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In the spirit of "try everything once..."
When I think of cock fights, I think of dingy underground cellars, dirt, sweat and old, crinkled notes being thumbed by fingernails lined with grime. I think of bear bating, dog fighting and Shakespeare’s groundlings pouring into the Globe showing early boils of bubonic plague. Perhaps you don´t. Perhaps that makes me odd. Please feel free to write in… The fact is, I didn’t really know what to think when the idea of a Peruvian cock fight was presented to me. The logical side to my brain said that if it was illegal at home, it was probably pretty horrific: why would I want to watch animals encouraged or forced to fight each other until blood flows, to the sounds of drunken heckling? But the more adventurous side of me said that never again in my life would this opportunity arise. I was getting the chance to get off the gringo trail and see something dirty, frantic and 100% genuine. I weighed the two up and the “try everything once” mentality won. I was going to the fight.
When the interminable taxi ride over a road that looked like the surface of the moon finally cam to an end, we found ourselves standing in front of what looked to be a large shed. Me and my two English friends approached the beefy security man on the door with caution and trembling bottom lips. “Ummm, hello…. Three tickets please, Sir.” “Tickets for what?” I’m feeling considerably more nervous now. Perhaps we really aren’t welcome.
“The cock fight.” José, the beef king immediately lightened up. “For real???? Ok, I guess that’s fine. Come on in!! I am José”
The shack was full of Peruvians, 90% men, all betting, drinking beer, and now staring at our good selves with no pretence at subtlety. We sat down, got beer and the fight began. I have to say, the gore was nothing compared to what I had geared myself up to. The birds, fine specimens of nature, were placed face to face, which really riled them up, and then were let go. There would be a lot of fluttering, a plethora of pecks, and the bell would ring one way or the other. Nor, however, is it something for a children’s birthday party. The cocks have extra spikes attached to their legs for maximum damage, and if your cock doesn’t fight, they will not hesitate to ring its neck. This is not a sport for animal lovers. But the seedy atmosphere that I had expected was nowhere to be found. We received attention, but in the form of curiosity, never threats. People thanked us for coming and invited us back whenever. As with so many of the things here, I went into it with a set view and came out far more uncertain. While I had never made my mind about fox hunting, I would never have given cock fighting the go ahead. But the animals are cared for better than most UK farm livestock, and the injury treatment is rapid and thorough. Its all too easy to assume we have it right in the UK, and that things that we condone are reasonable, things we don’t are not. It’s a comforting view, but it’s lazy, and these experiences show you that. Verdict? It’s violent, it’s unnecessary and I wouldn’t go again, but I’m extremely glad I did.