Congress passed the Agriculture Law on Wednesday to ban cockfighting, citing animal cruelty and dismissing the protests of opposing lobbyists who argued the catastrophic economic effects of the bill.
A Puerto Rican resident and owner of a Bayamon ring, Angel Ortiz, 86, said, “We are going crazy. Everyone is desperate. There are a lot of people who live off the sport of roosters."
The industry has grown since the early 1770’s when it was known as a “gentleman’s sport” before being officially recognized in 1993. Cockfighting generates around US$18 million annually and employees some 27,000 people, a boon in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Despite his best efforts to stop the bill, Puerto Rican governor, Ricardo Rossello arrived too late to Washington, but said he will spend the next year searching for an amendment that will exclude Puerto Rico from the mandate.
“The process to implement (the ban) is one year, which allows us to continue talking to mitigate the impact. This is the current situation and the consequences of not having political power,” said Rossello, who also plans to address other issues such as emergency federal aid which is sorely needed since the hurricane.
Outgoing Congressman Illinois Luis Gutierrez remarked, “It is the empire saying 'we are going to impose this without your consent.'”
Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon, a non-voting member of the Chamber, said, “We will do more harm than good...I invite any member who wants to come to Puerto Rico and see how the cockfighting industry is regulated."
Banning cockfighting will only accelerate the emergence of a black market, Gonzalez said, adding that she plans to introduce a legislation to reverse the decision early next year.
“They're going to turn cockfighting, a gentleman's sport, into a clandestine industry. I have been (in galleras). I know many of the breeders. The roosters will continue to fight, " she said.