LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Hundreds of protesters from the United Gamefowl Breeders Association (UGBA) eclipsed a cordial visit from U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer at Wildcat Harley Davidson Monday afternoon.
“To borrow a phrase from Japan in World War II, they’ve awoken a sleeping giant,” said Craig Davis, director of the Kentucky Chapter of UGBA and head of the protest. “We’re fed up and worn out. We’ve been backed into a corner here in Kentucky.”
Davis, with approximately 200 protesters hailing from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Mississippi and Missouri began arriving at Wildcat Harley Davidson as early as 1:00 p.m.
Not a single parking spot was to be found at the Wildcat Flea Market, where the protesters were instructed to relocate after disturbing employees at the motorcycle dealership.
“To be honest, some of our staff was made uncomfortable with their presence in our parking lot,” said Wildcat Harley employee Shannon Melton. “We had to ask for them to be removed.”
The protesters arrived in the wake of the Agricultural Act of 2014. While, nationally, most farmers have positively received the bill, Davis and other protesters saw it as an attack on the breeding, raising, and fighting of game fowl or roosters, an activity commonly known as “cockfighting.”
While the activity has been an obscure tradition for centuries in neighborhoods throughout the world, it is now illegal in all states and a felony in 40. In Kentucky, the latest legislation would see that number increase to 41.
Hailing originally from Grayson County, Ky., Craig Davis claims he has represented the interests of the UGBA in Washington D.C. for years, spending $20,000 of his own money in the process. Other protesters raised concerns over increased regulation regarding other types of livestock.
“We’ve been fighting this fight for the past 30 years. New laws keep coming up every day,” Davis said. “They’re turning average Americans into felons. These are good hardworking people – most are war veterans.”
Davis went on to claim that a rooster’s natural tendency is to fight other roosters and that their deaths in a fight are no less humane than factory farming. Davis did not comment on allegations from Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) like The Humane Society or PETA claiming birds are often armed with blades and hormones to better compete. He did, however, denounce their roles in persuading lawmakers.
“We don’t train them to fight; they’re naturally fighters. We want to ask our senators why they are allowing NGOs to tell them what to do,” Davis continued. “We’re tired of NGOs making rules for our lifestyle.”
Most of Davis’s concerns were aimed at Sen. Mitch McConnell and Commissioner James Comer due to their support for regulations concerning gamefowl. Davis reserved praise and support for Sen. Rand Paul.
“Senator Paul has defended all of our industries. He’s defended our culture,” he said. “He’s done everything to bring back traditional Christian and American family values. His being here with Mitch McConnell is politics only and it’s hurting his integrity.”
The visit from Paul, McConnell and Comer was meant to be nothing more than a “Meet and Greet” at Wildcat Harley Davidson with a primary focus on the economy. According to Josh Smith, a protester from Jackson County, the discussion is leaving out voices that need to be heard.
“If it’s illegal to have chickens, things are getting bad,” he said. “If things like this are allowed to happen, it’s going to affect the feed stores and more down the line. It’ll cost people jobs.”
Attempts were made to contact the offices of Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell for comment, but none were returned before press time Tuesday.