Legality of Cockfighting in Spain

Cockfighting is a blood sport that has a history dating all the way to the Middle Ages. It’s highly controversial as its nature involves two roosters fighting to the death inside a ring. The sport is banned in some countries but there are also regions where cockfights are welcomed. In this article, we’ll be discussing the legal status of cockfights in Spain.

Is Cock Fighting Legal in Spain?

Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, led a Spanish expedition that circumnavigated the world. During the voyage, his expedition reached the Philippines, documenting the first European contact with the nation. It was in the Philippines where Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian who had been Magellan’s chronicler, witnessed and documented the first modern cockfight for Westerners.

While it was that Spanish expedition that introduced cockfighting to Europe, the majority of the countries in Europe have deemed the bloodsport illegal. In Spain, cockfights are banned except in two regions: Andalusia and the Canary Islands.

Law Against Animal Abuse

Spain’s 1991 law for the Protection of Animals recognizes an exception for the Canaries and Andalusia based on cultural heritage and history. While cockfights are legal in the Canaries, the autonomous community has deemed bullfighting illegal. 

Even if cock fighting events are legal in those two Spanish regions, underground matches are also held. Anyone involved in an illegal match can be punished with up to 18 months in prison. Those who enter an unauthorized match can pay a fine that goes up to EUR 20,000. The Civil Guard in Andalusia usually intervenes to stop underground matches.

Recently, three well-known bullfighters were seen participating in an unauthorized cockfight held in Andalusia during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. Article 4 in the act of Protection of Animals prohibits all types of matches between animals except “breeding selection for the improvement of the animal breed and its export carried out in kennels and duly authorized premises with the sole and sole assistance of its partners.” The police were called in to investigate.

Cockfighting in Andalusia

Cockfights are a popular pastime in Andalusia. Cockfight events are a male-dominated activity in the region. In Andalusia, the events mainly take place in small pueblos. It is strictly regulated as only sanctioned fights are permitted. Public shows are also forbidden and only federated supporters can attend.

Spectators gambling on fights is prohibited but it naturally happens during matches. The cocks are also not allowed to fight to the death. Once a rooster lowers its breast to the ground or is otherwise injured and unable to fight, the match must stop. 

However, in recent times, according to a report by the El País, cockfighting has virtually disappeared in Andalusia. It is only surviving within a program to maintain the fighting breed of birds called “combatiente español” which is coordinated by the University of Cordoba.

Cockfighting in the Canary Islands

The cock fight tradition in the Canaries dates back over 500 years since the islands were first conquered. In 2015, the ruling Popular Party in Congress dismissed a proposed penal code reform that would have outlawed the bloodsport.

The Canary Cockfighting Federation showed their support and praised the decision to dismiss the petition, stating, “The Canary fighting rooster species would become extinct if we didn’t hold these matches.”

Spanish Fighting Cocks

The Spanish gamefowl species are perceived as one of the best fighting roosters in Europe. The cocks are prepared for the ring at around 18 months old. These game roosters are small to medium in size and cannot be together with another rooster as they will attack to protect their territory. Spanish gamefowl varies in color, from white to light and mottled. 

In cock fight events, the Spanish gamefowl gets their natural spurs blunted so that metal spurs can be attached to their legs. Their combs are also removed to reduce bleeding during matches. They are also injected with vitamin supplements to help them gain weight. 

Bottom Line

In Spain, cockfighting is illegal except in two regions, the Canary Islands and Andalusia. In those two autonomous Spanish regions, cockfights are perceived as a part of the culture. 

Aside from Spain, there are also countries where animal fights are outlawed but have exceptions for cockfighting.