Cock Fighting in Jamaica: A Cruel, Illegal and Thriving Bloodsport


It is very hard to write this, but I have learned, as of today in fact, that cock fighting is thriving in some rural areas of Jamaica.

It’s hard to write, because I always hope and trust (naïvely, I suppose) that we humans must, at least, treat our domesticated animals with some decency. That’s when I am in a sanguine mood – and when I am pushing aside the realization that this is far from true. We see neglect and abuse of animals almost every day – and I am not talking about Jamaica only. This is true all around the world.

Because, after all, we humans have the power. We love to dominate and “control” our environment, don’t we? And that certainly includes animals, both wild and domesticated. I do realize, also, that there are long traditions of cock fighting in many cultures (not only in this hemisphere but in Europe and Asia, too) but that does not make it OK. In the 21st century, perhaps we should know better?

The Cock Fight
“The Cockfight,” a painting by Winslow Homer (1885).

Now, I am not being over-emotional about this. The practice of cock fighting is, simply, extreme cruelty. It is also illegal in this country. It is in contravention of the Cruelty to Animals Act. 

But it is also, by accounts I am hearing, big business in Jamaica. In the hills of St. Mary, it is thriving. Jamaicans (rich and poor) gamble on these birds. They are specially bred and trained for the purpose. Even though it is illegal, I hear that “high profile” people come to watch and bet on the birds. In fact, I have been told that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), here to “serve and protect us,” are very much involved in cock fighting – including the breeding and training of fighting fowl.

There is much at stake, it seems. So, the birds are carefully prepared for battle. Various drugs are imported from overseas (including from the UK) to improve their performance and competitiveness. These drugs include coagulants to stop the fighters from bleeding. Many breeds and varieties of fighting fowl are smuggled from other islands and from Central and South America, I also hear. Much attention is paid to the spur on the back of the bird’s foot, which is what does the damage to the opponent’s bird. Sometimes metal spurs are attached.

It is quite accepted and open in many communities, it seems. It’s very possible that many participants don’t even realize they are breaking the law. It is in contravention of the Cruelty to Animals Act; one of those old colonial laws still on the books, which specifically mentions “the fighting or baiting of any bull, dog, cock, or other kind of animal, whether domestic or wild.” It is also, from what I can ascertain, deemed “unlawful gambling.” What is clear is that all the people involved (the gamblers, the trainers, the owners) do not seem to know that it is a cruel and inhuman act. Or perhaps they do know, but do not care.

Although it is not publicly advertised, those who follow cock fights know where to go. There are cock fighting stadiums not only in St. Mary, but in St. Ann also, and it’s very popular in Portland too, I am told. I hear it is a much-loved activity in Old Harbour Bay and in the Spanish Town area.

So, there is money to be made out of this bloody “sport,” and there are likely to be influential people engaged in it in some way or another. If policemen and so-called “big men” are indeed involved, as I am told they are – then it is unlikely that the law will be enforced.

But how often is the cruelty to animals law heeded or enforced, anyway? Who really cares about a few dogs, donkeys or roosters? Many Jamaicans would say that we have more important things to worry about, and yes, “man haffi eat a food.”

End of story, apparently.

84e21181-1944-4c7b-bb16-d42c6cb4a736
A fighting cock in Jamaica.

 

 


4 thoughts on “Cock Fighting in Jamaica: A Cruel, Illegal and Thriving Bloodsport

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