EDINBURG — Cockfighting for medical research? “Yeah, right,” Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said.
Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies responded to a warehouse Saturday in the 300 block of East Owassa Road, where they found a cockfight with about 100 spectators, Treviño said Tuesday.
The operators told deputies that the cockfight was being conducted for medical purposes, Treviño said.
“Who in the world would ever think of something like that?” he said.
That excuse apparently came from someone who read Texas Penal Code, Section 42.105, Part (e).
That part of the law says that a cockfight is defensible against prosecution if conducted “in bona fide experimentation for scientific research,” although it’s not clear what Saturday’s supposed experiment may have been.
“These idiots probably saw it and say, ‘Hey, we could do this (as) medical researchers,’” the sheriff said. “See how far that is going to go.”
Not that far.
Deputies have five people in custody, including the landowner and renter along with other organizers who are expected to face state jail felony charges in the case, Treviño said. Investigators hope to have the case ready for an arraignment Wednesday, he said.
Deputies seized “the usual equipment used in illegal cockfights,” a news release said, along with 21 bird carcasses and 78 line game cocks that went to an animal shelter.
The 54 people attending the fight who deputies managed to corral received Class C misdemeanor citations, the same level of offense as a speeding ticket. But because no undercover deputies attended, no one will be charged with illegal gambling, Treviño said.
Cockfighting remains popular in Mexico, where thousands of spectators at times crowd into palenques to watch and bet on the spectacle.
“It’s a cultural thing that has transcended into our area, but cockfighting is not unique to South Texas,” the sheriff said. “You’ll find cockfighting rings all over the United States, just the same way you’ll find dogfighting rings.”
Unlike south of the Rio Grande, however, cockfighting — and dogfighting, for that matter — is illegal in most U.S. jurisdictions. And to be clear, deputies haven’t found anything that shows the birds’ fight to the death supported any type of research, the sheriff said.
“That is the first time ever in my life ... that I have ever, ever heard that, even though I think I have seen it,” Treviño said. “You’ve got over 100 people sitting in the stands looking at an experiment? You know, come on.
“And charge them at the gate? Yeah, right.”