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Savagery! Portlanders embrace illegal cockfights

Published:Wednesday | August 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
In this file photo, Haitians watch a cockfight in downtown Port-au-Prince. Cockfighting is illegal in Jamaica but takes place in places like Portland, where people wager on the duels.

 Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer

Spring Bank, Portland:

Despite being illegal, one of the cruellest and bloodiest sports, cock-fighting, is alive and well in Portland.

Most Sunday afternoons, dozens of persons journey to different locations to wager on domestic birds pecking the life out of each other.

The illicit sport provides income for not only the owner of roosters, but also the pundits, who wager anything from $100 to $10,000 in a gruelling contest between two domestic birds engaged in a battle for supremacy and survival.

"This is what I live off," Glendon, a trainer, told The Gleaner.

"I know it is illegal, but what else can we do? We can't get any work, and I am not into stealing. I simply buy the roosters at an early age and I condition them myself," Glendon said.

He added: "I ensure that they are given food, tonic, and vitamins, and they are also trained to be swift and to be on the alert. I spend a tidy sum getting them to the stage for fighting, but with each victory, it becomes very rewarding," he added.

According to Glendon, he has lost many roosters during fights over the years, and many have also suffered serious injuries and have had to be put to sleep. He said that the meat is not wasted as it is later curried or brown-stewed for lunch or dinner.

In the lead-up to a fight, the birds are placed in their respective classes to compete based on their weight. Spurs are attached to their feet to enhance their ability to inflict a lethal strike on their opponent. They are then placed in a ring with their owners and are paraded, while wagering is carried out.

'CRASH TURN' FIGHTS

During one of the most deadliest and brutal fights witnessed by The Gleaner, a rooster, who goes by the name 'Crash Turn', had his opponent against the ropes and on the run, with the man shouting loudly, "Gwaan, Crash Turn! Kill him, Crash Turn!"

But in a twist of fate, the battered rooster somehow recovered, despite his bloody and battered condition, and started pounding Crash Turn, who started to run around the ring for dear life.

But what took place afterwards came as a shock to dozens of patrons seated in the grandstand at Spring Bank. The losing owner, obviously angered by the loss, gently lifted up the victorious bird and handed him to its owner before returning to ring and giving the defeated Crash Turn a vicious kick, which sent the animal crashing into the side fencing.

The man's action was condemned by the crowd, which lashed out at him for the cruel action against the animal.

Shortly afterwards, he exited the venue with Crash Turn in hand. The rooster appeared to be more dead than alive.

Cockfighting is held in several other communities in Portland, including Fellowship, Berrydale, Nonesuch, Moore Town, Windsor Forest, Snow Hill, and Mount Pleasant. It is a thriving sport, which also attracts professional males and females, along with ordinary residents, as spectators.

However, the sport operates in contravention of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1904, which was last amended in 1995. Under the law, every person who, by willful negligence, causes any injury or suffering to any animal, is guilty of a crime.

Persons who, in any manner, encourage, aid, or assist at the fighting or baiting of any bull, dog, cock or other kind of animal, whether domestic or wild, or keep or use or act in the management of any place to be used for the purpose of fighting or baiting any such animals are also guilty of an offence.

The law also places culpability on owners or occupiers of premises who permit any place to be so used for activities like cockfighting. The reach of the law also extends to persons who receive money for the admission of any other person to any place kept or used for such activities. Persons convicted of enabling cockfights could be jailed for up to three months.