Best Friends Animal Society Online Forum
March 21, 2005http://www.bestfriends.org/archives/forums/032105cultures.html#two
Merritt Clifton, Editor
Question from Linda
: I’ve been reading all the info I can on the dog fighting underground in our country – including a stack of articles I got from HSUS’ west coast office – & am developing a plan of attack for our region. Though I have the assistance of HSUS’ regional office, this issuehas not really been dealt with in our neck of the woods, and the more I read, the the sadder &more repulsed I become.
Merritt Clifton response:
The HSUS literature will not really help you a fraction as much incombating dogfighting as it should. Neither will the literature or strategy of any other major mainstream humane society or animal control agency in the U.S., because all of it tends to tap-dance around the crux of the problem.One of the major reasons why the major organizations in animal protection tend to tap-dance around the problem is a deep and indeed deliberately cultivated misunderstanding of theethnic and racial issues involved.Most animal advocates who deal with dogfighting today tend to recognize it as a deadlyproblem in inner cities, associated with Afro-American and Hispanic drug gangs, as well as withwhite methadrine addicts in rural areas--but most of the people trying to stop dogfighting todaydon't know how it came to be where it is.Most are not clearly aware that as recently as 25 years ago dogfighting was virtuallyunknown in inner cities. Most U.S. animal control officers had rarely if ever seen pit bull terriers,or American Staffordshires or any of the many other terms used to describe what are essentially just color variants of the same breed of fighting dog.Dogfighting in most of the U.S. was an artifact of history. Historically, dogfighting had oncebeen practiced in waterfront neighborhoods around the country, brought from England along withthe dogs. Dogfighting thrived as a gambling pastime of sailors for more than 100 years, butbefore it spread far from the coasts and the Great Lakes, it was discouraged by the strict anti-gambling perspective of frontier Protestant religion, by the association of dogfighting with idlers,by the impracticality of transporting fighting dogs by wagon or train, and eventually by theaggressive opposition of the author Jack London.Allied with Massachusetts SPCA founder George Angell, his voice amplified by thehundreds of Jack London Clubs that Angell sponsored via the American Humane EducationSociety, Jack London between 1905 and his death in 1916 drove dogfighting out of therespectable sporting press. Dogfighting was soon banned by legislation in almost every statewhose legislature the Ku Klux Klan did not control.From then until the early 1980s, dogfighting was almost exclusively a fundraising activity of the Klan and Klan splinter groups, along with cockfighting and pigeon shoots. As recently as theearly 1930s, Klan chapters would openly advertise dogfights, cockfights, and pigeon shoots. Asovert racism became less and less respectable, along with cruelty to animals, the ads becamemore discreet.By the 1970s, as the Klan itself faded, the Klan connection was barely visible--unless youknew what to look for. By then, the Klan itself had largely morphed into motorcycle gangs andskinheads, and the younger generations of racists had fled to the west and Pacific Northwest,pursuing twisted dreams of building a white supremacist empire that would stretch from Utah toAlaska. Instead of moonshining, they cooked meth. Instead of bedsheets, they wore tattoos.But they took dogfighting with them. In Oakland, where the national headquarters of theHell's Angels and the Black Panthers were only blocks apart in the early 1970s, where I first