Photo by courtesy of ASPCA

Call us sensitive city folk if you must, but we were horrified to hear about Monday’s enormous cockfighting bust. We know birds fight in nature, but something about drugging them to prime them for bloodlust and outfitting them with wing-blades doesn’t sound like our idea of a fun afternoon. Then again, there are no international covenants on cockfighting, so maybe that’s just cultural relativism for you–after all, if you know the term ‘cultural relativism’ you have probably taken Anthropology 101 and read Clifford Geertz’s classic anthro text “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (spoiler alert: Geertz wasn’t too preoccupied with the ethical implications of cockfighting), so maybe this has more to do with the specific mores of our place and time than it does with animal rights or an absolute morality, right?

Right. Because as horrible as meeting a violent death as part of a spectator sport sounds, the roosters rescued from the scene likely have a date with an executioner, albeit a merciful one, in the near future anyway.

Rooster (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

In an Associated Press report from yesterday, Tom Hays notes that the birds taken from the scenes of the crime, some of which were found in the basement of NV Pets on Central Avenue in Bushwick but most of which were found on a farm in Plattekill, New York, are being kept alive for the moment as “criminal evidence.” He also quotes ASPCA chief officer Matthew Bershadker describing the difficulty of rehabilitating fighting roosters because of their temperament and lamenting that they’ve had to suffer. If as a child you ever had a pet that your parents sent along to a big farm in the country, then you’ll recognize some of the phrasing here.

Take a moment, if you will, to breathe deep and be a grownup about this. It makes sense. Even though you could easily make parallels to the sad story of Marius the Giraffe, this is kind of a different situation, even if some of the same principles apply. Certainly it must be hard to locate a person who’s willing to take in an army of violent roosters. They don’t lay eggs, and while they might be described as “having feelings too,” they’re otherwise pretty hard to identify with. These drug-addled specimens probably couldn’t even be counted on to crow when the sun comes up. You certainly couldn’t set them free into the wild with a clean conscience. After thousands of generations of being bred by humans for whatever weird traits we want them to have, they wouldn’t last a second in the woods. Then, think about the cost of keeping them. You’d need the space, which is certainly more of a commodity in New York City than anyone would willingly share with this many roosters, and then you’d have to feed them, take care of them, make sure they get into a good high school….

So, we certainly don’t think that this ring should have gone unbusted. And we can appreciate that it signifies progress in the effort to keep things like this from happening in our neighborhood, in our city and in our state. But before you let your inner animal rights advocate go wild over this one, just hope that something works out for these guys and maybe they get to hang out somewhere cool.