Tournaments of blood: Animal fights as spectator sports
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has called a referendum, which could come as early as May, asking Ecuadoreans to ban bullfighting, cockfighting and other pursuits where animals are killed for human entertainment. But pitting animals against each other for entertainment and wagering is certainly not unique to Ecuador. Horse fighting has now been outlawed almost worldwide, but still thrives in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, China and South Korea. In Afghanistan, local customs celebrate dog fighting, ram fighting, partridge fighting and camel fighting.
In Ecuador, Mexican corridos and local tropical beats are the backdrop at the tradition-bound honky-tonk, where gamecocks are set against one another. Owners carry the testy contestants to the ring in canvas cases. Like prizefighters, the birds are weighed in. As the sanguinary pageantry of the fight begins, bets are placed — $5 maybe $10.
Boosters argue that the roosters, who sometimes battle to the death, would attack each other naturally in the wild anyway; it’s in their genes. Directing that aggression — and wagering on it — is what these men have grown up with.
The more well-heeled in the Andean nation, as in Mexico, favor the stylized rituals of the bullfight in colonial-age “plazas de toros,” where the animals are killed by celebrated Spanish matadors who tour Latin America.
In Ecuador, as in neighboring Colombia and Peru, the rings are a place to see and be seen, fixtures in the society pages.
There has been no major groundswell of protest against the games as there has been in Spain. A legal challenge to bullfights in Colombia was rejected last year by its constitutional court.
The Spanish province of Catalonia banned bullfights in July, joining the Canary Islands, which outlawed them in 1991. And just last month, Spain’s main broadcaster stopped showing bullfights, judging them harmful to children.