Animal Studies Bibliography

Bryant, Clifton. 1991. Deviant leisure and clandestine lifestyle: Cockfighting as socially disvalued sport. World Leisure and Recreation 33: 17-21.

Cockfighting has been around since before civilization and can be found (historically and currently) as an enjoyed sport all over the world. Colonial Americans, both elites and the general public, loved the sport. There was, however, criticism of it (and other “blood sports”) as well, with critics arguing that cockfighting was hedonistic, unwholesome, and unproductive, and therefore out of keeping with the Puritan and Protestant ethics. Twentieth century criticism is based on ideas about cruelty to animals and a desire to stop gambling, and is often expressed in laws forbidding the sport. This criticism may have lessened public participation in cockfighting, but many fans still remained active after the stigmatized sport went underground, where it remains today. Each state has its own laws and penalties (and the sport is legal in a few states). Since local authorities enforce state laws, there is much variation in how acceptable cockfighting is in any particular area and how furtive cockers need to be. Enforcement issues are further complicated by the presence of animal rights organizations who often have the right to hand people citations for violating animal protection laws, and sometimes work to infiltrate cockfights in order to catch participants. Besides dealing with legal prohibitions, cockers also have to deal with the stigma attached to cockfighting, which comes in part from the public perception is that cockers are deviant, violent people. Because the sport must remain underground in most places, it is difficult to assess its size, but evidence suggests that there may be as many as 500,000 people who participate in the sport in some way. This includes people who raise cocks for fighting here and abroad, people who run public fighting pits, people who supply materials like feed and spurs, etc. Cockers must usually hide all aspects of their participation, which involves things like moving their cocks at night, hiding cock's pens among other farm areas, using fake names, keeping involvement a secret from employers, and buying materials from stores that sell only to cockers. This secrecy may cause the cocker and his family stress. Public attitudes about cockfighting are irrational and incongruous. Not only do laws and enforcement vary within the U.S., but cockfighting is a popular and legal sport, broadcast over television, in Puerto Rico. Many other “cruel” practices, like fishing and hunting, rodeos, and the like, as well as hockey and football among people, are tolerated. Most importantly, not only have many important people been involved in cockfighting, but also, the negative image of cockers is all wrong. A national survey revealed that cockers were quite average people--they are “[white] rural and small town dwellers, married with children, who involve their family in their sport, have middle and lower middle class vocations...along with their spouses, better educational backgrounds than the larger population, served their country in the military [including combat], and belong to the major religious faiths” (20). Cockers generally deal with the negative image by limiting their social activities to those with other cockers, thus avoiding criticism. Cockers also deal by offering rationalizations for the sport, including its history and many illustrious participants, the cock as a model to emulate, the idea that cocks fight because it's their nature, the family benefits of working together on the sport, the fact that it's a way for people who aren't rich to be totally involved in a sport, and lessons about discipline, honor, etc. that they've learned from the sport.



Visit the Michigan State University Homepage Return to the Animal Studies Homepage