Coming from a country where cockfighting was banned in 1835. I of course have some preconceived ideas and beliefs about the sport, I have to start by saying these beliefs stand firm. Travelling through different countries and different cultures you have to have a level of respect for their traditions.
I make it a personal mission of mine not to get on my high horse, I have seen far too many people criticise people and cultures openly to their faces. This is both disrespectful and entirely preachy. Let’s be real, change has to come from within, a bunch of westerners preaching about right or wrong is not okay (this obviously aside from actions which endanger species, the environment or peoples lives).
Arriving at the Cockfighting Arena
Where to begin, the whole event is clearly a very big deal for the locals, and always coincides with ceremonies held throughout the year. This particular ceremony was the Galungun ceremony, which I talk about more in my first Bali post.
I arrived at the families cockfighting business, which is where the cocks are bred and trained. The cocks were collected and I was whisked away on the back of a scooter to the arena. The arena was clearly a permanent structure built for the regular cockfighting events. It was a covered structure with concrete seats on 3 sides, food was being cooked outside the arena by the local women. It must be said that women are not allowed to actually attend the cockfighting.
I was taken to stand ringside, the cockfighting ring had 2 ft barriers on all sides. All of the cocks in woven closable baskets lining the ring. The cocks fought 1 on 1, and in order to decide which cocks would fight, 4-6 cocks were chosen at a time and presented to each other for a reaction. The cocks that reacted the most to each other were to fight.
Each cock was then prepared, the preparation was possibly the most interesting part for me. The cocks were calmed, and then sharp blades were chosen and tied one of the cocks legs. Before the fight began the cocks were presented to each other and, well let’s just say they were intentionally made angry, sometimes pulling the cock about by its head or tail, sometimes allowing the cocks to peck at each other violently.
Whilst this is happening the crowd erupts into a gambling frenzy. From what I could make out chosen birds were shouted by the crowd in order to sway opinion. Bets were then made, for a south east asian country bets were not small, upwards of £40 a time. Cockfighting is clearly a big deal here.
A bell is sound and the fight begins, now this is a brutal fight, and almost always to the death. The crowd is fighting to see, pushing each other, I’ve never had so many hands on me at once, there’s no room for personal space here.
The cocks are clearly bred and raised to be angry, they fight with an incredible intensity. Sometimes it would only last one round, the most I saw was 3. If a bird died it’s leg was cut off to remove the blade, the body taken away and returned in a bag butchered and ready to be cooked.
As I said, I wanted to present this in an unbiased way. I hope I have aside from my initial paragraphs.
Have any of you experienced cockfighting first hand? I’d love to hear from you about your beliefs and unique experiences in the comments below.