Cockfighting is a blood sport in which two roosters specifically bred for aggression are placed beak to beak in a small ring and encouraged to fight to the death. Although illegal in all 50 states, cockfighting still persists across the nation in all sorts of communities and among all sorts of people.
In organized cockfights, the roosters’ natural fighting instincts are exaggerated through breeding, feeding, training, steroids and vitamins. A bird may undergo several months of training before a fight, which may involve running long obstacle courses (and even treadmills) and practice fights with other roosters. Just before a fight, most of the bird’s feathers are plucked and the breeder cuts off the animal’s wattles—the combs below the beak—so that his opponent cannot tear them off.
Once in the ring, roosters often wear knives or artificial gaffs (long, dagger-like attachments) that are sharp enough to puncture a lung, pierce an eye or break bones in order to inflict maximum injury. Fights may be held in abandoned factories, backyards or even basements and can last anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes. While the rules usually do not require one or both birds to die in order to declare a winner, death is often the outcome due to the severity of injuries.
Besides being cruel to animals, cockfighting is closely connected to other crimes such as gambling, drugs and acts of violence. Bets on the fights can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the reputation of the breeder’s birds. Attendees can sometimes even purchase box seats the way you would for a sporting event.
Illegal weapons have also been found at cockfights because of the large amounts of cash present, and law enforcement raids across the country have established that cockfights are well attended by gang members, further encouraging violence and illegal drug use. To avoid suspicion, organizers regularly move the events to new locations. Despite these unsettling facts, cockfights often inspire a party-like atmosphere in which entire families gather, including children.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and is a felony offense in 42 states and the District of Columbia. The possession of birds for fighting purposes is prohibited in 39 states and the District of Columbia, and being a spectator at a cockfighting event is illegal in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
If you think cockfighting is going on in your neighborhood, alert your local law enforcement agency or contact the ASPCA for advice and assistance.