Is Cockfighting Worse Than Boxing?


"The right to conduct cockfights is not a fundamental right," Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Sherry Todd told the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices apparently agreed. Today they declined to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's cockfighting ban. The sport is now prohibited by 48 states, remaining legal only in Louisiana and New Mexico.

Fundamental rights aside, isn't it a bit odd that legislatures (and in this case voters) consider cockfighting intolerably barbaric but continue to allow humans to pummel each other into unconsciousness for the enjoyment of spectators? I realize boxing matches don't usually end in death, and roosters can't really consent to their matches. But by the same token, they're chickens.

Addendum: Just to be clear, both sports seem pretty barbaric to me (although that does not necessarily mean they ought to be banned). I just wonder why it is that blood sports involving people are so much more widely accepted than blood sports involving animals.

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  1. Fighting roosters are often fitted with metal spurs, to make sure the matches are gory and end in death. That’s just downright freaking cruel.

    And if fighting cocks are raised the same way as fighting dogs, the abhorrent cruetly starts way before they ever see a fighting ring.

  2. Jacob-
    So cavalier about animal cruelty? This is no more or less cruel than training dogs to kill each other. It is common in both ‘sports’ to let a young animal kill a crippled or bound animal to gain confidence. The whole thing makes me ill.

  3. Isn’t that consent thing the kicker? I’ve occasionally wondered what the libertarian (small ‘l’) opinion of animal rights would be.

    As an Oklahoman, I’m glad the ban will stand. Now if we could just do something about the rampaging high school lesbians…..

  4. The point isn’t the difference between humans and animals fighting (human fights to the death are also prohibited in the USA, or didn’t you notice?), but the barbarity of the acts and the cruelty inflicted on animals.

    By the logic applied above, Jacob must be in favor of legalized chimpanzee knife-fights, yes? How about animal torture in general? I’m sure there’s a market somewhere for videos of head-to-the-temple gunshot killings of puppies too.

  5. I concur that the comparison to boxing is inappropriate for the reasons already mentioned. In summary, the objectionable behaviors include:

    * beating the cock to make it ornery
    * forcing the cocks to stab each other without their consent
    * continuing the fight until only one cock stands

    In short, I think it’s plain to see we all simply love the cock.

  6. This concept of “Free Will” might have something to do with it…and the notion that humans aren’t animals, but are unique, set apart from the natural world, special. Where did that come from?

  7. In those ‘When Animals Attack’ shows I root for the animals…

  8. Why are the conditions that chickens raised for food in not considered cruel, but cock fights are? In my eye, they are both barbaric and cruel.

  9. Can I please get a tape of cows being killed in stockyards? That’s not cruel, since it happens thousands of times every day.

    And, btw, Jon, are you a member of the film actors guild?

  10. Luca: May your children be masculine children, and not sequal-killing director daughter females.

    Seriously, chickens used for nourishment is legit, in my opinion. For bloodsport, nope.

    Animals don’t have “rights”. However, we, as humans, are obligated to treat them with respect.

  11. Jon: you can go ahead and love the cock. I want to hear more about those high-school lesbians.

  12. Mr. Nice Guy: And may I not have children for another 10 years.

    Back to the topic at hand; why make a distinction between treating animals like shit for sport as opposed to treating them in a similar fashion for food?

  13. But we don’t eat chickens because they’re nutritious (though they are). We eat them because they’re delicious, same as with cows and pigs (the latter of which are smarter than most dogs, btw). So if we can kill and eat an animal for our culinary entertainment, why shouldn’t we be able to kill them for our visual entertainment?

    (Not that I find cock fighting entertaining, but lots of folks do, I suppose.)

  14. Jacob Sullum,
    You must be a crack head. Boxing is the greatest sport ever envisioned. Why would you go and compare that to cruelty to animals.

    Boxing is a metaphor of life itself. Boxing is a composite of speed, strength, courage, technique, endurance, and a little luck. It builds charachter and confidence, and it can be dangerous. If it weren’t dangerous, where would the courage be?

    Someone once said, every athelete of every sport wishes he could be heavywieght champion of the world. (the comment was made before the whole female athlete thing).

  15. I agree with joe; there is kind of a consent thing here for cruelty. While chickens aren’t people, and I don’t follow PETA’a insane anthropomorphism, extending and prolonging pain and fighting seems to have a low enough return on investment to make this not exactly a fundamental right.
    If it was a property right or whatever, it might also be legal to drag your dog down the street tied to your car, etc–all sorts of horrible things we hear about that people seem to generally accept should be illegal.
    However, on the boxing thing–I REALLY don’t like how the government takes away people’s right to box, grapple or any other martial art practice they choose and monopolize it under one controlled organization. The fact that the UFC and other organizations get chased out of states annoys the libertarian in me. That seems like a clear-cut case of consent–if I want to fight then as an adult, I should be able to compete with others of my own free will, etc etc.

  16. Luca:

    There is a growing movement in this country towards more humane raising and dispatching of animals for food. There’s also more awareness of steroids, antibiotics, and proper feed.

    I think it’s common sense. If the animal is in a less stressful environment, not pumped full of shit, and fed correctly, the end product is better. Hopefully the movement will expand, production in this fashion will increase, and prices will go down, without government intervention.

  17. “This concept of “Free Will” might have something to do with it…and the notion that humans aren’t animals, but are unique, set apart from the natural world, special. Where did that come from?”

    Humans have awareness of our own mortality. What’s more, we are aware that others have feelings and thoughts like our own.

