When it comes to using animals for blood sport, we seem to know the face of dog fighting well, but we so often remain in the dark about the cruelties of cockfighting. Perhaps it is because the plight of dogs is a topic we can relate to more than the plight of cockerels, and mainstream media sources tend to cover stories about “man’s best friend” more often. It’s not until a major cockfighting bust, such as this one, that we hear much about this also prevalent and cruel “sport.”
According to NBC New York, this collaborative investigation “targeted cockfighting operations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County. Police made nine felony arrests and seized more than 3,000 hens and fighting roosters in a bust dubbed “Operation Angry Birds,” according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
This is the largest bust in New York’s history, and demonstrates how real this problem truly is. When it comes to the horrid realities of cockfighting, here’s the shocking truth: “During a cockfight, two cockerels are placed into a ring and are forced to fight until one of them is dead or so badly injured that it can no longer fight. As if this isn’t cruel enough, to increase aggression, the cockerels are tormented by having their beaks and feathers pulled in order to make them angry, and all of this goes on with a crowd of cheering and shouting spectators, creating a truly terrifying experience for them.”
In addition to this cruelty during the fights themselves, cockerels involved are mistreated from the day they are born. They are housed in inhumane conditions, usually in small metal cages like the officers discovered in Brooklyn. They also found evidence of abuse: “Cockfighting contraband — including artificial spurs, candle wax, medical adhesive tape and syringes used to inject performance-enhancing drugs into the roosters — was also found in the basement,” as reported by Fox 8.
The ASPCA reports that cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states, and in New York specifically, “cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000. Additionally, attending a cockfight is a misdemeanor, with a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.”
So far, a handful of people involved in the raid have been charged with animal fighting. No word yet on how many of the charges will lead to sentencing in court. Whether the animal used in fighting is a dog or a cockerel, it’s a cruel practice that is usually linked to other criminal activities. It’s promising too see such different law enforcement groups like the Organized Crime Task Force and animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA come together and help put an end to cockfighting, which is exactly the kind of collaboration every community needs.