Cockfighting: Legal Protection in Various Countries

January 20, 2021Lu Shegay

Introduction

Cockfighting is the practice of using fowls for fights in a ring. During the fight cocks inflict physical trauma on each other, and birds are specifically raised and bred for this kind of “sport.” Generally, cockfighting is associated with other crimes, such as money laundering, illegal gambling, narcotics, acts of violence, etc. In some countries, it is forbidden by law, some countries regulate this practice, and others practice cockfighting but no data or legal regulations can be found there.


Some people argue that the aggression of birds is natural, however, they are triggered by breeding, training, vitamins, and other additives. Birds are generally trained before fights, this includes running long obstacle courses and practice. Cockfighting usually occurs in abandoned places, e.g, factories, backyards, basements that last from a few seconds to 15 minutes. Oftentimes birds die at the end of a fight, although it is not prescribed by the cockfighting rules. Organizers of the event most of the time change the places where they plan cockfighting to avoid suspicion and because a large amount of money and drug use is involved in those fights.


  1. Birds are armed with spikes

Cocks naturally fight with each other in the wild to establish territory or mating rights, but in these instances, serious injuries are rare as they back away and leave the area when they accept defeat. In the cockfighting ring, they are routinely armed with blades or spikes which are attached to their feet. These “gaffs” tear at the skin causing horrendous injuries, especially when the other bird is unable to escape.

  1. Birds are mutilated before fighting

As part of the training and preparation process, cockerels usually have their combs and waddles (skin under their beaks and atop their heads) cut off to avoid them being injured during a fight. Some also have the spurs cut off their legs so that sharp gaffs can be attached.

  1. Cockfighting is the survival

The life of a fighting cockerel is tough, from the moment they hatch until the moment they die. They endure a lengthy training program which is designed to weed out the weaker ones from the batch so that trainers are left with only the strongest, most ferocious birds. Anyone who do not make the cut are simply killed, and those who are deemed good enough to fight are sure to endure a painful and cruel death in the ring.

"File:Barangay-Bulacao Cebu-City Philippines Cockfighting-event-09.jpg" by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Legal protection in Asia

India

Animal fightings are prohibited under Chapter III of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, however, this practice remains popular in Andhra Pradesh.


Iraq

According to the last data, cockfighting is illegal in Iraq, but it remains a widespread practice. Usually people attending this event come for entertainment and to gamble. Despite a lot of animal welfare activists preventing cockfighting, Iraqi Kurds keep tradition of cockfighting alive.


Japan

Cockfighting is not regulated in Japan. The blood sport usually takes place in small enclosures, approximately 2 meters in diameter. The first fights has come to the country from Thailand. Animal rights activist have been calling to stop cockfighting in Okinawa Prefecture.


Philippines

Cockfighting is not banned within the country but prohibited on the national holiday, Rizal Day on December 30. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, in March 2020, the Department of the Interior and Local Government announced that cockfighting conduct is temporarily banned in the Philippines.


Legal protection in other countries

France

Cockfighting is generally prohibited in France and considered a crime, except for cases of cockfights and bullfights in places where it is a part of the tradition to conduct them. With that being said, cockfighting is allowed in the Nord-Pas de Calais, some villages around Lille, and some French Overseas Territories. But the construction of new cockfighting areas is not allowed under the Constitutional Council of France.


Netherlands

Organizing and attending cockfighting events is prohibited and punished by up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to 20 500 euros.


New Zealand

In New Zealand, cockfighting is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.


United Kingdom

Cockfighting was banned immediately by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 in England, Wales, and the British Overseas Territories. In 1895, Scotland also banned the practice of cockfighting. However, despite the ban there were still cockfighting cases reported in England and Wales, Scotland.

"cockfight" by vijay_chennupati is licensed under CC BY 2.0

United States

The practice of cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The last state that enacted the ban on cockfighting was Louisiana, effective in 2008.


Moreover, under the Agricultural Act of 2014, it is a federal crime to spectate an animal fighting event or bring a child under the age of 16. The ban was further extended by federal law to American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Another federal instrument is the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, a law providing that it is a federal crime to transfer cockfighting implements across state or national borders. It also increases penalties for the violation of federal animal fighting laws to three years in prison.


Cases

In Kansas, in the issue of whether cockfighting falls within the prohibition of Section 21-4310 as constituting cruelty to animals, the court held that “in the common everyday experience of mankind chickens are seldom thought of as animals; rather, they are birds, with avian characteristics, in contrast to beasts of the field.” It also concluded that Kansas statutes proscribing cruelty to animals “have traditionally been directed toward the protection of the four-legged animal, especially beasts of the field and beasts of burden.”


The statute provided “(1) Cruelty to animals is:

  1. Subjecting any animal to cruel mistreatment; or

  2. Having custody of any animal and subjecting such animal to cruel neglect.”


The court did not find the statute vague, indefinite, or uncertain within the meaning of the due process. (See State ex rel. Miller v. Claiborne)


Another case in Oregon was being decided on whether the statute was vague in the part of animal fights and whether it is overbroad in violation of the First Amendment and Article I, section 26, of the Oregon Constitution. The Court of Appeals held that “the statute does not specify a required mental state for this crime. Accordingly, pursuant to ORS 161.115(2), the state must prove that a defendant acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence.” Moreover, in State v. Blocker, the court held that “An ‘overbroad’ law, as that term has been developed by the United States Supreme Court, is not vague, or need not be. Its vice is not a failure to communicate. Its vice may be clarity. For the law is overbroad to the extent that it announces a prohibition that reaches conduct that may not be prohibited. A legislature can make law as ‘broad’ and inclusive as it chooses unless it reaches into the constitutionally protected ground. The clearer an ‘overbroad’ statute is, the harder it is to confine it by interpretation within its constitutionally permissible reach.” (See State v. Albee)

Conclusion

Cockfighting inflicts harm and injury to birds and they are usually kept in detrimental conditions during breeding and training. Despite being a cruel practice for animals, it is also associated with other illegal activities. While cockfighting still occurs in many countries across and the globe and is not regulated by law, it is crucial to stop this blood sport.

How can you help stop cockfighting?

  1. If you live in a country or a state where cockfighting is still a misdemeanor, write a letter to your legislator to make it a felony.

  2. If you suspect that cockfighting is occurring in or near your neighborhood, contact the law enforcement police and report.

  3. Spread the information about the detrimental effect of cockfighting.

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