Cockfight signifies cruel culture


Islamabad is a city where the recreational opportunities for youngsters are very little; hence, the majority from lower and middle segments of society opt to use their mental capacity in devious activities. One of them is cockfight, which is a source of entertainment as well as earning money in betting on fights of their trained cocks, while law enforcing agencies has failed to counter the illegal practice and penalising the alleged culprits under the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977. Though, there is nothing attractive about the bloodbath in which cocks get wounded and often killed, this centuries-old practice is going on in various semi-urban and rural vicinities of the federal capital including Bhara Kahu, Bari Imam, Nelore Factory, Sohan, Faizabad, Pirwadhai, Fauji Colony, PWD and various others parts of Rawalpindi throughout the year.
A cockfight is a sport between two roosters, held in a ring called a cockpit. It is now illegal in the United States, Brazil, Australia and Europe, but still not banned in some US territories.
Cockfighting is a popular sport in Pakistan; however, betting is illegal under the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977. But police often turn a blind eye towards it. In Sindh, people are fond of keeping the trained breed, known as Sindhi Aseel, for the purpose, while the other popular breed trained for fighting is called Mianwali Aseel. These cocks are noted being tall, heavy and good at fighting. Talking about the technicalities, Wajid Abbasi, a resident of Bhara Kahu who is involved in the game for the last 15 years, told Pakistan Today that the cockfight had an ancient history not only in Pakistan but all over the world. “The combatants, referred to as gamecocks, are specially bred birds, conditioned for increased stamina and strength,” Abbasi said.
“Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. They are given the best of care until the age of two years. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match. While not all fights are to the death, the cocks may endure significant physical trauma. In many other areas around the country, cockfighting is still practised as a mainstream event; however, in some countries it is government-controlled,” Abbasi said. Cockfighting is considered a blood sport by animal rights activists, while the advocates of the sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons for its perpetuation.
Talking about the procedure prior to the fight, Abbasi said, “The cocks fight until ultimately one of them dies or is critically injured. Historically, the ring is called a cockpit, a term which was also used in the 16th century to mean a place of entertainment or frenzied activity,” Abbasi said.
The birds are equipped with either metal spurs (called gaffs) or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird’s natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather or silver) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range from “short spurs” of just over an inch to “long spurs”, almost two and a half inches. In the naked heel variation, the bird’s natural spurs are left intact and sharpened, and fighting is done without gaffs or taping. It is mostly fought naked heel. Three are either three rounds of twenty minutes with a gap of again twenty minutes or four rounds of fifteen minutes each and a gap of fifteen minutes.
Wherever the fight is about to start, people throng to watch it. The spectacle of cockfighting is as popular in the region as baseball and American football are in the United States. Among the competitors, who raise fighting cocks, there is great pride in the prowess of their birds and in winning a ‘championship’. Chaudhry Bashir, a resident of Tench Bhatta, while talking to this scribe said earlier, cockfight was considered a culture of Pakistan, but now majority of fighting pheasant owners had made it a gambling sport. “Few years ago, a spot was fixed for the fight of roosters and it was arranged particularly during at traditional festivals in Rawalpindi. But with diminishing tradition of arranging festivals, those fond of cockfighting are now involved in gambling at a particular spot called ‘Dera’,” Bashir said. When asked is there any official union or organisation controlling and adopting rules and regulations of the game, his reply was in negative.
“Every year, around Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 million betting (gambling) is fixed in the country, while the rate is much higher in other parts of the world,” he said.
Talking about the diet of roosters, Bashir said, “They are fed almonds, cashew nuts, millets and wheat grains to make them strong.” “Besides, they are forced to run to be an active, while they are also dosed of multi-vitamins and neurobion capsules, also they are messaged frequently prior to fight,” he said. “The fights between the specially-bred and trained cocks are organised in sprawling fields with thousands watching the spectacle. Such is the craze that cockfights are also organised at night under floodlights,” Bashir added.
Another owner of gamecock, Nazir Hussain said the roosters had a weapon called ‘khar’ at the back of their claws, which they use in the fight. A good fighting cock costs between Rs 50,000 and Rs 300,000, depending upon its height and power.”
“At night, the fighters undergo ‘physiotherapy’. The owners soak a towel in warm water mixed with henna and massage the bird with it. “This energises him and makes him look good,” Hussain said.
If the bird loses its khar during a fight, then another khar is joined with the broken one. They are available because when roosters die, or are killed, the owners usually cut the khars off and then sell a pair for Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. “The fighting roosters are not allowed to sleep at least 10 days before the fight nor are they allowed any fun – the roosters cannot go near a hen during these days,” he said.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Islamabad Police spokesman Muhammad Naeem said gambling and betting was strictly prohibited under the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977 and FIR under sections 5 and 7 were registered against the culprits. “Section 5, addressing the penalty for gaming in a public place, says, ‘“Whoever is found gambling in a public place, street or thoroughfare, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.” “While the Section 7 says, ‘Whoever, having been convicted of any offence under this Act, again commits any such offence shall be punishable for every such subsequent offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both.”