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Cockfighting is a blood sport that involves two birds, usually roosters, dueling to the death in a ring called a cockpit. This practice has a history dating back 6,000 years. While cockfighting became popular during its initial spread, various regions also disapproved of the practice, deeming it a barbaric activity that promotes animal suffering.
Today, we’ll be taking a quick look at the legal status of cockfighting around the world.
Countries Where Cockfighting is Legal
The perception of cockfighting can be quite divided; some countries have deemed the practice illegal, while in others, cock fight events are a part of the culture and are a tradition. Here are several countries where cockfighting and sporting events involving other animals are legal.
Cockfighting is a tradition in Colombia, especially in the Caribbean region and in several areas of the Andean interior. In the city of Valledupar, cockfights are held during the Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata.
Cockfighting is deeply ingrained in Colombian culture to the point that it was immortalized in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Colombia’s Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Gallos de Pelea also regularly organizes an international cockfighting championship which gathers about 1,200 cockers and their game roosters to face off in 74 fights.
In Cuba, cockfighting is legal, however, gambling has been forbidden since the 1959 Revolution. While there are official cockfighting arenas in Cuba, including a 1,000-seater venue in Ciego de Avila, banned underground cockfighting pits also exist.
The first official known document about cockfights in Cuba dates from 1737. Since then, the legality of cockfighting in Cuba has had its ups and downs. In 1909, Cuba’s then-president Jose Miguel Gomez allowed cockfights once more, establishing regulations as well.
Cockfighting used to be held everywhere in Cuba, but up to the beginning of 1968, arenas were closed and fights were forbidden by authorities to stop bets. By 1980, authorities legalized cockfighting once more. A state business organization was created with the participation of private bird breeders, grouped in territories.
The state organization also announces several national tournaments spread from January to April, makes trade shows, and sells fighting cocks to clients from other Caribbean countries.
In the Dominican Republic, cockfighting is legal. But according to a 2018 report by Dominican Today, the bloodsport is “increasingly being rejected by society.” In every town, there is at least one arena called a gallera, while bigger cities have larger venues called coliseos.
Important rooster fighting events are broadcast on television. Newspapers have dedicated pages to cockfighting and also put a spotlight on various trabas, which is the local name for gamefowl breeding grounds. As for public perception, locals treat cockfighting as that of baseball or any other major sporting event.
Holding cock fight events is a crime in France but there is an exemption in the French penal code for locales where an uninterrupted tradition exists for them. Thus, the bloodsport is allowed in the region of Nord-Pas de Calais. The construction of new arenas is prohibited. The bloodsport is also legal in some French Overseas Territories.
In Haiti, cockfight events are legal. An issue of Cultures of the World by Cavendish Square Publishing even described cockfighting as the “closest thing to a national sport” in Haiti.
Fighting events are organized every Sunday morning in places across the country. Roosters fighting are equipped with a sharp spur on their feet, making the fight extra lethal, usually ending in the death of one of the animals.
Under the Animal Protection and Welfare Act in Honduras that went into effect in 2016, dog and cat fights, as well as duck races, are prohibited. The decree excludes bullfighting shows and cockfighting, stating that ‘they are part of the National Folklore and as such, allowed.’
While cockfighting is legal in the municipality of Ixmiquilpan and throughout Mexico, a cock fight ban has been in place in Mexico City, Sonora, and Coahuila since September 2012.
In the Mexican states of Michoacan, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Sinaloa, and Veracruz, cockfighting is tolerated during regional fairs and other celebrations.
Animal fights such as bullfights, animal races, and dog fights are illegal in Panama under the Protection of Animals Act. The breeding, entry, permanence, and operation of all kinds of shows that use trained animals or any species are also prohibited. However, cockfighting and horse racing are exempted from this law.
According to the Encyclopedia of Latino Culture, Peru ‘has probably the longest historical tradition” of cockfighting, possibly dating back to the 16th century. As such, cockfighting is legal and regulated by the government in Peru.
Most cock fight pits called coliseos are located in Lima. While the country has animal protection laws, cockfighting and bullfighting are exempted from them.
There is no nationwide cockfighting ban in the Philippines. But since 1948, any cock fight event is prohibited every Rizal Day on December 30. Under the Republic Act No. 229, violators can be fined or imprisoned.
Moreover, this act is further supplemented by the Anti-Cockfighting Law of 1974 where cock fight events are allowed only on Sundays, certain holidays, on certain occasions, and only at licensed pits.
The bloodsport is banned in the country except in two Spanish regions: the Canary Islands and Andalusia. Despite its legal status in Andalusia, the practice has virtually disappeared, surviving only within a program to maintain the gamefowl breed combatiente español or Spanish gamecock in English. The program is coordinated by the University of Cordoba.
Which Countries Have a Cockfighting Ban?
Cockfighting is illegal in numerous countries, with most of them citing the bloodsport as a form of animal cruelty and is often tied to other criminal activity.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, even if the roosters in cock fight events survive, they can suffer severe injuries during the skirmishes, such as pierced eyes, broken arteries, punctured lungs, and which often lead to death. Roosters are also conditioned to be aggressive and are injected with steroids and other drugs to increase their strength.
In the United States, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The last state to implement a state law banning cockfighting was Louisiana. As of 2013, cockfighting is a felony in 40 states, the possession of birds for fighting is prohibited in 39 states, and being a spectator at a cockfight is illegal in 43 states.
The aforementioned laws also apply to the District of Columbia. The possession of cockfighting implements is also forbidden in 15 states. Although the practice of cock fighting is illegal in the U.S., 12 states allow the possession of a fighting cock.
The Agriculture Improvement Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, further extended the ban to U.S. territories, namely American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Despite the federal ban, Puerto Rico passed a law to keep the practice legal as cockfighting is immensely popular and has been considered by Puerto Ricans a ‘national sport’ since the 1950s.
Any animal fighting venture is also illegal in countries such as Costa Rica, Malaysia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Belgium, to name a few. Some countries, such as Spain and India, have an outright ban on the bloodsport but have given exemptions to a number of their regions due to culture, tradition, or religion.
Legislation Against Animal Fighting
As cock fighting events deal with roosters or other types of birds to duel to the death for entertainment purposes, numerous individuals, communities, animal rights groups and the like see it as a form of animal abuse.
In the United States, an act exists to prevent abuse from being done to roosters or game birds.
Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
The AWA recognizes animal fighting as a federal crime. This act was later amended by the Animal Fighting Prohibition Reinforcement Act, making the offense of animal fighting a felony charge. Individuals who attend a fight, sell, buy, transport, or deliver any sharp instruments intended to be used for cockfighting can also be charged criminally under the act.
The increased penalties for offenses committed under this act include:
- One year imprisonment for attending a fighting event
- Three years imprisonment for bringing a child under 16 years of age to a cockfight
- Five years imprisonment for offenses involving the commerce of instruments used in cock fights
Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill increased the priority of enforcement and prosecution by creating steps and a referral system for the FBI, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies to utilize.
The Humane Society of the United States also supports law enforcement agencies in going after violators by hosting training sessions and providing assistance in state and federal courts.
Cockfighting has a long history behind it and since its inception, the reaction to it has been divisive. Numerous territories ban the practice, citing animal cruelty and mistreatment. But there are also regions that embrace the practice of roosters fighting as a part of their culture and tradition.