By Patrick Battuello,
In Behalf of Animals
In short, roosters are not hardwired to tear each other to shreds. That, sad to say, is an evil human invention.
“Religion and cockfighting built this country.” (Carter Kinchen, Louisiana)
“It’s my heritage. I guess there are other people that want to be president of the United States or senators or whatever. Me, I want to be a cockfighter.” (Clarence Bunch, Louisiana)
“You have people who have never lived a rural lifestyle trying to impress their values on us.” (George Day, Oklahoma)
When Louisiana became the final state to ban cockfighting (August 2008), “cockers” decried the law as an attack on their heritage and culture. Fighting cocks, they say, has a long and storied past, including, supposedly, a few of our most esteemed presidents. Besides, so the argument goes, it’s not like they’re fighting dogs: (Mr. Bunch) “Dogs are your friend. …Not to say I don’t like my chickens, but they are not my friend.” And legal or not, the cockers warn, it cannot be stopped: (Mr. Kinchen) “I’m going to just go underground, fight them here and yonder.”
Currently, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, but only a misdemeanor in 10. What’s more, spectating, or that which fuels the fight, is still penalty-free in 7 states. Likely due to the above mentioned “culture,” cockfighting has no prohibitions whatsoever in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. The soft consequences measured against potential earnings leave many fighters willing to flout the law. John Goodwin of the HSUS says, “If you can win a $40,000 prize, what kind of deterrent is a $200 misdemeanor penalty going to be?”
In preparation for his deathfight, the modern gamecock is kept on tethers, thrown at unnatural angles to hone balancing skills, and often doped to quicken reflexes and induce fearlessness. He will have his comb and wattle lopped (“dubbing”), and his natural spurs will be replaced with razor-sharp metal ones up to 3″ long (“gaffs”), this done to facilitate flesh-tearing, bloodletting, and death (although cockers argue that the gaffs shorten the battle, making them more humane). As the cocks face off in the pit, feathers fly, bones break, and eyes and lungs are punctured. Eventually, one or both falter, and usually, one dies. The loser – and depending on his condition, sometimes the winner – is trashed.
Cockfighters, of course, say this is all perfectly natural. Breeder Jeffrey Pearce told The New York Times (6/6/00), “We don’t make them fight. Their sole purpose in life is to fight.” While true that roosters establish a hierarchy, typically this is done for nothing more than show, complete with “dancing,” feather-fluffing, and comb-pecking. The “winner” crows in triumph, while the “loser” assumes a defeated pose. Because they are programmed for survival, one rooster knows when to back down, and truly aggressive behavior is reserved for protecting the flock against predators. In short, roosters are not hardwired to tear each other to shreds. That, sad to say, is an evil human invention.
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