24 April 2007

"Why Do You Live in Louisiana?"

Between 13 and 15 April 2007, I was visiting the Pacific Southwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I was there to co-facilitate a facilitators training workshop for the Our Whole Lives Grades 7-9 and 10-12 comprehensive sexuality education curriculum jointly developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

During the weekend, I would related experiences with sexuality education, bisexual - gay - lesbian - transgender rights, and the local "Bible Belt" culture from my time in Northwest Louisiana and the Southwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These experiences would cause participants to ask me "Why do you live there?"

I think I found the answer in Monday's Shreveport, Louisiana daily newspaper. I can guarantee that the following letter to the editor would never be found in the Los Angeles Times:


Outlawing this sport (cockfighting) will put a lot of people of out jobs and hurt the economy of all Louisiana. They don't think of the people that will be put out of work. The feed stores will lose about one-third of their sales, that is a lot of business. Grain the farmers grow to feed these birds will not be bought by the feed stores, hurting the farmers. Hotels, gas stations and restaurants these people patronize will no longer get this business. Towns these fights are held in have come to depend on the out-of-town people to help them survive. At times, there are a thousand people coming into these towns for four to five days to stay and spend money. Some people raise chickens to sell to others, taking away their livelihood. These chickens have to have medicine and be wormed each month; this will hurt the veterinarian.

When you think outlawing cockfighting will help, think of the people you know it will hurt. Then decide what is more important — people losing their jobs and livelihoods, towns losing business they need to help survive, making outlaws out of honest people, or giving in to these animal rights groups that will leave Louisiana when they get what they want, but your fellow Louisianans will still be here without the way of life we love and without the revenue the sport generates.

In a sportsman magazine, the Humane Society said cormorants should be left on the endangered list and not be punished for what they do naturally, which is eating fish. Why can't a game rooster do what he does naturally, which is fight?

Tony Pickard
Sarepta LA

And opinions like this are what makes our region so unique and special. According to Wikipedia, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with the singular exception of Louisiana.

As Unitarian Universalists and religious liberals, we will never run out of social justice work in my state. There's always something that needs fixing.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Steve,

So glad you're there, fighting the good fight.

This letter reminds me of arguments used in the 1980s to keep the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons manufacturing facility (10 miles from my home) open. "If we stop building and stockpiling nuclear weapons, people will lose jobs. It will hurt the economy." True, perhaps, on a temporary basis, but economic might does not make right. Slavery worked very well for the American economy until it was abolished. Sometimes we as a society just have to do what is right, and the economy can catch up.

Paul said...

Somehow I cannot fathom the connection between cockfighting and manufacturing nuclear weapons or the institution of slavery.What relationship does cockfighting have with social justice other than Liberals want to see it prohibited ? By the way, I do not support cockfigting .

Steve Caldwell said...

Paul,

Well, there is a connection between the issue of animal cruelty and our Unitarian Universalist heritage.

Here's a brief quote from the UU Historical Society on Henry Bergh:

"Henry Bergh (August 29, 1811-March 12, 1888) was the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and was instrumental in the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He was the first to successfully challenge the prevailing view that both animals and children were property with no rights of their own. Because of him, it is now accepted that abuse of animals and children is an offense to both human sensibility and established law."

This really isn't a "liberal vs conservative" - "red state vs blue state" issue. The other 49 states have recognized cockfighting for what it is -- unjustified animal cruelty where people are entertained by the suffering of animals.

And there is no other purpose for cockfighting -- no procurement of food, no procurement of clothing, no medical research benefits.

I was simply using the singularly distinctive nature of my current state to illustrate that Unitarian Universalists will never run out of social justice work here.

There are really bigger issues to work on here than cockfighting such as reproductive health care access, equal treatment for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender citizens, etc.

The cockfighting issue is simply a barometer of attitudes here. We legally sanction an activity that condemned in every other state of the US.

However, things may be looking up. Our conservative Republican congressman voted "yes" on adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes law yesterday.