The ancient blood “sport” of cockfighting is rife around Australia despite the barbaric practice being made illegal more than 90 years ago, investigators have revealed.
Recent raids of properties across the country have uncovered cruel cockfighting equipment and traumatised fowls kept in small cages in rural areas and suburban homes.
Unlike Laos, the Philippines or Vietnam, where the popular form of entertainment publicly rakes in billions of dollars, illegal syndicates in Australia exist behind closed doors and operate underground to avoid being caught by the RSPCA or police.
Roosters trained for fighting are mutilated by having their combs (the wobbly flesh on top of their heads and under their chins) and spurs (spiky growths on the backs of their legs) hacked off.
Sharp metal blades called gaffs are fitted to the cock’s legs before they are placed into a ring and forced to fight to the death or until seriously injured.
As part of their training, the roosters are kept in small, uncomfortable cages to build their aggression levels, priming them to fight when released into the ring.
Disturbingly, RSPCA Victoria’s head of inspectorate Terry Ness said cockfighting was more common than most people realised.
“Cockfighting still occurs in Australia and is often associated with other illegal practices, such as unregulated gambling,” Mr Ness told The New Daily.
Rather than receiving medical treatment for injuries, the cocks are instead subjected to DIY surgery by their owners, who fear a veterinarian will out them to authorities.
Mr Ness said large cockfighting events were typically held in rural or remote parts of Australia where the noise was unlikely to attract attention.
Animals Australia’s campaigns director Lisa Chalk said gambling was a key driving force keeping the barbaric practice alive.
“Most people aren’t driven to be cruel, but what we’ve found is that when there is prizemoney on the table and animals are the means to an end then their capacity to suffer becomes secondary to the desire to win,” Ms Chalk told The New Daily.
“Governments need to look very closely at the types of behaviours fostered by gambling industries and seriously question what human qualities we want to be nurturing in our society.”
The RSPCA has already exposed a number of clandestine cockfighting rings around Australia.
In 2017, inspectors located and seized 186 fowl and cockfighting equipment at a number of Queensland properties, including Cairns, Gympie, the Sunshine Coast, north Brisbane, south Brisbane and west of Ipswich.
The fighting cocks were found to have been so traumatised they were deemed unable to be re-homed and were euthanised.
Last year, more than 100 fowl were removed from two Victorian properties in Melbourne’s west after inspectors found that half of them had been mutilated for the purpose of cockfighting.
In October 2018, the former Oxford Game Fowl Breeders Association president Frank Robert Huskisson pleaded guilty to possessing cockfighting contraband following a two-year RSPCA investigation into a south-east Queensland cockfighting ring.
On Thursday last week, RSPCA Victoria seized cockfighting birds from a property north-west of Melbourne.
A 60-year-old Sunshine West man who lived at the property was also charged with trafficking and possessing the drug ice.
Mr Ness said uncovering the rings exposed a “shocking reality that cockfighting continues in Victoria”.
Game fowl breeders who spoke to The New Daily confirmed cockfighting was still happening around the nation, but denied any involvement in the centuries-old sport.
One South Australian breeder, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been approached by people seeking to purchase fowl for cockfighting.
“There are entities in Australia that still do it – no joking about that,” he said.
“It’s a 2500-year-old art and some families are very passionate about it.
“There are some people who go to extraordinary lengths to keep up an illegal activity.”
- If you have information about cockfighting rings operating in Australia, contact reporter Samantha Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org.