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Animal Cruelty 2 - No More Bloodsports

Children look on at a cock fight in Bali (This photo was taken some years ago and such fights may no longer be happening)

Cock fighting, Dog fighting and other Blood Sports
In Medieval times there was nothing the European peasant liked better for an afternoon of fun than a bit of bear or bull–baiting or cock fighting, unless it was the thrill of a public hanging. I like to think that as a society we have moved on from there – after all, we have so much other entertainment to choose from – television, Netflix, theatre, demonstrations of skill and no end of spectacles of all kinds. 

Although banned in many parts of the world excluding parts of Russia, Pakistan and Japan, both cock fighting and dog fighting still flourish in many dark corners of the world and are often associated with criminal elements such as the Yukuza in Japan or the Mafia in the USA, Russia and Italy, along with other nefarious activities including illegal gambling and the drug trade. Based on reported incidents, one law reform review estimates that there are at least 40,000 dog fighters in the USA where it is now completely banned, but given the underground nature of the activity, even this is most likely an underestimate. Cases have also been reported in places as disparate as the UK, South Africa, Canada, Afghanistan, Australia and Italy. Cock fighting also remains both legal and popular in Cuba where it is regarded as family entertainment.

To those who still think watching animals tear each other to pieces is OK, it may be instructive to remember that in times past it was also ‘traditional’ for humans to be pitted against each other or against lions in Rome’s Coliseum. Indeed, it wasn’t until the C19th when Charles Dickens discovered that the working poor were not a separate subhuman race, that they began to be treated more respectfully and less as expendable commodities, which is pretty much how these animals are being treated now. The first animal welfare laws date from this era with the UK passing laws against dog fighting and other blood sports in 1835. 

Cruelty doesn’t start or end in the ring. In dog fighting for example, the training required to make dogs aggressive is itself cruel and thousands of puppies are bred and destroyed in order to make one Champion. If you see packs of dogs, dogs with bite marks and tears, particularly of the pit bull variety, or any of the training equipment, then report the matter to the relevant authorities or to the RSPCA or Humane Society near you. Fighting cocks can be identified by the fact that they have their combs and wattles removed so that their opponents can’t use them to their advantage. Other animals are sometimes pitted against each other too, for example dogs and pigs. The Humane Society of America is now offering rewards of $US5000 for reporting all forms of this type of animal abuse and their website has many helpful tips on what ordinary people can do to prevent it.


Bullfighting is believed to have literally originated in the Coliseum, though it really became popular in Spain in the C16th.  In Spain interest in traditional bullfighting is declining with fewer events  and young people especially, turning away in droves. Some regions such as Catalonia have banned bullfighting completely as have parts  of Latin America  such as Panama and Sonora in Mexico. Others such as Quito in Ecuador  still allow bullfighting but not the killing of the bulls. In his excellent article in the Atlantic Jim Glade talks about the cultural clash between old local traditions and international values around animal welfare and the environment. "Columbia's younger generation will not torture for tradition." says the subheading, which seems like an excellent guiding principle and not just with respect to bullfighting. 

Bullfighting in aguascalientes
Bullfighting in Aguascalientes -  Will it last another decade?

photo © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons  CC BY-SA 4.0.