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5 Things To Know: North Carolina Named as a Top Cockfighting Exporter

...and four more stories from Jan. 10-16, 2021

North Carolina cockfighting
A lot of cockfighting begins in North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of AWA)

North Carolina Named as a Top Cockfighting Exporter

Two animal-rights organizations called on North Carolina’s three U.S. attorneys to launch an investigation into “a substantial network of individuals throughout the state” who may be reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales of fighting birds. According to Animal Wellness Action (AWA) and the Animal Wellness Foundation’s own investigation, North Carolina ranks fifth in volume of birds transported to Guam, a U.S. territory and hotbed of cockfighting.

According to a release sent out Thursday, there is no other explanation for this volume of bird transports given that Guam does not have a significant animal agriculture industry or a show-bird circuit.

“North Carolina is a hub of the cockfighting trade in the East, with key industry players illegally selling birds to Mexico, Guam, the Philippines, and other far-flung destinations for combat,” stated AWA president Wayne Pacelle in the release. “Cockfighters are knowingly violating federal laws that forbid these sales of fighting animals.”

Among those specifically named in the report is Kevin Reece of Widowcreek, a gamefowl farm in Ronda. Reece, a former town commissioner, allegedly shipped live birds for fighting through the U.S Postal Service in apparent violation of federal law. His price list, published online, includes several bloodlines for export for up to $2,000.

“I made some money exporting chickens … I do ship roosters to other parts of the world — yes … I would agree that I also fought roosters in the past — yes,” he said in a deposition related to a legal dispute with the mayor over a local ordinance to restrict private citizens from maintaining large flocks of roosters in 2014. 

There’s also Anthony Morton of LumbeeBoy Gamefarm, who shared interviews with online industry outlets called Journey to the Pit and Purebred Warrior on Facebook. He touted his birds as effective fighters. “My blueface bloodline is hard-hitting fowl,” he said. “My yellow-leg hatch is very smart and accurate cutters.” He boasts that he’s “sold fowl all over the US” and has “had a lot of interest out of Mexico” and that “the great Philippines has always been a popular area and I’ve been getting some great feedback from Vietnam.”

Cockfighting is a felony under North Carolina law. Penalties for each violation of the federal law against animal fighting allows for a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators. It is also a federal crime to knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in a fighting venture


County Issues New COVID-19 Directive

Museums around the county have begun shutting down following a three-week directive issued by Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) on Tuesday that calls on residents to limit travel to essential purposes only and stay inside between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. amid records highs in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Many other businesses have carried on as they did before the directive, which does not carry the weight of the law and mostly reinforces Gov. Cooper’s existing executive order. 

The county has reduced many of its in-person services to support the directive, mostly returning back to what was done during the county’s first stay-at-home order last March. The county will temporarily shut down all indoor services at parks, though the parks themselves will remain open. All recreation, senior and nature centers; the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center; indoor shelters; camping at McDowell Nature Preserve; and Grayson SkatePark at Naomi Drenan Recreation Center will be closed. A complete list of changes to county services can be found at the county website.

North Carolina cockfighting
A look at COVID-19 hospitalizations in Mecklenburg County. (Graph courtesy of MCPH)

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library (CML) has rolled back services to a modified Phase 1 stage, effective through Feb. 2. Customers will be able to pick up holds, mobile prints and quick pick-ups outside locations without entering library buildings. Check the CML website for the status of specific-library programs. 

According to the latest data from MCPH, released Friday morning, there had been 74,885 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 675 deaths due to the coronavirus at that time. That’s an increase of 6,023 cases and 69 deaths since the same time last week. According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through the week up to Wednesday, the average test-positivity rate was at 13.8%, a decrease compared to the previous two weeks, while the average number of people hospitalized on any given day was at 530, an upwards trend. 


North Carolina Updates Vaccination Groups

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) this week updated the groupings for its vaccination plan from subsets within phases to five simple groups, while decreasing the age for Group 2 from all people 75 years old and older to all people 65 years old and older. The groups are currently scheduled as follows: 

  • Group 1: Health-care workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities (actively vaccinating).
  • Group 2: Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation (actively vaccinating).
  • Group 3: Frontline essential workers. 
  • Group 4: Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.
  • Group 5: Everyone else. 
County health officials and heath-care providers have already begun vaccinating residents 65 years old and older. (Photo courtesy of Atrium Health)

Visit the county’s website for more details on each group and how to book an appointment. Supplies are currently limited, though some health-care providers are still booking vaccination appointments. Earlier this week, Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and the Charlotte Motor Speedway announced a unique public-private partnership with the state of North Carolina, backed by Gov. Roy Cooper, to support the goal of 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations by July 4 . They plan to do so by opening Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte Motor Speedway and other venues as vaccination sites. It’s unclear when these mass vaccinations sites will be ready. 


CMS To Extend Remote Learning

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted at an emergency meeting to keep all students in remote learning just days before middle- and high-school students were set to return to classrooms on Monday following winter break.

(AdobeStock)

The decision was made in part due to Tuesday’s directive from Mecklenburg County Public Health (above), which urged all businesses and schools to go mobile if possible. In the two weeks leading up to Thursday’s decision, 102 CMS schools reported at least one positive COVID-19 test, while at least 51 schools reported two cases or more. 

According to the new plan, pre-K, elementary, K-8, and students with disabilities will return to class on Feb. 15, while middle- and high-school students will return on Feb. 22. 


City of Raleigh Shuts Down for Inauguration

Following an insurrection by pro-Trump, right-wing extremists in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, the city of Raleigh announced on Friday that it will close all city offices on Wednesday, Jan. 20, due to the potential for unrest in state capitals and big cities around the country during the presidential inauguration that day. There have been rumors of right-wing protests in Raleigh beginning this weekend and running through Wednesday, though we are not currently aware of any planned for the Charlotte area. 


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