Cockfighting vs. Animal Agriculture 

Jewel Johnson

I’ve been thinking a lot about violence of bloodsports vs. violence of meat, dairy and eggs.  Why as a society, we are so quick to sympathize with animals used in bloodsports, while most people have bellies full of dead animals?  I’ve had a rule here for many years now, to gain peoples sympathy for chickens through the plight of the fighting rooster.  After all, most people don’t fight roosters; therefore, they are free to sympathize with them.  If they can sympathize with a chicken used for fighting, surely they will then be able to sympathize with the laying hens who suffer for years until slaughter and baby male chicks that are ground up alive, right?
The way cockfighting is reported on is dramatic in emphasizing brutality while farming of animals for meat, diary and eggs is typically reported by media as more wholesome, productive or a matter-of-fact necessity.  Talk to anyone who has been fighting roosters their whole life, they’ll tell you it’s a necessity. Ask any vegan if any of it’s a necessity and we’ll say absolutely none of it is.

Half of the birds fought will go on to live life. 

Headline: Lethal Cockfighting Spurs Seized by CBP Officers in Louisville

“Cockfighting spurs are razor-sharp blades tied to the bird’s legs. During a cockfight, the birds are placed in a pen face-to-face and commonly use these spurs to kill or incapacitate their opponent. These spurs are so dangerous that handlers are often slashed by their own bird.”

A fight between two game roosters who are wearing gaffs/weapons – Illegal

Razor sharp spurs are illegal, knives and blades in the slaughterhouse are legal.  There are no surviving animals leaving the slaughterhouse. Injuries to humans on kill floors in slaughterhouses across the country leave workers maimed for life and out of a job. Skinning birds alive after being boiled in a feather removal tank, will go unpunished, as long as this is done so in the food system.  Slowing down the kill line for safety purposes (for humans or animals) will have a worker fired. 

A row of chickens bleeding out after having their throats cut so people can eat them – Legal

In an article about roosters being smuggled/transported illegally into the US 

“We remain committed to upholding our agriculture mission, preventing the spread of animal diseases and preventing the exploitation of live animals,”
Birds used for meat and eggs are transported across the country in all conditions, they freeze to the sides of transport trailers, have their legs ripped off when unloading, and this is legal as long as it’s done within the food system.

Chicken slaughter for meat

A rooster used for fighting can be worth thousands of dollars, while a chicken raised for meat is sold for only a few dollars.  In both cases, the birds are objects in the eyes of the law, and the “owner” is entitled to use the birds as they see fit.  To the person who raises roosters for fighting or chickens for eating, kicking a chicken is the same as kicking a car to them.  It's their right to damage their own "property" if they want to.   In the eyes of the law, they're right.  Animals are objects that are owned, and chickens specifically, are unprotected.  Implementing laws to protect them does not protect them, because the very authorities that enforce the laws, will turn around and gas the birds, or snap their necks upon seizure.  It's their right if they can satisfactorily justify such actions, i.e., lack of space or the birds are deemed “dangerous,” which is a flat out lie. 

I’ve read several accounts of what has happened to the roosters and hens taken in cockfighting busts and I’ve talked to people directly involved on both sides.  The authorities sweep in to “save the roosters from brutality” only to butcher these birds in ways that are not even considered humane inside slaughterhouse walls. Roosters and hens in cockfighting busts have been administered only half the lethal dose to die, taking them up to 45 minutes to finally collapse, convulse and take their last breaths.  Some roosters have been killed by lethal injections to the back of the head or through the skull without first being sedated.  Birds are gassed, have their necks snapped and are suffocated, and that’s what they call saving birds from brutality and a violent death. 

Most of the activism out there from larger animal welfare organizations and lobbyist’s for the animal agriculture industry is a money grab.  When small “wins” get pushed through legislation, advocacy groups claim a win and take the donations.  Zero actual animals are saved.
If society cannot agree on who even is the bad guy, how and what can we change?  We can change our actions and have direct impact in helping real animals. The one absolute is that a life saved is a life saved.  If you get an animal to safety and advocate on their behalf, showing the value of each of their lives, you’ve made a difference.  Vegan products on the shelves are great, getting other people to go vegan is great, but the slaughter lines keep running and ancient acts like cockfighting continue.  The heroes get richer while they butcher with needles, and bolt cutters and the “bad guys” implement gaffs.