Travellers and “men from Asian communities” are driving a resurgence in the cruel blood sport of cockfighting, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has warned.
The practice, of forcing male chickens to fight, often to the death, was outlawed in England and Wales in 1835 but is making a modern comeback thanks to the two specific minorities, the charity claims.
Last month, a gang of men of Pakistani heritage were convicted of animal cruelty for organising cockfights. Mohammed Asab, 51, from Ilford, East London, was breeding the animals in his “blood and feather splattered” home, the Ilford Recorder reports.
People had allegedly travelled from as far away as Coventry to watch the fights, and footage on phones taken by police showed cocks practising on dead cockerels and being kept in small pens.
Three other men and a boy aged 16 were charged. They were sentenced to 200 hours of community work and fined £1,500 in costs. Mr. Asab was convicted of four additional counts and received a 22-week suspended jail sentence.
Now, the RSPCA has said the case is part of a growing trend, where the cruel sport is moving away from its traditional rural roots and into cities and suburban areas.
Mike Butcher, who investigates animal fighting for the RSPCA, told The Times: “When we are investigating cockfighting reports now we find we are often dealing with groups within the travelling community or men from South Asian communities.
“This may be because cockfighting makes up part of their history and heritage. Cockfighters are very secretive.”
Clifford Harrison, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, added: “Cockfighting is a brutal and barbaric blood sport. It was outlawed in 1835 but, sadly, it hasn’t gone away, and we continue to receive tip-offs that it is going on in villages, towns and cities across England and Wales.
“Historically it tended to be something we saw in rural parts of the country. Now we are getting more and more reports of cockfights taking place in suburban and urban environments.”
In a report published last August, the RSPCA said there has been a rise from 45 recorded incidents or calls in 2012 to 60 last year. The number fell to 52 this year, but many cases are thought to go undetected.