figure out how it happens with a chicken. That would be interesting to determine.”
A number of different websites describe chicken boxing as a nonfatal form of cockfighting that has sprung up because of laws banning fatal fights. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, with 40 states treating it as a felony. Louisiana was the last to outlaw the practice.
And while cockfighting is a cruel and inhumane to many, it’s a way of life for others. James Demoruelle, of Ville Platte, said he’s been a cockfighter for 53 years.
“God put the gameness in the chicken, not man,” Demoruelle said. “We don’t make them fight. You can’t make a gamecock fight if it doesn’t want to fight.”
He spoke out against the bill, saying it could easily make a felon out of someone like him who is a certified game fowl judge who also owns “probably a quarter million dollars” worth of cockfighting paraphernalia.
He later added that people should be free to use one’s property as they see fit — similar to cattle owners slaughtering cows for meat.
“I’m passionate about this,” Demoruelle told the committee. “Been doing it for 53 years. I wanted to retire and do it full-time. I enjoy the people that participate. They’re good people.”
They’re people in high finance, they’re judges, they’re district attorneys, they’re senators, they’re representatives.”
SB523 advanced on a 4-2 vote. It now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.