Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
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Thursday, February 07, 2008
Is there a difference between Cockfighting and Dogfighting? (or Bullfighting?)
A video apparently uploaded to Youtube - but now gone from the site - shows Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal participating in a cockfight in the Dominican Republic (where cockfighting is legal). According to ESPN:
Martinez and Marichal laugh before releasing the roosters. The two took part as honorary "soltadores," the word used to describe the person who puts the animal to fight.I wonder if Michael Vick is looking up at a TV somewhere behind prison walls pondering whether Martinez will face any discipline from Major League Baseball. There are obvious differences between running and funding an illegal dogfighting operation in the U.S. (which Vick has admitted), and simply attending a legal cockfight (and releasing roosters into the ring) while abroad. But leaving those differences aside, is there any substantive difference between fighting roosters and fighting dogs?
There isn't a major difference between the legal status of dogfighting and cockfighting. Dogfighting is illegal in every state. Cockfighting is illegal in every state (now that Louisiana and New Mexico have banned the activity); moreover, transporting cockfighting-related equipment across state lines is now a federal offense. Although cockfighters claim their sport is "humane", that seems somewhat unconvincing.
Does the fact that cockfighting is popular among particular ethnic, cultural and national groups make it okay? Recall that the same argument was made by none other than Whoopi Goldberg about the place of dogfighting in southern culture. It didn't convince many.
Is it enough that roosters are not domesticated animals kept as pets, but consumed for food? In some other countries, of course, roosters are kept as pets and dogs are eaten (According to Slate, "The South Korean dog meat industry reportedly involves about 1 million dogs, 6,000 restaurants, and 10 percent of the population.").
Is it that dogs are smarter than roosters? There's actually a bit of disagreement on whether that is the case. Research has supposedly documented a fair amount of learning and even "culture" among chickens. One of the problems with "ranking" animals according to intelligence is that intelligence isn't a trait that is easily measured with precision and may vary depending on what kind of activity in which the animal is involved. Dogs may have a better sense of morality than roosters, but roosters might be better at recognizing pictures and more likely to dream. And exactly how dumb does an animal have to be before we no longer condemn having them fight one another?
Both of these activities involve killing and maiming animals for entertainment purposes. And unlike a sport like horseracing or even football, which may impose upon "athletes" devastating if not abusive injuries, death in both cockfighting and dogfighting is not incidental but quite intentional.
For anyone interested in a strange journey into the world of Southern cockfighting, I'd recommend Charles Willeford's novel Cockfighter.