Cockfighting is an age-old practice in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosed pit to fight for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment. A typical cockfight can last anywhere from several minutes to more than half an hour and usually results in the death of one or both birds.
Animal suffering and cockfighting
Common excuses from cockfighters
Birds are natural fighters
While birds will fight over food, territory or mates, such fights are generally only to establish dominance within a group (the pecking order) and seldom result in serious injury. This natural behavior is quite different from what happens in staged cockfights, where the animal’s will to survive is exploited. Winning gamebirds are a result of artificial selection—intentionally bred for maximum aggression.
Cockfighting is part of our culture/heritage
While it is true that cockfighting has been practiced for centuries in various countries, including the United States, "old" does not necessarily mean right or even acceptable. Heritage cannot be a defense for inexcusable, intentional abuse for the sake of entertainment. Cockfighting is centered on animal suffering and apologists try to dress it up as tradition to disguise and excuse the egregious cruelty they inflict. By passing strong laws against animal fighting, federal and state governments have declared that it no longer has a place in our society.
Cockfighting and the spread of disease
Those who raise and sell roosters for fighting maintain hundreds, sometimes thousands, of birds—creating an ideal environment for the spread of disease. Birds are regularly sold and transported across state lines to fight in bloody cockfighting matches with no regulation or oversight. The fights themselves involve uniquely unsanitary practices such as cockfighters handling bloody, mutilated birds and putting their mouths over injured roosters’ beaks to suck fluids from their airways.
How the HSUS combats cockfighting
Law enforcement support
The HSUS gives law enforcement the tools they need to go after cockfighters. We have partnered with the National Sheriffs Association to train thousands of local officers nationwide on how to investigate cockfighting crimes. We also host trainings with the FBI and Department of Justice to train federal agents and prosecutors.
The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team's animal fighting experts routinely work with the U.S. Department of Justice—agencies such as the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG), FBI, U.S. Marshalls and Department of Homeland Security who participate in cockfighting investigations and raids. Our professional investigators provide intelligence on cockfighters and their operations, connect them with confidential informants, pay rewards for information that leads to prosecution and respond to assist with evidence collection and animal care in some circumstances. Additionally, our animal fighting investigators are court-certified experts in state and federal courts, and we routinely provide expert opinions to assist in prosecutions.
How you can help
Learn how to spot the signs of cockfighting. If you suspect cockfighting activity, alert your local law enforcement agency and urge officials to contact the HSUS for practical tools, advice and assistance. Cockfighting is most prevalent in states with weak penalties, so if you live in one of the states where possessing and selling birds for fighting or being a spectator at a cockfight is still legal, please contact your state legislators and urge them to bring the cockfighting law in line with the state’s dogfighting law.