Game fowls in a cockfighting derby
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Cockfighting-the religious bloodsport

Cockfighting hit the news a few months ago for the wrong reasons. The shocking information of “An officer of the law meeting his death as he tried to break up a cockfight...” is not anything most of us can imagine. How can a cock kill an officer with a gun? Let us try to learn a few things about this bloodsport.

What is cockfighting?

Cockfighting is a traditional sport as old as the chicken’s domestication. It is a bloodsport because it involves shedding of blood or bleeding out of the combatants and sometimes even death of the bird that lost in the sport.

The bloodsport is said to be a gateway for those seeking pride and high social status in the community. As time has passed, the game that was first officially played in 1634 has since become a billion-dollar enterprise. Some bigwigs of this game include farm owners who breed the game birds, the feeding companies, and the betting companies.

The traditional religious bloodsport

The sport is popular and hailed among some South East Asia like the Balinese. To them, the use of bloodshed by the losing fowl for Tabuh rah ceremony can appease the evil spirits and hence cast out infertility. In the ceremony, cockfighting happens in the temple.

The game-birds used in cockfighting

As you may well know, roosters are naturally violent. Those who rare chicken may tell you tales of endless fights whenever you place two or more cocks under the same roof. Mostly, roosters will fight to mark boundaries since they are territorial birds. Like any other animal, cocks may also engage violently as a natural instinct to protect their chicken coop and keep away predators.

Enthusiasts of this game rear special breeds of chicken, mostly the Gallus gallus just for the sabong (cockfighting). Individuals and farms bring up the game fowls under special conditions and training such that they have more body strength and stamina in readiness for the sport.

The cockfighting derby

The game starts with the gaffer attaching the metal spurs or knives to the cock’s left leg. They later escort the bird to the cockpit, which a special ring for this game. Before they release the gamecocks to compete, a Koyme or Sentensyador (a referee) must be present to give the final verdict.

Crowds cheering while others curse as the game’s odds go against them.  For others, business is booming with all the tickets selling out, hawking, and gambling. Gamblers sweat and crunch from the heating matches; they fear losing their bets.

Where in the globe will you find cock-fighting sport?

Like dogfighting, badger baiting, hunting among other blood sports, cockfighting is still alive and celebrated almost as much as the FIFA world cup or the world Olympics championship. In fact, this ancient billion-dollar blood sport is still alive in some countries, having been hallowed for sentimental cultural and religious purposes. 

Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines, Madagascar, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. In these countries, you will get cocks been bred and engaging in highly contestable games similar to the Olympics. In a cock-fighting “Olympic” the best international cock breeds contest for the World Slasher Cup that may be held for up to 5 days with cocks participating in different derbies.  

Are the fights helpful at all, though?

  1. Rooster fighting is a country’s economy booster
    • Does cockfighting boost the economy and or living standards in any way? As bad as cockfighting sounds, it does improve the economy where gambling is done through legalized companies that governments can tax and gain revenue. Cockfighting also helps improve the economy when these companies support development projects in their countries.
  2. If you got no other means to survive- cockfighting may help
    • People who engage in gambling or betting, especially in developing countries, are desperate, looking for ways to earn quick money for their basic survival.
  3. Cockfighting has seen an improvement in poultry farming and research
    • Cockfighting has resulted in increased agricultural research that has improved poultry farming to produce stronger and tougher fighter breeds that can be crossbred to produce improved poultry.

Illegality of cockfighting

A majority of countries around the globe have on the other hand put up a ban on the practice terming it as an act of violence towards animals. The laws against this act of violence are not global; thus, they vary according to state, country, or region.

In Americas, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia; cockfighting is a first-offense charge based on a misdemeanor. In this case, courts in California can decide whether subsequent offenses are felonies.

In Louisiana and New Mexico, it will be prosecutable as a second or third offense as felonies. 

Why is cockfighting- “a billion-dollar empire” infamous?

There are many reasons why most of the countries rather ban than preserve this traditional sport. However, two main reasons take the lead in this:

  • Cockfighting is an insult to international laws against abuse of animals.

Those who keep the fighting birds take advantage of the bird’s territorial and violent nature. The training itself is brutal; they may scrape the skin on the comb and under the wattles. They will do this to toughen the gamecocks against their rival, who might try pecking these parts to hurt them in the duel.

To add to the inn sores, Cockfights only ends in one way: the winning bird mutilates the losing bird. This may go beyond just physical trauma and may cause the death of the bird.

  • Cockpits used for cockfighting are a hotbed for illegal dealings.

Gambling, drug dealings, murder, gang activities, and weapons dealings are common in these cockpits where they are done in public in illegal dens or underground in legal events. Whether it is a perception or reality, earlier this year, cockfighting got attention when a cock killed an officer during a cockfight raid.

Gambling is also a common activity where people place bets for or against a rooster and its opponent. Gambling has also been banned in some countries, and it encourages negative consequences.