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Amazon.com: Now with 50% less cockfighting

The Gamecock pulled from the shelves

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The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is claiming partial victory in its legal battle to have cockfighting magazines The Gamecock and The Feathered Warrior removed from Amazon after the publisher of the former agreed to "ask Amazon.com to stop selling its publication online".

The HSUS filed suit against Amazon back in February 2007 citing the online sale of the two publications and DVDs Unleashed: The Realest Pitbull Action Caught on Tape and Hood Fights Vol. 2, The Art of the Pit, which "depict and promote cruel dogfighting and cockfighting events in violation of federal law" - specifically the Animal Welfare Act.

A HSUS statement elaborated: "Amazon.com is the sole retailer of subscriptions to the animal fighting magazines and the only outlet for animal fighters to obtain subscriptions over the internet. Similarly, Amazon.com is one of only three sellers of the dogfighting DVD and the easiest seller to locate on the web."

Amazon countered that it had a constitutional right under the First Amendment to sell the titles, and that their removal from the internet would constitute a form of censorship.

In June last year, the HSUS renewed its attack with an amendment to its original suit claiming that Amazon had also breached the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act, signed into law by President Bush on 3 May, and which imposed "felony-level penalties for activities promoting or encouraging animal fighting" and "made it a felony to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal fight, or to buy, sell or transport knives, gaffs and other weapons used in cockfighting", as AP puts it.

The additional pressure appears to have paid off, and on Monday The Gamecock publisher Marburger Publishing Co. agreed to withdraw from Amazon in a settlement filed in US District Court in Washington, DC.

According to a HSUS press release, the settlement "calls for major format changes to the magazine, including the elimination of all advertisements for fighting animals, knives, and other illegal paraphernalia". It adds: "The magazine will also be pulled from Amazon.com, and cannot return until The Gamecock demonstrates compliance with federal law for at least one year."

Attorney Ali Beydoun, representing Marburger, said his client had "agreed to settle with the Humane Society because it was a way to remove itself from the case", but insisted The Gamecock "does not promote cockfighting or violate a federal ban on the bloody sport".

He further described the publication as appealing to "chicken aficionados" and "focusing on animal care and stories about people who raise chickens and game birds".

Jonathan Lovvorn, the HSUS's vice president of animal protection litigation, said: “Amazon cannot seem to grasp that the First Amendment does not offer any defense for people who want to peddle contraband. Neither child pornographers nor dogfighters or cockfighters may use the First Amendment to protect their schemes to advertise and sell product that further these criminal and demonstrably harmful practices.”

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said yesterday the company was "reviewing the agreement and had no immediate comment". ®

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