Animal rights group hits Guam's new animal shipping standard
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
A U.S.-based animal rights group said the Guam Department of Agriculture's new animal import standards are so “hollow and totally inadequate" that they will accommodate illegal shipments of fighting birds onto the island, subverting federal laws against cockfighting.
Animal Wellness Action or AWA said the department's new standards, announced on April 21, "will deliver no practical changes to live-animal imports."
AWA believed the GDOA’s announcement was in reponse to the group's call to halt shipments of adult fighting birds to the island.
An ongoing review of live-animal shipping records by AWA revealed that cockfighters sent more than 11,500 fighting birds to Guam over the last five years.
"As an additional measure of the agency’s lack of resolve in addressing illegal cockfighting, the GDOA has failed to take any meaningful disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer with the agency featured in two videos that placed him at the center of an illegal cockfighting pit," AWA said.
The group was referring to a commodity inspector who works at the department. AWA released the first video more than three months ago showing the officer pitting a bird at a cockfight.
“Senior leaders and all law enforcement officers of the Guam Department of Agriculture swear an oath to 'faithfully support the Constitution of the United States…and the laws of the United States applicable to Guam,’ but that oath is not being honored when it comes to enforcement of our federal anti-cruelty laws,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of AWA.
“Agency leaders and personnel are enabling cockfighting by clearing for entry thousands of birds that get hacked up in fighting pits on the island.” Four federal courts have ruled that the U.S. has the authority to ban animal fighting everywhere in the country.
In addition to recommending the termination of the law enforcement officer who participated in illegal cockfighting, AWA demanded that GDOA screen imports of adult male birds and cooperate with U.S. authorities to forbid illegal transports of fighting birds.
These birds come through the U.S. Postal Service to Guam, with Oklahoma, California, Hawaii, Alabama, and North Carolina cockfighters constituting the top five shippers to Guam in the last five years.
Guam has no commercial poultry industry and no show-bird industry, so the movement of thousands of birds from breed types used for cockfighting amounts to illegal contraband under federal law.
“The new import standards are hollow and won’t change a thing when it comes to the movement of fighting birds to Guam,” Pacelle said. “These rules need to be scrapped and rewritten.”
The agency has temporarily banned imports because of a national outbreak of avian influenza, but that ban is an emergency decree and will be lifted once the avian influenza outbreak recedes.