The Bloggomist: Today’s Dish/Yesterday’s Spam
The air is thick with the natural humidity of the Philippines, the sweat of bodies, and soon, of blood. Men call out bets and after a minute or two, the next two contestants enter, cradled in the arms of their owners, crowing every so often into the chaos.
The owners make adjustments to nasty looking razors – technically, they’re called gaffs – that are attached to each rooster’s legs. Roosters naturally have spurs on their legs, and these can be sharpened for fighting, but sometimes knives are attached as well.
They hold their birds up. One rooster – a completely white one – reacts aggressively by puffing out its neck feathers. The other one, who is spectacularly colored golden-orange-brownish black – doesn’t respond favorably. More adjustments are made by each rooster’s owners, the roosters are then placed beak to beak, and finally the sabong – or cockfight – is under way.
Both photos licensed under Creative Commons.
It is vicious and quick. The knives slice and stab invisibly – at least from my vantage point. All I can see is the white rooster’s feathers are soon stained red, and at first I wonder whose blood it is – the white rooster’s own or his opponent’s? Several seconds later I get my answer as the white rooster collapses into a red-blended heap of feathers.
One man steps in and pulls this rooster up. Miraculously it stands and the fight continues for a few more seconds before it is over, with the pretty brown rooster standing victorious behind and on top of the lifeless white one. He is taken away amidst cheers. The defeated will also soon exit the premises, but plucked and ready for the pot. (The victor, below.)
It is difficult to communicate the extent of brutality involved in a 30-second fight to the death between two chickens; one has to witness a fight to truly understand.
Cockfighting has been around since ancient times, documented in China, Persia and introduced to Greece around 500 B.C.E. It is not only legal, but popular in many regions of the world including the Philippines, Central America, France, Mexico, Canary Islands, and Guam.
Indeed, animal fighting in some shape or form has been a part of nearly every culture. It is not unique to people of color or the nations of the Global South. Hare coursing, for example, is a regularly judged competition in Ireland and Spain, and still legal in parts of the United States, despite protests and opposition.
Yet it is particularly unfair for the average American to judge and condemn the sport as cruel or immoral; we regularly eat, without a second thought, factory-farmed chickens who spend their entire lives without the ability to move, darkness and filth, sometimes with their beaks cut off at birth. Writer Michael Specter tells the New Yorker about his first visit to a U.S. chicken farm:
“I was almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia. My eyes burned and so did my lungs, and I could neither see nor breathe….There must have been thirty thousand chickens sitting silently on the floor in front of me. They didn’t move, didn’t cluck. They were almost like statues of chickens, living in nearly total darkness, and they would spend every minute of their six-week lives that way.”
Fighting cocks, on the other hand, are treated as prized athletes, well-fed – sometimes with diets of high quality feed and vitamins instead of regular chicken mash, raised with care and attention. They do not live the way Spector describes, their lives are day and night apart that of a Perdue or Tyson broiler.
If I had to choose between the sad life of a fighting cock or that of an American farm-raised chicken, I may very well choose to be the gladiator.
To see more from Jennifer Chen, visit: http://evilmonito.com/author/jennifer/