(The following account is edited and updated from Close-Up Report by The
Humane Society of the United States-UPC Editor)
The cruelty to birds used for cockfighting is appalling. With
inches-long gaffs-needle-sharp, icepick-like weapons-attached to their
natural leg spurs, roosters are thrust into small arenas, called pits.
There, trained to fight and often drugged with stimulants such as
strychnine and methamphetamines, they plunge and slash at each other.
The gaffs inflict deep puncture wounds. Wings and legs are broken. Eyes
are gouged out. Within minutes, the birds may be staggering from their
injuries. But they are forced to fight on. Handlers pick up the birds
and blow on their faces to revive them. If a bird has suffered a
puncture wound to his lungs and is drowning in his own blood, his
handler may suck blood from his lungs through his beak to force him to
When the fighting begins to flag, the birds in the main pit are removed
to a drag pit. There their match may continue for hours, as their
handlers revive them time and again to keep the fighting and the bets
going. According to an investigator for The Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS), "Even if one bird is half dead, the handlers don't stop
the fight. The bird may be bleeding, stunned, and wounded, but he will
be kept fighting, even if he can only lie there in fear and terror while
the other bird keeps attacking him."
Matches generally end only when one of the birds is wounded beyond
revival. However, the "winner," who is usually dying from his injuries,
may face even more torture. Survivors whose eyes have been gouged out,
slashed, or blinded are pitted together in "blinker derbies." Other
wounded birds are thrown en masse into a "battle royale," a fight to the
last bird, while spectators gamble on the outcome.
At the end the birds are tossed on "dead piles"-but they are not always
dead. For example, during one raid an HSUS investigator found ten birds
who were still alive in a dead pile.
Cockfighters argue that the birds' aggression is natural. But in nature,
roosters seldom fight to the death. Cockfighting birds are cruelly
trained to fight. They are often drugged to fight, and they are armed to
fight. Finally, they are forced to fight. HSUS investigators have
witnessed birds jumping out of the pit to escape their captive
adversaries only to be caught and returned to the fight by the handlers,
or have their heads pulled off for committing an act of "cowardice."
Who, truly, are the ruthless, aggressive killers?
Not only is cockfighting barbaric, vicious, and cruel, but evidence is
overwhelming that cockfighting is linked to other crimes and violence.
Law enforcement officials have documented the strong connection between
cockfighting, illegal gambling, and large-scale manufacturing and
distribution of illegal drugs. In many cases, law-enforcement officials
have uncovered evidence of cockfighting-birds, pits, and equipment-while
pursuing drug investigations and raids. Drug dealers use connections
made at cockfights for the distribution of drugs. Cockfighting involves
Making and watching animals suffer and die for "entertainment" is
abhorrent to a civilized society. A stand against cockfighting is a
stand for a society that protects animals against human cruelty and
abuse. In the United States, cockfighting remains legal only in
Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana; in Virginia, the law needs
- In November 1998, voters banned cockfighting in Arizona and Missouri.
- On February 3, 1999, Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado introduced Senate
Bill 345, to close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that permits
interstate transport of birds for the purpose of fighting in states
where animal fighting is still legal. In 2001, S. 345 and its House
companion bill were offered as amendments to the Farm Bill. On February
13, 2002, the Senate concluded its debate on its version of the Farm
Bill (H.R. 2646) and passed the bill by a vote of 58 to 40. The House
version of the amendment, including the anti-animal fighting section of
it, is identical to that of the Senate. This landmark federal
legislation bans the interstate shipment of birds intended for
cockfighting from states where cockfighting is illegal to any state
where cockfighting is still legal. It also bans exports of dogs or birds
for fighting purposes to other countries and increases penalties for
violations of Section 26-the anti-animal fighting section-of the Animal
- In March 2002, Indiana passed legislation-Senate Bill
366--strengthening the state's anti-cockfighting law. The new law on
Animal Fighting Contests makes possession of animal fighting
paraphernalia, including knives and gaffs that are strapped to a
rooster's legs for a cockfight, with intent to participate in an animal
fighting contest a Class B misdemeanor. The law makes it a Class D
felony for a person to possess animal fighting paraphernalia with intent
to participate in an animal fighting contest, and to harbor an animal
bearing scars or wounds consistent with participation in an animal
fighting contest. The law allows a court to order a person to refrain
from owning, harboring, or training an animal as a condition of
- Kansas is currently considering strong anti-cockfighting legislation to
increase current penalties and to ban possession of birds intended for
- Oklahoma voters will decide whether to ban cockfighting in November
2002. For information visit http://www.bancockfighting.org.
- For up-to-date information, visit these websites:
United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the
compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. United Poultry Concerns
depends on public donations. All contributions are fully tax-deductible.
We appreciate your support. For more
information, contact UPC at:
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(Cockfighting: Who, Truly, are the Ruthless Aggressive Killers? )