Human Interest

The battle to ban cockfighting in Colombia

By Laia Mataix Gómez

Bogota, Oct 27 (EFE).- From the ring to Congress, the battle to ban cockfighting and other shows with animals in Colombia is gathering pace, in a dispute that pits animal rights activists against cockfighters who want to keep their “culture” alive.

A draft bill presented to Congress would place a two-year ban on bullfighting, bull runs, and cockfighting, spectacles that go against “the National Animal Protection Statute” and which, according to the Constitutional Court, are “cruel cultural manifestations,” Senator Andrea Padilla, author of the initiative, explained to Efe.

In the end, bull runs were omitted from the ban, but the rest of the animal shows will be given a three-year “adaptation” period during which the government must identify the sectors that depend on these spectacles and offer alternatives, according to the bill approved after the first debate.

During that three-year period, the shows could be held as long as they “comply with the conditions of the Court,” which eliminates “especially cruel conduct with animals,” and only in municipalities where there is tradition on specific dates, Padilla said.

The shows will be barred from using sharp objects and will not be allowed to kill any of the animals, while children will be banned from attending and alcoholic beverages will also be prohibited.

In addition to the animal abuse, another reproach of the cockfighting industry is that it does not pay taxes and that betting is not regulated, accusations that the National Federation of Colombian Poultry (Fenagacol), which brings together 26 associations, has rejected.

According to Fenagacol’s president, Olimpo Oliver, they are undertaking “the whole process of regularization and legalization of many aspects that today are in the informal economy,” adding that betting on roosters is not a game of chance and they are therefore not liable.

Padilla also questions the safety of those attending the shows, as the construction of the arenas, for example, is precarious. In June, five people died and hundreds were injured when bleachers collapsed in Espinal.


Cockfighting rings are a circle around which spectators gather to bet, drink and gamble.

If there is one thing the attendees agree on, it is where their passion comes from: it is inherited from their parents, but they are less sure that their children will share their enthusiasm. Cockfighting has not appealed to younger generations and that is palpable in the hen houses where the average age of the predominantly male crowds is over 40.

It is a “cultural” passion that has been passed down the generations and is part of society to the point that “the rooster evolved as a species for combat, and there is no worse animal abuse than trying to change the natural behavior of the species,” Carlos Mario Isaza says.

The cockfighters dismiss allegations of animal abuse because they claim the roosters are very well cared for and only fight because it is their “nature.” Injuries or deaths that may occur are part of the rooster’s life, they insist.


Roosters generate 280,000 direct and indirect jobs and there are some 10,200 hen houses in Colombia, according to Fenagacol. “We consume 21,500 tons of grain per month, we take approximately 550,000 people per week to the shows. This is the most passionate fanbase in Colombia,” says Oliver.

They invest about 21,500 million pesos (about $4.4 million) on cockfighting products each month. “It’s a large economy that generates almost four billion pesos a year,” he adds.

Padilla, however, says that “it’s all speculation,” that “the reality of the figures is not known.”

The cockfighters not only defend the employment and economic benefits of the sport, they also question the future of the animals if the fights are banned.

“What is going to happen to the six and a half million birds? Where are they going to accommodate them?” wonders Hugo García, director of Fenagacol, since “for that you need 1,600 hectares and 30,000 jobs” to take care of them.

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