HARRISBURG––Neither the slave-owning South, shot-wounded pigeons, nor the practice of pigeon shooting in civilized societies are ever likely to rise again, but the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee on June 26, 2014 ratified the promotion of Berks County attorney Adolph Joseph Antanavage to a Court of Common Pleas judgeship, even though Showing Animals Respect & Kindness videotaped Antanavage shooting pigeons in 2012 at the Wing Pointe gun club in front of a battle-sized Confederate flag. Whose flag it was and why it was there is unknown.
Ironically, and more promisingly, also on June 26, 2014 the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee approved by a 10-4 vote an amendment to a bill to prohibit killing dogs and cats for human consumption which would––if passed by the whole state legislature––prohibit using dogs, cats, and pigeons as shooting targets.
“State senator Richard Alloway made an eloquent speech about the amendment and how its purpose is to simply stop animal cruelty, not take away anyone’s Second Amendment rights as the National Rifle Association claims,” said SHARK investigator Mike Kobliska, who attended the Judiciary Committee hearing. “ As someone who has seen the violence first hand,” Kobliska added, “it was gratifying to see the support the legislation had in the committee.”
The Judiciary Committee vote also won praise from Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle, who recalled that his earliest animal advocacy campaigns included leading protests at the annual Labor Day pigeon shoots held from 1935 to 1999 in Hegins, Pennsylvania. The same protests marked the debut in animal advocacy of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness. SHARK founder Steve Hindi was a hunter until he saw the 1991 Hegins shoot, was appalled, rethought the whole notion of recreationally killing animals, and within a year became a vegan as well.
“Now the NRA is attempting to use its lobbying muscle to prevent consideration of this bill on the Senate floor, threatening lawmakers with retribution should they support it,” Pacelle blogged, calling pigeon shoots “a spectacle that cannot be called hunting because there is no licensing, no hunting season, no bag limits, and no consumption of the animals shot.”
Robed members of the Ku Klux Klan came to support the 1992 Hegins pigeon shoot, in keeping with a century-long tradition of the KKK hosting pigeon shoots, cockfights, and dogfights under the auspices of the “fraternal lodges” that were the socially acceptable covers for KKK chapters and splinter groups.
In that light, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness president Hindi deemed Antanavage’s judicial appointment worthy of protest, even if the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee had also just advanced an anti-pigeon shooting measure.
“The last time the Confederate flag waved this proudly in Pennsylvania was in 1863, when it was at the front of an invading army that not only killed Pennsylvanians, but engaged in slave hunts, where free African Americans were captured by the Confederate army and enslaved,” recalled Hindi. “Adolph Antanavage commits horrific acts of animal cruelty at a private club where they proudly fly a giant symbol of bias, prejudice and hatred. How can such an individual be a judge? SHARK is informing a few organizations about Judge Antanavage’s history, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Reading Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Berks County Public Defender’s Office.
“SHARK is calling for Antanavage to resign,” Hindi continued. “We are also planning protests outside the Berks County Courthouse to inform the public about this issue.” Hindi noted that “Antanavage was nominated to be a judge by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. This raises questions about Corbett’s judgement, since the video of Adolph Antanavage shooting pigeons in front of the Confederate flag has been on YouTube since March of 2013.”
Echoes of Old South attitudes toward so-called blood sports surfaced earlier in 2014 when Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin spoke at a rally hosted by the American Gamefowl Defense Network supporters at the Corbin Arena in Henry County, Kentucky. About 700 cockfighting enthusiasts attended.
Bevin was running unsuccessfully against U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, a former dog court judge in Louisville. McConnell, who won a landslide primary victory over Bevin on May 20, 2014, had infuriated cockfighters by endorsing a provision of the 2014 Farm Bill which made attending a cockfight or dogfight a federal offense. Convicted violators may now be sentenced to serve a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000. Taking a minor to an animal fight may bring up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
“This will destroy Mitch McConnell in Kentucky,” erroneously predicted United Gamefowl Breeders Association president Craig Davis.
Bevin’s itinerary listed the event as a “states rights rally,” wrote Dean Manning and Trent Knuckles of the Corbin News Journal, “but event organizers say the sole purpose was to build support to legalize cockfighting in Kentucky. Bevin said it was his understanding that the gathering was focused on ‘state’s rights’ and the concern by Kentucky citizens that the federal government has become overreaching,” Manning and Knuckles continued. But American Gamefowl Defense Network director David Devereaux told Manning and Knuckles, they wrote, that “There was never any ambiguity about why they were meeting.”
“Only Matt Bevin would go to a cockfighting rally and claim he didn’t know what they were doing there,” said McConnell campaign spokesperson Allison Moore.
Associations of blood sports with politicians also emerged from charges filed on May 5, 2014 against Walter Dale Stumbo, 51, Sonya Stumbo, 51, and Joshua Stumbo, 25, who allegedly hosted cockfights at the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky.
Kentucky state house speaker Greg Stumbo acknowledged that the arrestees were “distant cousins.”
“The three other Stumbos have allegedly alluded to having Greg Stumbo’s support to legalize cockfighting, though he denies this,” reported Phillip M. Bailey and Jonathan Meador of WFPL radio in Louisville. “Federal authorities also allege in the affidavit [detailing the charges] that people at the center of the cockfighting ring believed likely Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes was a silent supporter of their legalization effort.
“Greg Stumbo said he had spoken with Walter Dale Stumbo’s brother about the federal farm bill, and stressed that it would make cockfighting a felony and that he couldn’t do anything about it,” Bailey and Meador continued. “Four years ago, however, Greg Stumbo said he did not believe cockfighting should be illegal. It didn’t compare to dog fighting, he said, because people ‘don’t eat a dog in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.’ Greg Stumbo told WFPL he hasn’t attended [a cockfight] in about 35 years,” Bailey and Meador continued. “He added that he was surprised to read about the allegations of drugs and the Kentucky ring’s connections with Mexican drug gangs.”
“As an elected official, I have not and would not participate in any way form or fashion an activity that is criminal in nature,” Stumbo told Bailey and Meador.