Monday, March 7, 2011

Cockfighting Derby

Let's get something straight - I am an animal lover.

I have been a vegetarian for many years now, a legitimate one too, not one of those fish eating fakers. I don't use leather products and avoid even gelatine. So it was with great fear and apprehension that I stepped forth into Green Harvest Rice Mill Arena, on the outskirts of San Jose, to witness my first cockfight. Before doing so however, I looked into the facts.

It surprised me greatly to learn that the fighting rooster leads a life of supreme luxury for close to two years before his first bout, living outdoors during the day and safely tucked in at night in a tee-pee style house - roughly the size of a small dog kennel. They are fed an athlete's diet full of nutrition, and nowhere else in the world will you see a rooster in such perfect shape. Like a pooch at a dog show, these birds are flawlessly presented, and sparkle before your very eyes.

Compare that with the life of a chicken bred for slaughter, and it's clear who the winner is. In fact, it's a bit like chalk and cheese. Those less lucky spend about six to eight weeks stuffed into a cage, one so small it is unable to even spread its wings. The cages are stacked on top of one another, meaning a shower of shit for everyone but the 'penthouse' dwellers. The only daylight they ever see is en route to the slaughterhouse, it is truly a miserable existence.

The design of the arena is just as it is for any other sporting spectacle, with the platform surrounded by four waves of stands. The air is pungent with the stale smell of cigarette smoke, beer burps and charred meat - a final warning to the roosters yet to do battle. One by one, the stands slowly fill with a steady stream of people. Men, women and even toddlers take their seats, awaiting battle.

The atmosphere is electric, filled with the crow of cocky competitors waiting for war. The first two fighters in the ring size each other up, but feathers do not fly just yet, as their trainers take them to opposing sides of the ring. Bookies announce themselves amongst the crowd by standing while others sit. The call for bets is akin to an auctioneer's cry (utterly incoherent), and in an instant the stadium is in a frenzy. People fall over one another in a mad scramble to place their bets.

With all bets made, the roosters are left to do battle. One bird circles the other, both holding each other's gaze unblinkingly, waiting to see what happens next and sizing up their opponent.

It happens in an instant. First there is a squawk, followed closely by a flurry of feathers. One rooster mounts the other, cutting up his back with his leg dagger while simultaneously pecking the back of his head. The referee intervenes, picking up both fighters and placing them back on the ground. One warrior struts proudly while the other falls limp. Just like that, it's over. The equivalent of a first round knockout.

I stay to watch a few more bouts, and am utterly shocked at the amount of survivors. I thought this was more of a battle to the death, but of the ten bouts I see - only one rooster croaks. There's not nearly as much blood as I imagined, and in reality - nobody is forcing the roosters to fight. In one instance, one competitor runs scared, refusing to fight. The audience just laughs, and the match is a forfeit.

"Will you come back next Sunday?" asks Boboy, my local friend (ma biet).
"I don't think so mate, but it was quite an experience!" I reply.

Boboy smiles as we clink our cans of San Miguel Light together. I may not have jumped on the bandwagon, but i'd gladly watch a hundred more cockfights before eating a single McNugget.

Such is life where one trainer leaves the ring jubilant, his winning bird raised high above his head. The other leaves heartbroken, his counterpart of two years held close to his chest, barely clutching onto life. It was an experience, that's for sure. It's also good to get your facts right, see the big picture and never jump to conclusions.

No comments:

Post a Comment