A cockfight in Mexico

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico – Cockfighting. For some the word conjures up thoughts of seedy, smoke-filled backrooms with shouting men, their fists full of cash, betting their bird will kill the other.  This is not entirely inaccurate.

A crowd gathered at its local cockfighting arena, or “palenque,” in a small Mexican town.  The crowd was large. Some people were drinking, none were drunk. While there were shouting men placing bets on their rooster to win, nobody was shaking handfuls of pesos. As for the smoke, there was not one cigarette. As one might expect, feathers were floating all about.

In the center was the dusty, blood-stained arena where the two roosters would fight to the death.

The ambiance was similar to a crowd at a high school football game, loud but tame, and just as morally accepting of the sport.

Some cockfighters commented on the ethics of the sport.

“It is cruel on one hand, but not on the other. You have to keep roosters separate because even if you don’t fight them, the birds fight to the death by themselves anyway,” said Luis Ceniceros, a 30-year cockfighter and breeder.

Cockfighting is not legal everywhere in Mexico, but in many places it is tolerated and even socially acceptable; there were even federales at the event.

“A mother and father chicken will have a batch of chicks. When the male roosters become adults, one, two, or all three of them, whichever is the strongest, will challenge the father to the death. That’s why it’s not cruel because they’ll fight whether they have blades or not, it’s just their nature,” said Ricardo Gonzalez Jurado, a cockfighter and breeder.

There were even Americans at the event who shared a similar viewpoint.

“You could see it as bloodthirsty and satanic, but the animal is doing what comes natural to him,” said James Talmadge, an American spectator. “It’s part of Mexican culture since the beginning of Mexico. The Egyptians did it, the Persians did it, even George Washington did it.”

On the one hand, it was not pleasant watching a rooster bleeding out of its mouth, while the other picked at its eye. Or watching dead roosters being casually tossed into a blue barrel full of other dead roosters.

On the other hand, there was no doubting the fundamental difference in thinking and moral views, observed in the indifferent stares of the spectators. They truly did not see anything wrong with it.

“The problem with animal rights activists is that they’re trying to humanize an animal. It’s something you can’t do. People want to abort children but they don’t want animals killing each other. At the end of the day, these animal rights activists are just screwing with the food chain,” said Jurado.

Whether or not one thinks cockfighting is right or wrong, one thing is apparent: as is typical in life, one man’s moral grievance is another man’s pastime.

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