Cockfighting in Cuba: clandestine venues, state arenas

Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:15pm GMT

By Sarah Marsh and Alexandre Meneghini

CIEGO DE AVILA (Reuters) - Cuban farmer Pascual Ferrel says his favorite fighting cock's prowess was "off the charts," so after it died of illness he had the black and red rooster preserved and displays it on his mantelpiece beside a television.

"He fought six times and was invincible," the 64-year old recalled fondly, talking over the crowing of 60 birds in his farmyard in the central Cuban region of Ciego de Avila.

Though it is banned in many parts of the world, cockfighting is favored throughout the Caribbean and in Cuba its popularity is growing.

Last year, Ciego de Avila opened its first official cockfighting arena with 1,000 seats, the largest in Cuba, to the dismay of animal rights activists who see it as a step backward.

Cockfighting is a blood sport because of the harm cocks do to each other in cockpits, exacerbated by metal spurs that can be attached to birds' own spurs.

After the 1959 revolution, Cuba cracked down on cockfighting as part of a ban on gambling, recalls Ferrel.

Over the years that stance has softened. Official arenas have opened and hidden arenas are tolerated as long as there are no brawls.

"'People say: if the government is allowed to hold cockfights, why can't we?" says Nora Garcia Perez, head of Cuban animal welfare association Aniplant.   Continued...

Cockfighting enthusiasts watch a fight at a cockfighting arena in Moron, central region of Ciego de Avila province, Cuba, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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