Are cockfighting roosters doomed?

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Are cockfighting roosters doomed?

When it comes to coming up with myths about animals to justify their mistreatment, we humans have an endless supply.  Certainly you’ve heard at least a few of these:

(Realistically, even if these things were true, it wouldn’t actually justify any type of cruelty, but it’s still irritating to hear them repeated over and over again when they’re so blatantly wrong.)

And finally, the topic of today’s post:

  • Roosters are naturally bloodthirsty fighters.

It would be silly to pretend that roosters don’t ever fight.  They do, just like many other animals who will engage in combat to defend their territory, secure mates, or protect their families.  But are they really as ruthlessly savage as cockfighting fans would like us to believe?   It’s worth noting that cockfighting usually results in a painful, bloody death for one–or both–of the birds.  As pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary in Vermont (formerly Eastern Shore Sanctuary, in Maryland) explains, “Here at the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, former fighting cocks coexist peacefully with each other and with hens rescued from egg factories. Both groups of birds are physically and psychologically scarred by the specifically gendered forms of exploitation they have endured.”(Crossing the Mammalian-Avian Line)


These former fighting roosters are good friends. (Photo: VINE Sanctuary)


Many fighting cocks have gaffs--specialized knives measuring up to 3 1/2 inches long--attached to their legs.

Now, it’s true that former fighting cocks are frequently aggressive, so for a long time, many roosters rescued from cockfighting operations were euthanized.  In fact, this is still the rule in most places.  (For example, in 2008, authorities busted a cockfighting ring in Surrey. Federal legislation required that all 1,300 roosters be put to death.) VINE Sanctuary was the first to take these traumatized birds in and rehabilitate them.

Only after some days of spending time in the yards while being held and soothed was [Pietro, former fighting cock] able to see or hear other birds without trying to attack them. Even so, his little heart beat so rapidly with fear whenever another bird came near. He was terrified. Having been fought, with shaved feathers and steel blades attached to his talons, he believed that the only recipe for survival was to attack instantly and incessantly. Having been doped with methamphetamines and testosterone, his endrocrine system responded excessively to any alarm. Having been raised in isolation, he’d never had the chance to learn the social signals by which roosters naturally resolve their conflicts in healthy flocks.(Rooster Rehab)

Cockfighting has been illegal in Canada for some time.  The U.S. caught up in 2008, when it was finally banned in Louisiana (most of the country had banned it decades earlier.)  The entirety of the U.K. had banned it by the end of the 19th century.  It is also illegal in Brazil, France, and most of Spain.  In other countries, it is technically illegal but laws are not consistently enforced.

In Cuba, Mexico, Peru, much of Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, this brutal, vicious bloodsport continues as a part of a celebrated “tradition”.  And as evidenced by the news report I linked to earlier, it still happens with disturbing frequency even in places where it’s technically no longer legal.

Watch this video from the Humane Society of Berks County in Maryland, who were able to save several rescued fighting cocks with the help of VINE:

(In case you haven’t had enough insanity for the day, I’ll add that authorities busted a canary-fighting ring in Connecticut in 2009.)

1 Comment


August 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thanks so much for this post. We here at VINE are in the midst of rehabbing a new group of roos right now. Folks can visit our blog for an update on that plus a new how-to video. We really appreciate the help in spreading the word that these birds are not incorrigibly aggressive. They are traumatised, terrified, and in need of care.

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