The Animal Fighting Enforcement Act, SB285, was put up for a vote this morning in the Tennessee Senate, but it was rolled over until next week.
In discussions about the bill, which strengthens penalties for spectators at animal fights, Senator Frank Niceley of Knox County, a long-time opponent of punishing cockfighters, said the following: "I'm gonna vote against this bill, and I'm gonna tell you why ... it's out of respect for Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican party, who was fighting cocks on the White House lawn when he was accosted by an irate woman. He said, 'Ma'am, as long as the good lord allows civilized men created in his own image to fight wars and kill each other while the civilized world stands by and watches, it's not my place to deny the lowly chicken the same opportunity.' "
The Tennessee Humane Political Action Committe sent Niceley's remarks around in their email newsletter today.
It would seem though, according to Thomas F. Schwartz, curator of the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, that Niceley's information on Lincoln is incorrect. Schwartz sent a letter to the Humane Society of the United States that says, according to his research, Lincoln was never involved in cockfighting, and in fact, was a lover of animals. In Lincoln's autobiography, he wrote that he gave up hunting after shooting a turkey, and he was the first president to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving.
But Niceley knows people who attend cockfights, and he has previously stated that he doesn't think cockfighters are "bothering anybody." In 2011, he was quoted as saying: "They pay their taxes. They're not bothering anybody ... It's been going on for centuries; I don't know what the big deal is. ... They buy food, they stay in hotels, they buy gas."
The Tennessee Humane PAC is also focusing on the state's "ag-gag" bill, which would protect animal agriculture facilities from activists attempting to document animal abuse.