Cockfighting ban expanded to US territories in bill headed to Trump’s desk

Congress this week sent President Trump legislation that would ban cockfighting in all U.S. territories, and he’s expected to sign it into law. 

The language is buried in the $867 billion farm bill that easily passed the House and Senate this week. 

The provision drew sharp attacks from Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon. In a floor speech Wednesday, Gonzalez said the language would hurt Puerto Rico’s already faltering economy.

“This is an industry that represents more than $18 million in our economy, and also more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs on the island,” she said. 

The bill expands a ban that is already applied to all U.S. states in the name of animal welfare. But Gonzalez argued that cockfighting in Puerto Rico is highly regulated and that birds are cared for after their fights. 

“We’ve been regulating the industry of cockfighting since 1933,” she said.

Gonzalez argued that the mandate from Washington is even more hurtful because Puerto Rico has no say in the vote. She and other delegates from territories can participate in committee meetings, but have no vote on the House floor. 

“This prohibition is just another example of the outrageousness of living as a territory without the necessary voting and representational power to impact changes in legislation,” she said. “Last May, each of the territorial delegates, myself included, raised our voices on the House floor to oppose the amendment, and while at the time the bill was not approved, the amendment was included.” 

Trump is expected to sign the bill next week, even though he may also be disappointed in the bill for another reason. The bill was passed without House Republican language aimed at beefing up work requirements for recipients of food stamps.

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