Cockfighting—a blood sport in which roosters are placed in a ring and forced to fight to the death for the “amusement” of onlookers—is illegal throughout the United States.
Forced to Fight or Die
Roosters are born, raised, and trained to fight on “game farms.” Breeders (also called “cockers”) kill the birds they deem inferior, keeping only the birds who are “game”—willing to fight. Many of these birds spend most of their lives tethered by one leg near inadequate shelter, such as a plastic barrel or a small wire cage. Breeders “condition” the birds to fight through physical work, including attaching weights to roosters’ legs, and “practice fights” with other roosters.
Breeders often pluck the birds’ feathers and hack off the roosters’ waddles and/or combs (the flesh at the top of their heads and under their beaks) with shears to prevent other roosters from tearing them off in the ring. Since roosters do not have sweat glands, losing these body parts deprives them of the ability to cool themselves. Some “cockers” cut off the birds’ spurs, which are the natural bony protrusions on the legs, so that more deadly, artificial weapons can be strapped to their legs.
What Happens at Cockfights
Cockfights are usually held in round or square enclosures called “cockpits,” or simply, “pits.” According to one eyewitness, “With neck feathers fanned and wings whirring, the birds jump and parry at each other. They kick and duel in mid-air, striking at each other with feet and beak.”
If the fighting wanes, handlers pick up the birds and blow on their backs, yank at their beaks, or hold them beak-to-beak in an attempt to “reignite the frenzy.” The birds are then re-pitted, and the fight doesn’t end until one rooster is dead or nearly dead. “Losing” birds are often discarded in a barrel or trash can near the game pit, even while they are still alive.
The Criminal Connection
In addition to cruelty to animals, cockfighting is often linked to other crimes, such as illegal gambling, drug use or selling, and even murder—a triple homicide occurred at a Northern California cockfight. Children are often present at cockfights; exposure to such violence can promote insensitivity to suffering and an enthusiasm for bloodshed.
At least eight cases of bird flu have been tied to cockfighting, as has a 2002 exotic Newcastle disease epidemic in California. Bird owners regularly come into contact with the birds’ blood, allowing diseases to spread. The Washington Post reported that at one cockfight, “[bird] owners scrubbed the blood off their birds with bare hands … then … stitched the wounds around their eyes,” and “sometimes … the injuries are so severe that owners relieve the swelling by sucking out the blood by mouth.”
What You Can Do
If you suspect that this illegal activity is happening in your neighborhood, contact local law enforcement authorities.