Cock fighting

Cock fighting!Untitled-15

Written and photographed By Bill Bell

Warning! The following story and photographs may be offensive to some people!      

Cock fighting, a Mexican tradition steeped in history and culture? Or, the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals that usually fight to the death for the pleasure of the crowd?

cock fighting2In the Mexican state of Nayarit, cock fights or Palenques are legal and regulated by the government.  The promoters and organizers travel between the various towns where locals turn out to watch up to thirty fights per event.  Although mostly men turn out and bet on the various birds identified by either a red or green leg marking, family and young children also attend.

The crowd is friendly and welcoming to American and Canadian visitors and while photographs are allowed, flash is strictly prohibited as it is believed that the cocks may be blinded by the bright light.

cock fighting5Each bird is weighed in, designated a class to fight in, bets are taken and odds are given based on the breed and owner/trainer.  The local fights have razors attached to the spurs of the bird’s legs making the fights very lethal.

The cocks are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match. While not all fights are to the death, the cocks may endure significant physical trauma, including broken legs, wings and severe cuts.  Many fights end with a broken neck or immobilization due to loss of blood. Then, when finished, the still twitching corpses of once beautiful birds are thrown into a heap beside the arena.

cock fighting1“I bet you never seen anything like this in America,” the young Mexican wearing the cowboy hat and holding a Pacifico in his hand said to me.   It is a very hot night and the stillness of the air holds the smell of blood, sweat and beer. 

This cock fight is taking place in a small Mexican community of Puerto de la Lima about 120 kilometers north of Puerto Vallarta.  This event is filled with local Mexicans that I admire and are friends of mine.  They are respected people in the community where I reside and when I ask what draws them to the cock fight, there is no reply, only a stare of bewilderment that comes when a person asks a stupid question.

cock fightingThe crowd loves the fight and reacts in a similar manner as the audiences I have seen at prize boxing matches.  They talk about strategies; they point out deficiencies in the fighters and they show excitement when blows are made and the winning cock stands over the loser triumphantly.

 Cockfighting is considered a blood sport by animal welfare and animal rights activists and others, due in some part to the physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other. Advocates of the sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons for perpetuation of cockfighting as a sport

cock fighting3“Don’t try to change Mexican culture into ours” is something I have often said to ex pat friends or new arrivals. This – cockfighting – is part of Mexican culture. It is part of Mexican tradition. Yet with this “event” I mentally stumble and I choke on those oft said words.

 

cock fighting4

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