DISPATCHES

Changing my opinion about cock fighting

April 20th, 2012

by Caitlin Kleiboer, videographer

My story on this trip is a prime example of how journalism can go in ways you didn’t ever expect it to. I went with a very strong idea of that I wanted to do while I was there. I was determined to find a health care story and had a bit of a one-track mind in that sense. By the second day I had not yet found that story and had no plans for the evening. Someone told me there was a cock fight happening in the highlands that night and I should go check it out if I didn’t have anything else to do. Sure, I like new experiences! Why not?
When I first walked into the ring, I don’t think I had any idea what I expected to see. Cigarette smoke filled the air, beer bottles clanged together, shouts and laughter of men were heard all around. We got there just in time to see the birds being prepared to fight. A man was attaching metal spurs to the legs of the birds in place of the spurs that the bird naturally has. Birds were being placed in the scale to determine weight class. Bets were being placed on the first match.
With a whistle the match started. Cock fighting rules vary around the globe. Here there are several ways a bird can lose a fight. One is to flee the ring. To turn tail and run away. This was the outcome of the first few matches we saw. The other way is to be killed. When this did happen later in the night I was surprised by what I saw. The owner of the bird tried to revive it.
I spoke to him afterwards to try to understand how these men feel when they lose a bird. He told me that after a bird dies that bird is given back to the land, where it was from. I was then told that the bird who won the match is set free, no longer required to fight. The love these men have for their birds is evident. But there is a disconnect that I am still not sure I understand, even after some time to reflect. These men speak about the birds as though they are part of their family. I saw how much they care for the birds. But then they put them in the ring to potentially fight to the death.
Like other blood sports or violent sports, I don’t know that cock fighting is something I will ever truly understand. But I hope through my story I’ve portrayed it justly. I hope I’ve shown the love and care the fighters have for their birds, and the realities of the match itself.
Thank you to Francisco for teaching me something new and letting me spend time with you and your family and friends.