Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cockfighting (#190)

I was listening to a talk show on the car radio the other day which is something I used to do a lot of, but don’t anymore. As the show went along, I remembered why and will tell you.

It’s because I used to get a lot of ideas from those shows and they’d nag at me until I wrote about them. Some of them turned into columns.

But as many of you know, and most can well imagine, writing is darn hard work. It’s not enough to get ideas by plucking them from the ether or pilfering them from talk shows.

Oh no.

You have to think of words to describe those ideas.

And that ain’t all.

Oh no.

Unless you want a readership snorting in derision, instead of guffawing at well-chosen bon mots, you have to spell those words correctly and use them grammatically. Which, u know, requires, like, thought.

And if you’re doing an emailed column AND duplicating it as a blog post - well - pity da fool. That means formatting each of them differently...and...as fellow techno-dweebs (aren’t you all?) I’m sure you can feel my pain.

So talk radio was out. Too darn much work. Now my car radio’s presets are mostly rock n’ roll on the FM band. And I like it. But sometimes all six stations are either playing a song I hate or in commercials. So I’ll check out my AM dial.

Which is where the talk shows lurk.

So (he typed, after what must be a near record-length preamble) the other day I hated four of the six FM presets and the other two were in commercials, so I punched in AM and got a talk show.

The topic was about 70 people who were arrested in Ontario because they were involved in a cockfighting ring. That’s Ontario, Canada. The Great White North. It’s a long way to Santo Domingo from here. Who knew we had cockfights? Between dueling, beer-addled, Saturday-at-closing-time Lotharios, sure -- but birds?

(For those very few of you who may not know what’s involved in this “sport,” two roosters equipped with razor-edged attachments to their feet, slash each other to ribbons and onlookers bet on which will kill the other. It’s extremely popular in many Central American, South American and Asian countries and, apparently, at least one pocket of Ontario.)

Anyway, the hosts opined, as hosts do. In this case, the hosts were Paul and Carol Mott of CFRB in Toronto. Paul usually wears the black hat of the bad-guy Conservative (kinda like Stephen Colbert is a Fox-worshiping Republican) and Carol is the white-hatted, left-leaning (but nearly-sensible) counterweight. They have a nice, easy rapport and their show must be quite popular because they’ve been doing it in the same time slot for several years.

Most folks called in to express their abhorrence and dismay at the thought of those who took pleasure in watching cocks kill each other, which echoed the thoughts of the hosts who, on this topic at least, were of one mind.

But a couple of callers said, “Who really cares about chickens? If we did, we wouldn’t stack them in crates for long drives in overheated trucks to be killed and eaten.”

Another tried to compare cockfighting with boxing and ultimate fighting but the hosts quickly, and correctly, shot that down by saying people who fought in those contests exercised their free will in deciding to do so - roosters had no such privilege.

And I got to thinking about bullfights and cockfights and dog fights and what’s common in some countries and illegal in others. I thought other things too. Like if I had my druthers I’d only eat free-range chickens, fresh fish and other game caught and killed humanely.

I have no problem with folks who put their distaste for killing animals into a life of vegetarianism. I respect and admire them. I just don’t follow that same path. I believe we were meant to be omnivorous but I also believe we must respect life. Any animal destined to serve us, whether as livestock, food, or companion, is worthy of respect in life and in the manner of its death.

One caller wanted to know if the hosts would be appalled if two cockroaches were put in a tiny arena and fought to the death. If I recall correctly, they said they wouldn’t like that either but it wasn’t as yuckifying as the birds.

And I realized that everybody has a line, a sort of “do not care” line where stuff can happen and not occasion a shrug. Offenses deemed to have crossed that line might warrant anything from a “tsk” to apoplexy.

I’m glad that cockfighting is illegal in Canada and that those people got arrested.

I’m pretty much okay with the cockroaches going at it, though.


Hilary said...

Oh sure, you care about the chickens but how concerned are you when Benny torments my cats? He corners Skitty, barks at him, chases him, tries to nip his tail and sits on him. And all you do is laugh. Some animal lover YOU are! ;)

Cockfights in Ontario? That's shocking and I'm glad they've made arrests. Well told (once you got around to it). :)

Jenn Jilks said...

Interesting post, Frank.

I think that while we embrace those of different cultures as they come to live in Canada, we live in a country where our laws and, more importantly, our values hold us up to a higher level of respect than cock fighting.

Maud said...

Another great post, Frank. Well-written as always, and this topic is very thought-provoking. I'm not a vegetarian either, though I like my meat to have been reared in "humane" circumstances. But I wouldn't be happy even about cockroach fighting. If it's okay to be cruel to one group of creatures, it can be easy to slide into cruelty to others. Here in the UK these debates continue ... fox hunting was banned but still goes on. When I was living in Spain a few years ago the local press carried a story of a dog-fighting ring that had been operating just up the road from my home. If this upsets us are we just over-sensitive liberals? Or is the goal to learn respect for ALL life? Sorry to go on at such length ... this truly is a tricky issue!

Barbara Martin said...

Cockfights in Ontario have been going on nearly as long as I've been here: 26 years. It comes down to finding the locations, getting the names, making the arrests and getting the charges to stick. Unfortunately the sentences are light for animal abuse. Then the guilty find other locations and start up again.

Stace said...

I don't really get the appeal... if I want to watch two cocks having it out, I'll watch pro wrestling.

Dianne said...

