(AP) Dogslunch, Texas -- Authorities arrested several members of a secret cockslapping ring in this rural Texas community near New Braunsfels last night. The ring was discovered operating in the back of Helmut's Biergarten, a popular local restaurant and brewery off Highway 32.

"Some of these birds, they're a real sad sight," said local trooper Cletus McMann, who participated in the bust. "They ain't got much brains to begin with, and slappin' 'em around like that just makes 'em permanently dizzy. And some of 'em have lost a lot of feathers. Ain't nothin' more pathetic than a bunch of half-naked roosters staggering into fenceposts and trees."

Deputy Aiken Johnson agreed that the birds were in poor condition. "I never saw anything like this when I was a cop in Santa Barbara. These are some seriously messed-up birds. These German dudes have been making them drink beer all the time, so they're wasted on top of having the (expletive deleted) slapped out of them. It ain't right, dude."

The members of the ring have been charged with animal cruelty. At least thirty birds were impounded.

After his release on bail, cock ring member Gunther Schmidt told reporters that he believes his group's activities are protected religious expression.

"We are members of the Vogel Church of Thuringia," Schmidt said. "We should not have been arrested. The rooster, he is the symbol of the rising dawn. We must slap him hard to make sure that winter is dispelled. It is like slapping the baby to make sure he takes a good deep first breath. Then, when we are done slapping the cocks, we strangle them and feast on paté made from their beer-fattened livers to celebrate the new season."

Smoothing his lederhosen, Schmidt demonstrated his cockslapping technique with the aid of an empty pint bottle of Helmut's Best Bock.

"You must strike the cock across the beak, in a strong, manly way," he said, whacking the beer bottle. "In this way do you show winter you mean business! Wer ist Ihren Vati? We are the daddies! And we say we want spring!"

Biergarten owner Helmut Kneller, who was also arrested in the bust, refused comment to reporters.

The arrested men's trial is scheduled for April 1st.