Cockfighting Fact Sheet
1. What is cockfighting?
Cockfighting is a centuries-old blood sport in which two or
more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in
an enclosure to fight, for the primary purposes of gambling
and entertainment. A cockfight usually results in the death
of one of the birds; sometimes it ends in the death of both.
A typical cockfight can last anywhere from several minutes
to more than half an hour.
2. How does it cause animal suffering?
The birds, even those who do not die, suffer in cockfights.
The birds cannot escape from the fight, regardless of how
exhausted or injured they become. Common injuries include
punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Such severe
injuries occur because the birds' legs are usually fitted
with razor-sharp steel blades or with gaffs, which resemble
three-inch-long, curved ice picks. These artificial spurs
are designed to puncture and mutilate.
3. Are there other concerns?
Yes. Law enforcement raids across the country have revealed
several disturbing facets of this so-called sport. Gambling
is the norm at cockfights. Thousands of dollars can exchange
hands as spectators and animal owners wager large sums on
their favorite birds. The owners of birds who win the most
fights in a derby (a series of cockfights) may win tens of
thousands of dollars of presumably unreported income.
Firearms and other weapons are common at cockfights, mainly
because of the large amounts of cash present. In addition,
cockfighting has been connected to other kinds of
violence—even homicide, according to newspaper reports.
Law enforcement officials have documented a strong
connection between cockfighting and the distribution of
illegal drugs. Drug enforcement agents often learn about
animal fighting operations as a result of narcotics
The presence of young children at cockfights is an
especially disturbing element. Exposure to such brutality
can promote insensitivity toward animal suffering and
enthusiasm for violence.
4. Aren't these birds natural fighters?
While it is true that 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
pairs of birds, bred for maximum aggressiveness (and
sometimes given steroids or other drugs to make them more
successful fighters) are forced to fight until a winner is
5. Isn't cockfighting part of our 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. At
one time the United States allowed slavery, lacked child
abuse laws, and refused women the vote.
6. Is there a trend toward treating the crime of
cockfighting more seriously?
Yes. It is illegal in almost every state, and most states
specifically prohibit anyone from being a spectator at a
cockfight. Recently many states have increased the
seriousness of a cockfighting charge from a misdemeanor to a
felony. In addition, the federal Animal Welfare Act
prohibits the interstate transport of birds for use in
cockfights to states with laws against cockfighting. We
encourage prosecutors to indict those involved in
cockfighting not only on illegal gaming charges but also for
conspiracy to commit a crime and illegal gambling.