Cockfighting is a practice that involves pitting two roosters against each other inside a pit. The birds are equipped with artificial spurs and fight to the death.

In some countries in Europe, cock fights are outlawed, while in some countries, this practice is regulated. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the legal status of cockfighting in France.


Is Cockfighting Legal in France?

Cockfighting is an age-old spectator sport that’s almost as old as boxing. While no one is certain where cockfighting exactly began, the bloodsport spread quickly throughout the world. As civilization approached modern times, more and more countries denounced the practice of cockfighting, citing animal cruelty. In most countries in Europe, cockfighting is banned. 

Cockfighting is Still Legal Under French Law

In France, cock fights are a crime, however, this is an exemption under the subparagraph 3 of Article 521-1 of the French penal code. Under this law, cockfighting and bullfighting are legal in regions where there is “an uninterrupted tradition.”

Thus, cockfighting is allowed in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, where it occurs in a small number of towns including Raimbeaucourt, La Bistade, and other villages around Lille. Cockfighting is also a local tradition in French Overseas Territories such as Reunion, French Guiana, and the French Antilles and is therefore allowed.


When was Cockfighting Popular in France?

It was the Romans who introduced rooster fighting in Europe. The sport became prominent in England and France during the Middle Ages, becoming a diversion of choice for both monarchs and commoners. England placed a ban on cockfights during the reform movement in 1849, with the rest of Europe following suit in the coming years.


Laws Against Animal Cruelty in France

The first animal welfare law in Europe was enacted in England, followed by Germany, Switzerland, France, and Sweden. Generally, the laws passed in Europe only prohibited public animal cruelty. In 1959, the French government issued a decree incriminating the mistreatment of domestic or captive animals. 

In 1976, France became the first country in Europe to pass an animal welfare law that recognizes the sentience of domestic animals and requires alternatives to animal testing to be used where it is deemed possible.

It is illegal to physically abuse or sexually abuse, commit an act of brutality, or abandon animals. The laws make an exception for sports deeply rooted in tradition, namely bullfighting and cockfighting. 

Constitutional Council of France Upholds Law Banning New Cockfighting Pits

Although cockfighting is legal in some parts of France, the Constitutional Council of France upheld a law banning the construction of new cockfighting pits is not allowed. In 2012, two men approached the Constitutional Council after they were prosecuted for opening a new cockfighting pic on the French island of La Reunion.

While building new cockfight arenas is illegal, constructing bullfighting arenas is allowed, and the two men from La Reunion argued that it was unfair. Their lawyer stated that the different treatment of the two traditions was an “attack on the principle of equality before the law” and urged the court to overturn the ban.

The French court justified the different treatment by saying that they were two “distinct practices.” Moreover, the court in the French territory of Reunion eventually wants fighting events to stop completely.


Final Note

Unlike most of Europe, cock fight events are allowed in Northern France as well as a number of French overseas territories where the sport is considered a part of the local heritage. While cockfights are allowed, the law prohibits the construction of new cock fighting pits as it aims to gradually stamp out the practice.

Interested in knowing which few countries in Europe allow cock fights? Check out this article