By Sam Youngman
The lobbying arm of the Humane Society of the U.S. and two other animal-protection groups called Thursday for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin to withdraw from the race, citing his attendance this weekend at a pro-cockfighting rally.
“Matt Bevin showed appalling judgment in associating himself with this band of lawbreakers and perpetrators of unspeakable animal cruelty,” Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, wrote Thursday in a blog post. “He’s brought discredit upon the state of Kentucky, and he should withdraw from the Senate race.”
Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, told The News Journal in Corbin that he didn’t know he was addressing a pro-cockfighting rally last Saturday when about 700 people gathered at the event that was organized by Michael Devereaux, director of the Gamefowl Defense Network.
Bevin told The News Journal that he thought the event was a rally for states’ rights. “I was the first person to speak and then I left,” he told the newspaper.
However, organizers told the paper there was “never any ambiguity” about the purpose of the event, which was to rally support for changing laws that outlaw cockfighting.
In his blog post, Markarian said “it’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally stumbling into a cockfighting meet-up.”
“Bevin’s claims about not knowing ring hollow, as he is now parroting the language of anyone who defends animal cruelty but masks their true intent by speaking of ‘states’ rights’,” he wrote.
Ads for the event, which Markarian included in his blog post, are labeled in large type as a “call to action” for “cockfighters.”
A message to Bevin spokeswoman Rachel Semmel seeking comment was not returned Thursday. On Wednesday, Semmel said “Matt doesn’t believe this is a federal issue, and the state government can handle it.”
Groups that support cockfighting were furious when McConnell voted in favor of the federal farm bill in February because it included a provision that criminalized being a spectator at animal fights.
Supporters of the controversial practice, in which two roosters often fight to the death, have said they want the sport to be legalized and regulated by the state.