    “Animals don’t have “rights”. However, we, as humans, are obligated to treat them with respect.” I disagree. Animals do have rights – just not human rights. A swallow has a god-given right to stretch its wings, but no right to life. A human has a right to life, but no right to fly. The nature of rights are dependent on the nature of the individual concerned. “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.”

  18. kwais – Except for the crackhead comment, I agree.

    Boxing is by far one of the best sports out there which truly has more to do with heart and determiniation than brute strength and blood.

  19. Adding on to Joe’s comments, how would an animal assert its rights? Unless they have the same natural rights we possess. But natural rights don’t cross species, do they? I want a restraining order against mosquitoes.

    I also don’t follow the cruelty arguments. I’ve read Peter Senger. Most animals die being torn limb from limb while still alive. From the animal perspective, they just want to live, and they feel no better about being killed by an Audi Fox than a grey fox. While humans may feel better about how they kill animals, its a stretch to think the animal has a preference.

  20. I just wonder why it is that blood sports involving people are so much more widely accepted than blood sports involving animals.

    Because some people love to fight. Back when I did taekwondo, I did a tournament one year. I frankly wasn’t all that good — but holy shit! — it was one of the most exhilarating events of my life. The crowd is yelling, your legs are shaking, you can’t breathe, your head feels like it’s going to pop off. Even sparring in class is a jolt. I do a non-competitive martial art now, but part of me misses that gladiatorial thrill.

  21. My cock is invincible, and is rock-hard. I challenge anyone to stand up against my cock.

  22. Has anyone noticed the disclaimer in those ads for the Burger King “Tendercrisp vs. Spicy TC” boxing match? It reads “no chickens were harmed,” and it’s meant as a joke since the chickens in the fight are clearly a couple of guys in chicken suits. But the disclaimer is particularly amusing since the whole point of the campaign is surely to sell more chicken sandwiches…

  23. Ayatollah,

    How’s this? A bovine has the right to be treated humanely, not to suffer needlessly. Humans, because of our knowledge of the bovine’s ability to feel pain like ours and the moral significance of its suffering, are required to respect those rights. Lions, being stupid, cannot be expected to respect those rights.

  24. joe-
    “Humans, because of our knowledge of the bovine’s ability to feel pain like ours and the moral significance of its suffering, are required to respect those rights.”

    I think this conflicts a bit with your ‘one law for the lion and ox’ comment. I wish the animals I eat die with no pain after a long happy life. Why? Empathy not reason. A reasonable man knows that to eat we must deprive all food of life, be it a carrot or a duck. I sympathize more with the duck, but it isn’t any less dead than the carrot. You have moved from assigning rights according to the nature of a thing to assigning rights according to features you and it have in common, pain for example.

  25. fighting is fun, but i wouldn’t call boxing a sport. it’s far too kill or be killed for that.

  26. pigwiggle,

    “I wish the animals I eat die with no pain after a long happy life. Why? Empathy not reason”

    No ideas about rights are based on reason. They’re all statements of “faith,” “ideology,” “taste,” or what have you.

    People who are working very hard to convince a skeptical audience don’t begin statements that have a solid rational backing with “everyone knows,” “it’s common sense,” or “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

  27. joe-
    So it’s settled, I’ll be the one to decide right and wrong. You can forward any questions of morality to me.

  28. Jacob is correct, boxing is a particularly barbaric blood sport but it is also consensual.

    If boxing remains legal we should legalize pistol dueling as well. Participation in either requires the same number of brain cells.

    In some states dog racing is considered cruel but horse racing isn’t.

    Cock and Bull (pun intended) fights are not legal here but are respectable sports across the border. No I don’t mean cocks fighting bulls. 🙂

    Ratting was a hugely popular sport in Britain 150 years ago.

    We don’t let people eat dogs or cats here for no other reason than we think these guys are part of the family. Chickens and pigs are cute but they don’t sleep downstairs with the kids (mostly not anyway).

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this so I’ll just shut up now.

  29. TWC
    You have a point, however insultingly worded.
    If two people wish to fight, box, pistol duel, spar or challenge each other to a Halo 2 Deathmatch, where do we find the societal interest in stopping them? is there a convincing case for stopping people from entering into risk-of-death contests assuming they do it of their own free will?

  30. “No ideas about rights are based on reason.”

    Priceless, Joe, you’ve outdone yourself.

  31. The best argument against animal bloodsport I have heard is that by inculcating a love of useless death of animals we debase ourselves. Now, that is a good reason why my Mom and Dad should teach me not to torture the cat, but not much of a reason why the government should outlaw the practice.

    Hola my Teresa I’m thinkin of you now in San Antonio
    I have 27 dollars and the good luck of your picture framed in gold
    Tonight I’ll put it all on the fighting spurs of Gallo Del Cielo
    Then I’ll return to buy the land Pancho Villa stole from father long ago

    – Tom Russell, from his song, Gallo del Cielo, which you may know from the singing of Joe Ely.

    There is a certain romanticism to the business, in the hearts of some, I’m sure. On the other hand, abuse of animals is one of several keys pointed to in the development of sociopathic adults who don’t scruple to hurt and kill their fellow humans. That may be law enforcement mythology, or the straight dope, but if I were raising a kid, I’d suggest he not try to fry ants on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. Just uncool, son.


  32. I think Montecore did a nice job of asserting his rights.

  33. When an animal welfare issue arises, right-wingers always try to find a human rights issue to usurp its importance. That boxing question is ridiculous. Boxing is a consensual sport where people agree on rules to minimize the possiblity of injury. Cockfighting is the forced mutilation of birds. It is bloody and barbaric. Anyway, there is no finite amount of justice in this world. We can fight for animal and human rights.

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