Monday, January 23, 2006

British Fans Flock to French cockfights in Order to Get Off on Birds Killing Each Other

It’s always amazing to me that people actually like to see animals or even the other animal – humans, killing each other. But, they do. Check out this quote from the article below. Also, make sure you see the pictures via the link below.

“Middle-class professionals are crossing the Channel to the Pas de Calais region to indulge their secret passion for the spectacle of cockerels hacking each other to death with razor-sharp spurs attached to their legs.”

The Sunday Times January 22, 2006

British fans flock to French cockfights


Daniel Foggo and Matthew Campbell

French cockfighting: scenes from video

AN enclave of villages in northern France where the archaic practice of cockfighting is still permitted has become a magnet for day-tripping British devotees of the illegal bloodsport.

Middle-class professionals are crossing the Channel to the Pas de Calais region to indulge their secret passion for the spectacle of cockerels hacking each other to death with razor-sharp spurs attached to their legs.

French law allows the contests, known as combats de coq, in only a few villages that can prove a long tradition of cockfighting. It is illegal in the rest of the country and practitioners risk a two-year jail sentence.

The cross-Channel traffic of enthusiasts from Britain, where cockfighting has been illegal since 1835, has been uncovered by RSPCA investigators.

Although Britons cannot be prosecuted for attending the fights, they can be charged if found in possession of cockfighting paraphernalia in this country. One man was arrested recently after he was apparently stopped at Folkestone with cockfighting spurs in his car. He is due to stand trial in May.

Mike Butcher, chief inspector of the RSPCA’s special investigations unit, said: “The British cockfighting community is incredibly secretive, much more so than the dog fighters who tend to be easier to penetrate.

“We have discovered that people interested in cockfighting are using the loophole in the French law to get round the fact that cockfighting is illegal here. Cockfights in the Pas de Calais are particularly brutal since they use spurs, which means that nine times out of 10 the birds die.”

The season begins in January and runs until mid-summer. “The British guys take out their birds before the day of the fight or they leave their birds in France and have someone else look after them. They also buy gamefowl out there and bring them back for breeding purposes,” said Alan Fisher, an inspector in the RSPCA unit.

The Sunday Times has tracked down several men who have attended fights. Alistair Prudom, of Donington, Lincolnshire, who keeps cockerels in the grounds of his detached house, admitted travelling to the village of La Bistade last summer to attend a cockfight.

Speaking to an undercover reporter, he said he had to be careful what he said “because I have to look after myself”. He said he had been stopped by the authorities as he returned to Britain. The RSPCA found a number of immature birds in his car but he was allowed to go because he was not in possession of any illegal items.

He told the reporter: “I went and, without wanting to say too much, I came back and got hassled on this side. When I got off the ferry there were people there. It is legal (in the French villages) but they don’t like it here and they will question you when you get back.

“I mean obviously a lot (of Britons) go every year but only a few have got (stopped). But it’s going to be increased.”

Prudom, 41, who was born in Kenya and whose wife Pauline is an Indian-born dance teacher, said monitoring by the authorities had “changed it a lot”. He said that he had been only once and had been “assured it would be okay” but had now decided that it wasn’t “worth the grief”.

“I wouldn’t go again,” he said. “It is probably like going to see a bullfight but it’s frowned upon in this country.”

Subsequently asked to comment on his interest in cockfighting by The Sunday Times, he said: “I am not saying anything. Get off my land or I will call the police.”

Carl Bowden, 43, a former gamekeeper from Ware, Hertfordshire, who now owns a smallholding, also admitted attending a fight in France last year at which other Britons were present.

“I have done nothing illegal. This is the first time I’ve been over because I wanted to see what it was all about. I heard about the meet from some friends and went over. A lot of people would probably be horrified but I sat and watched it,” he said.

Barry Peachey, the author of a book on the history of cockfighting and who often acts as an expert witness for the defence of people facing bloodsport charges, said that middle-class cockfighters preferred spur fighting where lethal three-inch spikes are attached to the birds’ legs, while gypsies favoured “naked heel” fighting, in which cocks fight with their claws for up to 20 minutes.

“There are hundreds of middle-class cockfighters, doctors, lawyers, masters of foxhounds, that sort of thing, all over rural England but they are impossibly hard to expose because they are very wary,” Peachey said.

Dominic Hansart, owner of the Café de la Place bar in Raimbeaucourt, one of the few French villages permitted to stage cockfights, said the British were frequent visitors. Although the recent scare over bird flu had placed a temporary moratorium on cockfights, Hansart said that the battles would continue.

“Our good friends in England must not worry. I am going to carry on holding fights here regardless. It is our tradition,” he said.

The northern enclave owes its exemption to a presidential decree of 1964 by Charles de Gaulle, whose father was a keen coqueleur, or owner of fighting cocks. He ruled that the bloodsport was part of the national heritage.

Last week cockfighters gathered in the bar to toast “decent rosbifs”. British names sometimes appear on the posters advertising fixtures.

Pre-fight gatherings at the Café de la Place tend to be more riotous when the British visitors are in town.

“They are always real gentlemen,” said Jean-Claude, 70, a retired farmer with a bulbous nose and bleary eyes, in praise of their readiness to buy drinks.

Further north in La Bistade the talk was of another Briton, Alan Young, a graduate of the Royal College of Art and a cockfight spectator, whose pastel sketch of a fight hangs in a cafe next to the gallodrome, as the region’s dozen or so cockfighting arenas are known. Brigitte, the barmaid, said:

“As you can see, he’s quite a talented artist.”

Brigitte Bardot, the former actress, has campaigned for years to ban cockfighting in the Pas de Calais and to enforce fines of up to £20,000 and prison sentences, as elsewhere in France. “It is a totally barbaric practice,” said her spokesman last week.

The estimated 5,000 coqueleurs of the Pas de Calais are exempt because of what the 1964 law describes as the area’s “uninterrupted tradition” of the practice. But even in these exempt regions no new gallodromes are allowed to open.

In Raimbeaucourt the fights take place in the community centre opposite the bar. Combatants are listed on blackboards and the scene is illuminated by a powerful lamp. Two referees sit at a table watching the clock: the fight lasts a maximum of six minutes but often the battle is over in seconds as the birds are killed by the sharp spurs.

Fighting cocks have their talons amputated and their red crests removed to deprive the opponent of a beak hold.

Jean-Claude said the sport had become commercialised since his initiation at the age of eight: “In those days, of course, there was not much betting. Not like now — everyone is piling on the money.”

Some of the birds are pampered with grain soaked in cognac to strengthen them. The extraordinary effort that goes into rearing the creatures is in sharp contrast to the brutal brevity of their fighting careers: even the best birds are usually killed within a few bouts. Few champions reach retirement.

Last week, despite the ban, Dany and Georges, two regulars at the Café de la Place, staged an impromptu cockfight, fitting leather “boxing gloves” to the legs of two birds so they would not kill each other.

Even in the arms of their handlers the birds were straining to peck each other’s eyes out and, when released on the ground, jumped forward in a flurry of feathers and hammering wings. Before long one of the birds lay dazed on the ground while the other strutted in a circle.

“That is usually how we decide which cocks will make the best fighters, although some people can tell just by taking one look at them,” said Dany.

“The British cockerels are small and compete in the lightest category. But they are tough. Last year the French were almost wiped out by the British in that category.”

No comments:

Search for More Content

Custom Search
Bookmark and Share

Past Articles