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Peruvian Gladiators – Gallos de Pelea

“Pelea!” (Fight!) “Pelea!” (Fight!) reverberated around the coliseo, a small ring surrounded by rudimentary bleachers. I looked beside me and a small child was blowing bubbles. The intensity grew as the match went on, the careadores (owners) yelling and cheering on their contestant.

Another little boy proudly showed us his favorite fighter, Fernando. Each fighter is weighed before the fight and classified into a weight class, then outfitted with a razor sharp gaff before entering the ring.  These fighters are treated like royalty before entering the ring for what will be a fight for their lives. Feathers on their back are plucked to keep the fighter cool during the heat of battle.

Last night I went to my first and last cockfight. The “sport” is legal and thriving in Peru. I have only seen two things that inflicted more brutality on an animal in my life, a bull fight in Seville Spain and a hog farm in eastern North Carolina.

As I travel the world I have always been proud of the US for two things, the way we respect woman and our children. Most would say that we also respect our animals and for the most part that is correct, unfortunately the cruelty of corporate farming is a dirty little secret. At least bull fights and cockfights are open and available for public scrutiny.

I certainly don’t justify cruelty to any living creature, human or animal. Part of my mission during my travels is to experience the culture of my host country and learn lessons about the human spirit, even when it is ugly or brutal.

Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, only thinking makes it so.” What is totally acceptable in one culture is taboo in another.  I could only speculate what a Peruvian would say about our corporate farming techniques.

Each careadore would proudly carry his cock into the ring. Much like a prize fighter before the bell, the careadores would push the cocks toward each other for a couple of pecks and to size the other up. The bell would ring and the fight would begin, feathers would fly as the crowd whipped into a frenzy for “their” bird.

If both feathered gladiators lasted eight minutes the fight was called a draw. Most of the time the fight ended with the victor standing on top and pecking the loser, the winning side cheering the win and money changing hands as two new contestants entered the ring. I lasted for three battles before I had enough.

I don’t understand cruelty bestowed on any living creature but man’s inhumanity towards man tops the list. I’d watch a cockfight or bull fight any day compared to watching children abused or starved.

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