NAPA, Calif. -- Tenants of a poultry ranch in Napa say there's nothing wrong with raising roosters and selling them to people who stage cockfights in Mexico, but California law doesn't agree and animal rights advocates say it's just plain cruel.
Although the law says it's a misdemeanor to raise fighting fowl, Capt. Mike Loughran of the Napa County Sheriff's Department says he can't search the Napa ranch unless there's evidence linking the roosters on the property to cockfights in other places.
Unless deputies find fighting paraphernalia nearby or can follow a shipment of the fowl to Mexico and observe their fate, there's little they can do but pay attention and wait, Loughran said.
The ranch is owned by Vallejo lawyer Stephen Camden, who has rented out the 12 different sections of the property to various tenants who raise roosters, chickens, hens and rabbits. The property's manager, Alvaro Castro, said tenants only have to follow one rule: no cockfighting on the premises.
Castro said he was unaware it was a misdemeanor to raise fighting cocks in California. He also didn't know about the 2002 Farm Act, which will make it illegal to ship the birds across state lines or across the country. That law goes into effect next year.
"I agree, that if they catch someone fighting, bust them up, make them pay for it," Castro told The Napa Valley Register. "As for raising them, having fun with them, I don't see anything wrong with it."
Castro said fighting cocks must be at least two years old before entering a ring, where they fight to the death. For this reason, he says, they have a better life than those raised for the supermarkets.
Animal rights groups don't agree. Cockfighting is a blood sport that no one else supports except for those making money from the enterprise, said Amy Rhodes with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"Everything about it is inhumane," Rhodes said. "Most states outlawed this in the 19th century."