I remember when Micheal Vick's involvement in the dog fighting first became known. A lot of people tried to defend him by saying he didn't know any better since he was raised in the Deep South (and not too bright) and dog fighting was "cultural" - to me savagery is savagery, killing is killing and wrong is wrong

clothing and prayers and food and music - that's cultural.

Disrespect for life and enjoying the pain of another creature is sick and vile - whether it be Canada or Mexico or this pile of lunacy I live in that sits between the 2.

Hugs to Benny and tell him to leave those cats alone

Frank Baron said...

Hil, you know Skitty enjoys it as much as Ben. Well...almost as much. Okay - for a cat, he's fairly tolerant. :)

Jenn, I'm glad it's illegal here too and, in the eyes of a majority, immoral.

Maud, no apology necessary. Indeed, I'm glad to loan you the use of my pulpit. ;) And I agree with you. We need to raise our consciousness about other sentient beings. I think we need to demonstrate that the "human" in "humane" is not a misnomer.

Barbara, somehow I'm not surprised - neither that it's been going on for some time, nor that penalties are light. If I'm not mistaken though, they have beefed them up slightly and some of the owners could face up to five years in prison - though that's quite unlikely.

Stace, I wondered who would be the first to go down that path. You were in my top 5. ;)

Hear-hear Dianne. Ben appreciates the hugs and says to tell you he can't help it - they're irresistible.

Travis Erwin said...

I once worked for a man that raised fighting cocks. At that time cock fights were legal in every state that bordered Texas though not legal in Texas. I even accompanied him to some fights over in New Mexico.

I learned that there are many wrong assumptions about cockfighting. I can understand that many cannot stomach the spectacle anymore than they can stomach hunting or fishing and cleaning their own game, but I do see cockfighting as being vastly different from dog fighting, bullfighting, or even as the caller suggest cockroach fighting.

First off the fowl used are not anything like a domestic chicken. They descend from jungle fowl which are more closely related to pheasants than the yard birds we roll in flour and snack on. The instinct of these birds are to fight. My former boss hatched his eggs in an incubator and within days after coming out the fluffy yellow male chicks would begin fighting each other and peck each other to death if not separated. This without any training or provocation from a human.

Also at the fights themselves the birds were not forced to fight. If one decide it wanted no part of the contest and ran the other bird was decalred the winner. Granted the owner of the cowardly bird might ring it's neck but they did not have to scrap with the other bird.

Also no bird fought until it was two years old. My bosses birds lived in comfort eating expensive grain and breeding for two years. Then it was allowed to fight for it's life. I do believe that is a better existence the the 4-6 months of cramped cage time a Tyson or Pilgrim Pride birds gets.

Like I said I get that somepoepl cannot stomach watching the death of a living animal, though there was little blood at the fights I saw, but I did learn a bit more about the sport and I found it much more palatible than I ev er imagined.

I once knew a dog fighter as well. He was a truly evil man who had to feed his dogs gunpowder and abuse them to make them mean enough to fight. He sickened me and my opinion of that activity was even worse for having made his acquaintance.

Anonymous said...

The birds are geared to fight with instinct and razor sharp spurs. It is appalling.

But, I love the idea of cockroaches being equipped in little spurs and taking each other out!

Stace said...

Sorry to be so predictable :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Be it cocks or cockroaches enticing critters to fight for our pleasure is wrong.
Humans can do as they please within the bounds of the law as long as they make the choice for themselves.
Great post, Frank.

Frank Baron said...

Travis, I appreciate your candour and thanks for the insight from a perspective I'm unlikely to see.

Yes Meredith, I knew they were born to be aggressive with each other. What really puts me off is the equipping with razors and the "to the death" aspect. How about boxing gloves instead and a referee? ;)

Stace, I was joking about the top 5 part. But I'd be disappointed if SOMEBODY didn't go there. Glad it was you. :)

I agree Leah and thanks for the kind words.

Bruce Robinson said...

I think I could find some level of admiration for the craftsman who makes the cockroach spurs and the wrangler who attaches them. Can you imagine the injury rate to those poor humans?

Eternal Free Spirit said...

Cockfighting, dog fighting...I don't want any part of it. Granted the cockfighting sounds like (from what Travis said) that's what they'd be doing anyway if they happened upon eachother in the wild I still wouldn't want to turn that into a sport. Humans wouldn't want to watch two alpha male wolves going at it for territory even though that's their isntincts.

I've never understood why humans would find it amusing to watch one person beat the crap out of another (boxing, wrestling, any type fighting really) and will never understand why they'd want to watch the same behavior in animals.

Yes, I'm a huge animal lover ^_^

Reb said...

I don't understand the enjoyment that people get out of watching animals fighting in a ring. No matter the animal or combination of animals (bullfighting) it doesn't appeal to me.

Frank Baron said...

Bruce, it would take jeweler's precision, that's for sure.

I can understand the attraction to watching boxing, EFS. At least, I used to watch it during the Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali days. As I've aged though, I've become more aware of the kind of long-term damage that can result. Don't have to look too much further than Ali these days. He's a shell of what he once was.

I hear ya, and agree Reb.

Thanks all, for stopping by. :)

David Kirk said...

Rooster fighting was legal in New Mexico until Governor Bill Richardson ran for president in 2008...

Kappa no He said...

I really liked what you said in your book about this: about vegetarianism and meat eating and being nice to fishies and how fishiing is cool.

Frank Baron said...

That surprises me some David. Thanks for the visit and the info.

Terrie, you are as wise and perceptive as you are beautiful and talented. :)