Legality of Cockfighting in Cuba

Cockfighting is a blood sport that involves two birds dueling to death inside a pit. As cock fighting is highly controversial, its legality varies in different parts of the world. This article discusses the legality of cockfighting in Cuba.

Legal Status of Cockfighting in Cuba

In the communist country of Cuba, cockfighting is legal and widespread. Cockfights are a longtime tradition in Cuba, to the point that they can even be seen on the family property of former president Fidel Castro. However, since the 1959 revolution, gambling in cockfighting matches has been banned.

Specific state-supervised clubs sponsor cockfighting in Cuba. The state has opened official arenas, including a 1,000-seater arena in Ciego de Avila, the largest pit in the country. Despite having official arenas, banned underground pits exist as well. Cuba also exports about 700 fighting birds annually.

New Animal Welfare Law in Cuba

In 2021, the Cuban government published a new animal welfare law, providing fines in cases of animal abuse but not banning cockfights or animal sacrifices during religious rites. The animal protection law is a first for Cuba.

Published by the Council of State, the new decree states that the establishment of rules guaranteeing “animal welfare and raising awareness in our population on the care and respect of animals is a demand of our society.” The decree also states to achieve “a harmonious relationship between human beings and other species as an indispensable condition for the existence of all.” 

Cuba’s civil society celebrated the legislation, considering it as one of the first few times that its demands have been heard and became law. In April 2019, around 500 people marched to demand an animal protection law, and in February 2021, animal rights activists assembled in front of the Agriculture Ministry in Cuba. 

Article 9 of the decree forbids any person to “provoke a confrontation between animals of any species unless an exception is approved by the relevant authority.” Under this provision, dog fights are thus banned but cock fighting remains legal as long as specific state-supervised clubs sponsor them. 

In the same vein, animal sacrifices done by the Santeria, a syncretic religion that originated in Nigeria and was brought to Cuba by enslaved people, remains legal. The new law does stipulate that “animal sacrifices must be carried out rapidly and compassionately to avoid pain and stress.” 

Animals receiving protection under this bill include “all mammals, birds, bees, reptiles, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and amphibians.” Additionally, the bill defines animal welfare as “the adequate state, from both physical and mental viewpoint of an animal in conditions of life and of death.” Violators of the decree will face fines of 500 to 4,000 Cuban pesos. 

The Cubans in Defence of Animals Rights Group called the new law a positive “first step.” Grettel Montes de Oca, the founder of the group, stated that “The road will be very long but it is surely positive that now there is a law.” 

Bottom Line

Cockfighting in Cuba is legal under state-supervised clubs although gambling on matches has been banned since the 1959 revolution. A decree on animal protection was passed by the Cuban Council of State in 2021, however, cockfights and animal sacrifices for religious purposes are exempted. 

To know the legal status of cockfighting in other parts of the world, check out this article.