Chicken fighters say they are facing descrimination

Most fights are quick.

Chicken fighters went on the offensive Monday with a full page newspaper ad equating their sport to a long-running Costa Rican tradition. The ad also said that these chicken fights were being singled out for prosecution while there were many other sports or activities with animals that were not.

The ad in the Spanish-language newspaper La Nación was placed by the Asociatión Nacional de Criadores de Gallos, which in English would be the association of rooster breeders. They are the people who breed the birds that are faced off in mortal combat in a small ring called a gallera. Naturally there is betting. The roosters are aided by sharp metal spurs attached to their legs. And one or both of the birds die.

A.M. Costa Rica archive photo via the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. These spurs were confiscated when police raided a gallera in the Cantón de Osa last month.

Fuerza Pública officers have raided a handful of such locations and confiscated a number of birds. The raids usually are under the direction of the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal. Just last month a national lawmaker lost his chance to head the Asamblea Legislativa after news reports showed that he was a fan of such chicken fights.

“A people without traditions is a people without a history,” said the ad headline.

The ad attributed a love of chicken fights to conquistador Hernán Cortés and a litany of former presidents of the country ranging from the 19th century. The ad also said that George Washington was involved in such activity and that Abraham Lincoln, when a lawyer in private practice, made extra money on the weekends as a chicken fight judge. The ad even cited Julius Caesar.

The association claimed that the animal health service and the Fuerza Pública were treating the breeders of the birds as if they were narcotics traffickers and dangerous criminals. They also claimed that the goal was genocide of the fighting birds because some 3,000 have been slaughtered by officials.

The group cited other abuses of animals, such as the uniquely Costa Rica bull baiting that takes place at major fiestas and is televised from the Zapote Christmas fiesta each year. The ad also cited topes, those parade of horse owners, cabalgatas (trail rides) and even the tradition of hunting down a crocodile each year, tying it up and putting it on display at town festivals. These are called a largateada.
All these sports and activities mistreat animals, said the group, asking why officials are picking on those who raise and fight roosters.

The ad may mark the beginning of an effort to legalize such rooster fights. They now are illegal.

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