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Cockfighting is a highly controversial yet widely popular blood sport that has its roots dating back 6,000 years ago. Cockfights involve two roosters going head to head, with most matches ending in death. Due to that, cockfights are illegal in many parts of the world, citing animal cruelty as the main reason for prohibiting the sport.
While there are regions that have outlawed cockfights, there are also countries where it is considered part of the culture and tradition, hence, is regulated by the government. One of those countries is Panama. In this article, we’ll be discussing how cockfights are a cultural practice and a sport in Panama.
Legal Status of Cockfighting in Panama
Cockfighting is a legal and widely embraced sport in Panama. It’s a folkloric tradition inherited from the colonial Spanish. For years, the blood sport has been present in the more rural parts of the country however, in recent times, it has seen a huge rise in the capital, Panama City.
CockFighting in Panama City
Many rooster fighting pits can be seen all over Panama. In Puerto Armuelles, a popular coastal city in Panama, regular cockfight events are held in arenas. Most arenas have a similar interior; there are front row seats around the ring where spectators can sit for 10 USD (520 PHP) per chair. Spectators can also pay a cheaper fee of 3 USD (160 PHP) to stand on the upper levels of the arena.
Cockfights consist of four 15-minute rounds, with 15-minute breaks between each. An announcer tells the spectators what is going on. Each bird is weighed and matched up with an opponent of similar weight. At the beginning of a fight, the birds are placed inside the fighting pit, and once the match begins, handlers yell instructions or clap their hands if they want their gamefowls to attack. Like most cockfights, most matches end in death, while the roosters who survive live to recover and participate once more in another upcoming fight set to be held in the next two weeks or so.
In Panama, roosters raised to become fighting cocks get their own spur removed when they’re young. The natural spurs are then replaced by sharp metal spurs. This new artificial gaff gives the birds a weapon to speed up the killing process in matches. In some countries, the bird’s natural spur is never cut off and used in matches as-is.
Gambling goes hand-in-hand with this blood sport. One can bet on their favored gamecock and can make about 200 USD in one night, which is what numerous Panamanians earn in a week or two of work. The owner of the winning rooster gets a percentage of the money that was placed on the fight.
Cockfighting is also seen as a form of social gathering in the country. Many people outside arenas mingle. While the crowds are mostly made up of men, women and children can also be seen. Most cockfight arenas have a snack bar where one can buy beer, sodas, and food. Chickens are also lined up on perches outside for everyone to assess, with their proud owners stationed nearby, happy to show off their contender.
Gamefowl owners usually have an array of roosters at their homes. Birds often undergo training and are made to take supplements to improve their strength. Some owners also travel to other cities in Panama, bringing their birds with them to join cockfight events and have other locals place their wagers.
Private Cockfighting Ring
In the town of Veracruz, located across the Bridge of the Americas that spans the Panama Canal, guests can request a private cockfight event. The city locals offer to open up cockfights on demand for a price.
Laws Protecting Animals in Panama
In 2012, the National Assembly of Panama approved Law 308 on the Protection of Animals. Article 7 of the law states that dog fights, animal races, bullfights, breeding, and the operation of circus shows are prohibited. However, horse racing and cockfights are exempted from the ban.
Cockfighting is a popular sport in Panama that is a part of Latino culture and therefore, legal. The Government of Panama recognizes the sport, exempting it from animal protection laws.
To know the legal status of cockfighting in other parts of the globe, check out this article.