by Will Espero

Cockfighting is a very controversial pastime in Hawaii with a long history in our state and foreign countries around the world.

In the Philippines, it is elevated to a national sport with supporters and participants vying for cash and prestige.

Many towns have cockpits where legal and illegal fights are held so breadwinners can feed their families from the winnings of this blood sport. Taxes are also collected making cockfighting a revenue generator for the government.

Many Filipinos in Hawaii are supporters of cockfighting due to its history and culture despite it being illegal here and in all 50 states.

The popular activity was brought to Hawaii by Filipinos who learned about it from the Spaniards who conquered the Philippines and spread their traditions throughout the islands.

Sadly, in my opinion, Filipinos and others continue the tradition of harming, maiming, and killing roosters for sport, pleasure, entertainment, and greed.

The recent shootings in Nanakuli that resulted in two adult deaths after a night of fighting have brought renewed attention to this brutal pastime. We know the roosters didn’t cause the deaths of the people involved.

The cockfighting itself didn’t cause the deaths. What did cause the deaths was the post-cockfighting environment one could suspect that lingers during these events.

Some believe these clandestine gambling events are also a magnet for illegal drugs, drinking, and black-market stolen items.

With these known facts, I feel the state legislature, county police, and federal law enforcement have done little to curtail this illegal activity.

A recent article in Civil Beat highlighted the fact the feds and the Honolulu Police Department once actively combated this criminal venture. However, the article stated in the past year, there have been no raids or arrests involving cockfights.

Hopefully, after the Waianae shootings, law enforcement will aggressively re-engage in this criminal activity.

Cockfighting is only a misdemeanor in Hawaii, and I believe it’s time for the Hawaii legislature to change the crime to a felony. There is a pro-cockfighting lobby in our state, and when talk of making cockfighting a felony comes up, there are those who will activate supporters to lobby to leave the law as is.

These folks may include breeders, sellers, fight organizers, and others who may benefit from the illegal fights like food vendors, security workers, and feed suppliers.

Why should Hawaii lawmakers increase the penalty to a felony for cockfighting? Imagine two MMA (mixed martial artists) fighting in a ring. Now imagine them both holding a ten-inch knife with a six-inch blade. They must fight to the death.

This is a grisly description that roosters are trained for and what they experience in the cockpit. Sharp steel blades are tied to their legs, and the birds must kill or be killed unless the owner throws in the towel or a rooster can no longer fight.

This is a barbaric, horrific way to die, and lawmakers must see and acknowledge that no animal must be subjected to this treatment in a civilized society. Dog fighting is a felony in all fifty states, and the same should be for cockfighting as well.

Hawaii lawmakers must not fear the pro-cockfighting advocates and must do what is inherently right.

I’m willing to guess illegal fireworks are also part of the cockfighting scene as small-time criminals look for a way to make a buck regardless of the consequences to neighborhoods, communities, and animals.

If any lawmaker is reading this article, I would like to request a poll of your constituents on this question of making cockfighting a felony or a misdemeanor. I have trust in humans and believe the majority would be supportive of making cockfighting a felony.

On another front, I am disturbed and disgusted by the treatment of transgender individuals by Republican legislators from several states on the continent. Their complete lack of compassion, understanding, empathy, and tolerance is unfortunate and out of touch with reality.

The sexuality and gender of some individuals can be a sensitive and touchy matter. Human beings have their differences and those in the minority should not be harassed and challenged by ignorant legislators abusing their power against marginalized people.

In Montana, state representative Zooey Zephyr was barred from speaking on the House floor because she expressed her first amendment right in support of gender-affirming healthcare and peaceful protests.

Montana Republicans didn’t like what she said and punished Zephyr for her words. The courts refused to intervene, citing the need for a separation of powers. Zephyr ended the session working and taking votes on her laptop in the hallway outside of session.

LGBTQ folks are productive members of our society who live in our neighborhoods, shop at the same stores, work with us, and participate in similar activities.

They live normal lives as well. In some circles, however, their identities are troubling and feared. Education is a must to help these folks.

People like Montana Republicans and others should be ashamed of their anti-LGBTQ ideas and policies. They bring negativity, pessimism, and antagonism to a world that needs more hope, love, and peace.

We need more tolerance on this earth and less divisiveness and hate being produced and supported by elected government officials.

Honolulu’s rail system will be operational by the end of June, and many are anxiously waiting for the opportunity to ride on a reliable consistent transportation system.

Most residents are not happy with the high cost of rail, but in five years, its value will be noticeable. When the full rail line is completed and working, I believe it will be used by many residents and tourists alike.

Communities like Kalihi, Waipahu, and Ewa with many Filipino residents will benefit from the billion-dollar investment. These beneficiaries will be workers, students, elderly, and others who won’t want to deal with the price of gasoline, parking fees, repair and maintenance bills, and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I expect the high-tech driverless rail system is easily a 100-year investment that will be useful to multiple generations.

If driverless cars become the norm one day, no one will ever need a driver’s license as technology will take over the responsibility of mobility for all.

Hopefully, our lawmakers will find a way to finish the rail system to Ala Moana Shopping Center and through the city of Kapolei. To save money, I feel an at-grade system should be discussed and debated.

If high-density apartments and condominiums are built near the rail stations, more affordable housing could be available for our residents. This may allow more families to live in Hawaii and not move away.

Finally, congratulations to 18-year-old Iam Tongi for recently becoming the American Idol and bringing pride and happiness to the 50th state.

Hawaii has many talented artists, and Iam’s win should focus a spotlight on local venues, stages, and concerts filled with talented singers, dancers, and musicians.

Culture and arts can play a huge role in Hawaii’s post-covid economy, and Iam’s big win is one we will not forget anytime soon.

With a global audience thanks to technology and the internet, Hawaii’s artists can compete in the international market and earn enough to offset the high cost of living in our state.

WILL ESPERO retired from the Hawaii legislature after serving 19 years in the state House of Representatives and State Senate. He is currently a novelist, poet, and supporter of the arts. Lingering Thoughts provides a glimpse of his perspective on current events and issues. 

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