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Congress to Vote on Cockfighting in U.S. Territories; Ignore Voting Rights

St. Thomas — Congress is set to vote on a landmark “Farm Bill” that has set the stage for the official ban of cockfighting in all five of the U.S. territories.

The measure has gained the support of the Humane Society but has been opposed by all five non-voting territorial representatives in Congress.

U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress, Stacey Plaskett has spoken out about her colleagues silence on voting rights, in favor of animal rights. Throughout the year, the Congresswoman has criticized her colleagues for seeking to demonize U.S. territories rather than expanding medicare coverage, voting rights, and most recently, access to disaster relief from catastrophic tropical cyclones to over 4 million American citizens.

Since 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa have been affected by catastrophic tropical cyclones. Last September, the U.S. Virgin Islands was slammed by two unusual category 5 cyclones, in under two weeks.

This means that in under a year, all five U.S. territories have been affected by major tropical cyclones that became deadly. With Puerto Rico losing nearly 3,000 residents in the months following Hurricane Maria’s landfall, a claim President Trump has refuted.

Reports have detailed how disaster response has better supported states and turned a blind eye to the plight of U.S. territories, all of which are isolated in the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Ocean. FEMA has also admitted its response was not enough.

The bill did not include a clause banning cockfighing once it was passed by the House of Representatives. However, the clause was added by members of the Senate, and fast tracked.

The Farm Bill’s inclusion of a cockfighting ban comes at a time when residents in the territories have raised frustration with national coverage after natural disasters. It seems now that the nation is paying attention to animal rights in the territories, disenfranchised by disproportionate federal programs and barred from accessing basic American rights.

Cockfighing, in many aspects is barbaric. But many residents — including representatives from all five U.S. territories — have pointed out that Congress is prioritizing animal rights in the territories over basic human rights, like voting in Presidential Elections.

Plaskett said that in her second term she will remain on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She also spoke of proposing a new congressional committee to deal with issues unique to U.S. territories, which she said have “structural economic impediments, as well as deep social challenges” as a result of being “America’s failed experiment with colonialism.”

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt the biggest blow to voting rights earlier this year, refusing to review a case on voting rights in the territories that are home to over 4 million American citizens. CNN has called it, a “giant step backward on voting rights.”