Puerto Rico to approve cockfighting in defiance of US law

In this Oct. 19, 2003 file photo, man bets during a cockfight in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico will defy the U.S. government and approve a law to keep cockfighting alive in a bid to protect a 400-year-old tradition practiced across the island despite a federal ban that goes into effect this week, officials confirmed late Tuesday. (AP Photo/Walter Astrada, File)

By Louis Casiano | Fox News

Puerto Rican lawmakers say they will approve a law to keep alive the 400-year-old tradition of cockfighting on the island territory, in defiance of a federal ban on the practice that goes into effect this week.

Should Gov. Wanda Vázquez sign the bill into law, it challenges a federal law signed by President Trump last year.

“We are certainly challenging a federal law. We know what that implies,” Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, who co-authored the bill, told The Associated Press.

Puerto Rico’s cockfighting industry greeted the news with cheers.

“There’s going to be work,” Domingo Ruiz said. “We’re going to keep the fight alive.”

Ruiz said he owns more than 30 cocks and has been in the industry for more than 50 years.

Puerto Rico has approximately 71 cockfighting businesses licensed by the island’s Department of Sports and Recreation, according to Secretary Adriana Sánchez. Lawmakers have interrupted the new measure to mean it is legal to host cockfights, but illegal to import and export cocks or goods or services related to cockfighting.

“It remains to be seen whether that’s how federal authorities understand it,” Rep. Luis Vega Ramos said. Sanchez argued that the U.S. ban on cockfighting has more to do with economic reasons than animal welfare.

“Their instinct is to fight,” she said of the animals. “The people who dedicate themselves care for them and train them.”

Animal rights activists view the business as cruel and have long tried to have it banned, saying it is illegal in all 50 states. The bloody practice of cockfighting generates the island $18 million annually and employs around 27,000 people, according to the bill.

Wayne Pacelle, founder of the Washington-based Animal Wellness Action, said he doesn’t believe Puerto Rico’s statistics.

“They are widely exaggerating the economic value,” he said. “Watching animals slash each other just for human entertainment and gambling is not judged as a legitimate enterprise by mainstream people.”

The cockfighting news comes as President Trump intervened to slash Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding as part of a year-end $1.4 trillion spending deal. The deal allocates up to $5.7 billion — instead of the $12 billion — over four years. (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)