Cockfighting in Nicaragua

Pictures: Richard Clark. 


Ten years ago, during a trip to Nicaragua, we were invited to a cock fight. We weren't overly enthusiastic but cockfighting is a sport that thousands of ordinary people in South and Central America enjoy. So we got into the truck and drove into the Nicaraguan countryside.

It was a vivid if harrowing evening. Farmers and family men, small business holders and labourers (there were no women) gathered in a ruined farmhouse about 40 minutes drive from the village. The cocks were lean and nervy, weighing between 9 and 12 pounds, standing about 60 cm tall. Fighting birds fight because they can’t help it; they are ferociously territorial. Before they’re released upon each other, bets are placed. Spurs tied to their legs make injuries more bloody, often fatal.

In Latin America, cockfighting is regarded as a cultural tradition, fiercely popular amongst men, women and children, rich and poor, particularly in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. It’s also banned in many of those countries, including Nicaragua, but authorities often turn a blind eye.

While animal welfare organisations condemn the practice, others argue that anyone who has eaten battery-farmed chicken has eaten a bird that has suffered far more in its (shorter) life and death than the glossy creatures we saw tearing each other apart that night. Both practices are difficult but it’s a toss up as to which is the hardest to swallow.