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Image:Jean leon gerome combat de coqs.jpg Image:Cockfighting dsc01729.jpg A cockfight is a contest held in a ring called a cockpit between two gamecocks. Gamecocks are not typical farm chickens. The roosters are specially bred and trained for increased stamina and strength. The comb and wattle is cut off of a young gamecock because if left intact, it would be a disadvantage during a match. Sometimes they are given drugs to increase their stamina or thicken their blood, which increases their chances of winning. They possess an inherent aggression toward all males of the same species, but have to be trained to fight as they do. Cockfighting is considered a traditional sporting event by some, and an example of animal cruelty by others. Usually wagers are made on the outcome of the match, with the surviving or last-bird-standing being declared the winner.

In some regional variations, the birds are equipped with either gaffs or knives tied to the leg in the area where the bird's natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range in length from "short spurs" of just over an inch to "long spurs" almost two and one half inches long. In the highest levels of seventeenth century English cockfighting, the spikes could be made of silver. In other variations, the bird's natural spurs are left intact. Fighting done without gaffs or taping is called "naked heel" and can continue for many hours.


Legal Issues

Image:Cockfight1.jpgIn many places, animal fights have been specifically outlawed, based on opposition to gambling, opposition to cruelty to animals, or both. However, Cockfights are still considered legal and part of a nation's culture in many countries in the world.

Belgium, France, Mexico, Spain, Haiti, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Peru, and Guam have well-established arenas with seats or bleachers for spectators surrounding the ring, which is similar to a wrestling or boxing arena. Fights may be held all throughout the day, with people betting on which birds will win. In several of these places, cockfights are as popular as baseball and football are in the United States. Among the competitors who raise fighting cocks, there is great pride in the prowess of their birds and the motivation of winning a championship. In many countries, the spectacle of cockfighting draws whole familes as spectators; there are those who object to children being exposed to what they consider "cruelty" at a young age. [1]


Holding cock fights is a crime in France, but there is an exemption for cockfights and bullfights in locales where an uninterrupted tradition exists for them. On Réunion Island there are 5 officially authorized gallodromes (i.e. cockfighting arenas), and numerous illegal ones.

United States

In the United States cockfighting is illegal in Washington, D.C. and all but two states: New Mexico and Louisiana. It is legal in the U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and Guam. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have made cockfighting a felony and, as such, it is also illegal to possess roosters for fighting in these states. It is illegal in 40 states and D.C. to be a spectator at cockfights. On the Federal level, the Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal to engage in interstate transportation of cocks with the intent to fight. Activists continue to lobby for a ban on the sport.

Image:Cockfight2.jpgDespite the efforts of animal rights groups and law enforcement, cockfighting continues to thrive. Gambling is ever-present during cockfights, and many thousands of dollars can change hands during even the smallest, secret event (Staged often in orchards or on small private farms). For the most part, the U.S. Federal Government frowns on the sport not due to the animal rights issues, but due to the violence linked to the sport, as well as the inability to monitor and collect income taxes on the gambling. The betting is not institutionalized as in a casino, but is instead done through personal agreements made between random spectators.

Violence is a major legal issue. Cockfights are sometimes linked to gangs and thus are venues for illegal drug use and firearms. Drug Enforcement Agents sometimes learn about cockfights only through narcotics investigations. Thousands of dollars change hands between fights, resulting in tense and potentially violent situations.

Cockfighting was so popular at one time that in 1974 producer Roger Corman made a movie called Cockfighter.

Animal Cruelty Issues

Proponents of cockfighting generally insist that though there are some individuals who mistreat their gamecocks and turn the sport into a cruel one, many others do not. They believe cockfighting, and particularly breeding gamecocks, to be noble and exciting.

Not everyone feels this way, however. Those against cockfighting maintain that cockfighting is a perversion of the natural behavior exhibited by roosters in the wild, and that breeding the birds for maximum aggression is cruel and unnecessary.

Roosters will naturally fight over food, territory, or mates, but the fights exist generally only to establish dominance within a group (the pecking order) and rarely result in serious injury. The only time that a rooster will fight to the death is when protecting his flock from a predator. This natural behavior, so important to the success of a flock, is very different from what happens in staged cockfights. [2] Pairs of birds, bred to be as aggressive as possible and sometimes given steroids or other drugs (such as caffeine, strychnine, epinephrine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines), are placed together and forced to fight until a winner is declared. Often, the loser is killed.

Fighting birds are isolated unless in the arena, preventing them from learning and recognizing the natural signals that chickens normally display in tense situations and when attempting to keep the peace within or between flocks. Their only interaction with other birds occurs when they are trained to attack them. Roosters are trained to view their opponents as potentially deadly predators, and they react as such when placed in a fighting arena, where they are usually forced to fight until they can do so no more. [3]

A total ban on cockfighting could result in several breeds of game stock becoming extinct. Modern Game, usually with the "gameness" bred out, and Old English bantam (amongst the smallest of the chicken breeds) are notable and very popular show bench examples. A more important example is the Cornish (developed from the Aseel pit game breed) which forms the basis for the fryer/broiler industry.

Recent Events

Major Arrest

On June 11, 2005 a number of law enforcement agents raided a cockfight in Newport, Tennessee - about 40 miles east of Knoxville. Authorities said that this was one of the largest cockfights in the United States. The agents - which were comprised of people from several agencies - arrested 144 people, destroyed over 300 roosters, and confiscated $40,000 in cash. One owner stated he lost 20 chickens valued at $150 each during the raid.

The 144 people arrested were booked on charges of being spectators at a cockfight. Tennessee is one of the states that considers the act of watching a cockfight to be a misdemeanor. Anyone found guilty of those charges faces up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, plus fines up to $2,500. [4]

Developments in Rehabilitation

For a long time, it was believed that fighting cocks could not be retrained to live peacefully. When they saw other birds, they panicked and attacked. As a result, the birds seized from illegal cockfighting rings in the past have been euthanized. Recently, though, a small sanctuary (Eastern Shore Sanctuary in Maryland) has begun to rehabilitate them successfully. :"They seemed relieved to be soothed by us and then put into a safe place where they could see and meet, but not attack or be attacked by, the other birds. They responded so well to our behavioral program of gradual introduction to the flock punctuated by time-outs for aggressive behavior that they were able to be on their own among the other birds within three weeks rather than the three months we had predicted." [5] In this sanctuary, they learn the rules of the flock, form relationships, and begin to display the natural aggressiveness that establishes the socially necessary pecking order. [6]

Cockfighting in Culture

See also


External links

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