Animal Studies Bibliography

Hawley, F. Frederick. 1989. Cockfight in the cotton: A moral crusade in microcosm. Contemporary Crises 13: 129-144.

Louisiana is one of the few states in which cockfighting is still legal. The sport, however, has been the target of a moral crusade by both animal rights activists and New South boosters concerned about the state's image. Such a crusade uses assimilative or coercive measures. In assimilative reform, the deviants are encouraged to raise themselves up and join mainstream values. In coercive reform, the situation in this case, the deviants are considered too threatening to the mainstream worldview (because the deviants do not recognize the crusading group's status) and therefore cannot be assimilated, only controlled. A similar pattern of urban people trying to bring rural people into line has been described with regard to fights over guns. Thus the object of reform is subject to denunciation, distortion of views and lifestyles, misleading and sensationalistic media myth making, and academic, intellectual, and popular stigmatization (131). This sort of effort makes cockers into a pariah group, with an archaic worldview that threatens progress. These two ideologies, pro- and anti-cockfighting, once dichotomized, develop in several ways. Polarization (making it necessary to view opponents as totally evil), distortion of the opposition (making the other's views seem as foolish and indefensible as possible), catastrophism (a scare tactic--claiming that drastic problems will occur if your side is not chosen, reverse projection (you must agree with the group on all issues or you are the enemy), ideologized selectivity (one-issue interest), and informational constriction (viewing all new information as threatening, ignoring reasoned discourse, and culling only useful aspects from informational sources) are all characteristics of such a moral crusade. These traits are all in evidence in the erroneous fact sheets distributed by the Humane Society (HSUS) and the extremely biased media coverage, both of which, among other things, portray cockers as dangerous (into gambling, guns, drugs, and general violence). The media is used by elites leading the moral crusade, and though cockers are smart enough not to allow media coverage of their events, recognizing that the coverage will be negative no matter what they do, the consciousness-raising efforts continue. Media coverage creates myths that explain the problem and justify how it is to be resolved. Groups like cockers who undergo such stigmatization may have several responses. Some may stop their participation (an action many took in places where penalties were increased from misdemeanor to felony). They may either accept the views of the moral crusaders, or they may keep their old beliefs but simply not act on them any longer. Alternatively, they may continue their participation. While among some stigmatized groups, like gun owners, public expressions of the activity may continue, cockers usually keep the activity secret. They also create voluntary organizations with both instrumental (moral entrepreneurial--trying to give status back to their degraded pastime, including through lobbying, etc.) and expressive (encouraging fellowship around the bad behavior). The organizations are usually alienative rather than conformative (i.e. their beliefs do not mesh with those of the wider society). Because their activity is so out-of-step with most Americans' beliefs, it is likely that the sport will not remain legal for much longer. The voluntary groups may be legitimate fronts, fraternal organizations, or PACs, and cockfighting has all three types, locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as several magazines. Cockfighters' ideology develops by stages along with the stigmatization process. Early in the process, they see the elites' criticisms as amusing. They progress to strident defensiveness and attempts to fight the proposed changes. Once the practice becomes totally stigmatized, they go underground and develop boundary maintenance cues and devices. These devices include individualism (opposition to external controls and authority), authoritarianism (professing belief in following rules/laws even though in this activity they flout them daily), vitalism (strong sense of connection to ancestors and past ways, and celebration of those ties), symbolism (most notably, the cock itself representing masculinity, gameness, and sexual prowess), rationalization (see Hawley 1993 review; can be generically described as reaffirmation of group (higher) loyalty, condemnation of the condemnor, denial of injurious conduct, and denial of victim), and proselytism (people are usually recruited from participating families, and the biggest new group is young, rural, lower-middle-class males). Cockers' participation in these normal organizations (paying dues, etc.) helps to give legitimacy to people engaged in a deviant practice as well as increasing their anger at their persecution. Social scientists have not given enough attention to deviant groups they find unsympathetic, such as cockers, and this hole should be remedied, particularly because these groups offer critiques of dominant ideologies. Studying pariah groups is difficult for researchers. Although the deviant groups themselves often accept researchers since they have nothing to lose and hope an objective study will earn them a better reputation, the moral crusaders and the politicians and elites involved on the other side of the dynamic are generally suspicious of academics and refuse to participate. Researchers should try to get around this barrier in creative ways, but a tendency toward the perspective of the deviant group may be inevitable because of the others' reluctance.



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