Monday, April 18, 2011

A Championship of Cruelty

Kill that bird! (Photo: El Tiempo)
Colombia just hosted another championship, altho it didn't receive the attention of the upcoming under-20 Football World Cup - but these folks may not have wanted attention.

The city of Cali hosted Colombia's Seventh Cockfighting Championship, with about 360 fighting birds and 1,200 cockfighting fans. They held some 74 fights every day - which meant almost that number of killings - with $10,000 for the champion.

Cockfighting, like bullfighting, coleo and corraleja, are exceptions, out of tradition, to Colombia's law against cruelty to animals. However, altho animal rights advocates always demonstrate against bullfighting, I've heard of no protests against cockfighting, perhaps because the fights are much smaller scale and receive little media attention. Or perhaps because we empathize less with birds than with fellow mammals.

Animal with spurs on is ankles.
But, cockfighting is, if anything, much crueler than bullfighting. In cockfights, the animals slash each other with blades lashed to their ankles and stab with their bills and are often left mortally wounded. And the men who train the animals just stand around betting and cheering. In bullfighting, at least, the bullfighter puts his own life and limb at risk. And, if he does it well, the final kill is relatively quick.

I've heard there are hundreds of cockfighting pits in Bogotá alone, but I've never seen one. I have, however, seen men training fighting birds in public parks. I even got in yelling match with a neighbor who clubbed my friend's dog running after a rooster the guy had left in a park. Evidently, he had privatized the park. So much for love of animals.

Years ago, while bicycle touring thru Venezuela, I stayed overnight with a family who raised fighting cocks . I told the man I believed it was cruel. 'But I love these animals,' he said, embracing one in his arms. 'They're like my children.' And he really was dedicated to the animals. But he didn't cheer his real children on as they fought to the death with other kids.

Perhaps as punishment, the family made me sleep on their back patio - amongst the cocks' cages. I learned that roosters do not crow only at dawn, but all night long.

Perhaps appropriately, I've heard of fighting roosters killing their owners. In this California incident, police broke up an illegal cockfight. While he was fleeing with a bird, it slashed its owner's femoral artery.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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