French court says ‘non’ to new cockfighting pits

France's top court on Friday upheld a ban on new cockfighting pits, as the country seeks to stamp out the ancient bloodsport that continues in some regions despite being banned in most parts of the world.

French court says 'non' to new cockfighting pits
France hopes to be able to stamp out cockfighting altogether eventually. Photo: Jean-Michel Andre/ AFP

Two Frenchmen had approached the Constitutional Council after they were prosecuted for opening a new cockpit on the French island of La Reunion in 2012.

While animal cruelty is a crime in France, laws make an exception for sports deeply rooted in tradition like bullfighting and cockfighting.

However, while it is illegal to open new cockfighting rings, the construction of new bullfighting arenas is allowed.

The two men from La Reunion argued that this was unfair.

Their lawyer Fabienne Lefevre said the different treatment of the two traditions was an “attack on the principle of equality before the law” and urged the Constitutional Council to overturn the law banning the construction of new cockpits.

However the Constitutional Council justified the different treatment by saying they were two “distinct practices”.

“By banning the creation of new cockpits, the legislator treated two different subjects differently.”

By preventing new cockpits being built, the government hopes to eventually stamp out cockfighting.

Cockfighting, which dates to before the Roman era, was popular throughout the Middle Ages, but a distaste for the brutal sport developed in the 19th century and animal rights activists began protesting against the practice.

It was outlawed in Britain some 150 years ago.

The last US state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana in 2007, while the practice remains common and legal in parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia.

France — like Spain — has allowed cockfighting to continue in regions where it was considered traditional while trying to curb its expansion.

Aside from the northern Nord-Pas de Calais region, cockfighting continues in the overseas territories of La Reunion, French Guiana, French Antilles and French Polynesia.

Cockfighting sets two roosters — bred for their aggressiveness, trained and pumped with steroids — against each other in a ring, often fighting to the death.

Sharp knives are often added to the birds' natural spurs to increase their deadliness, while spectators gamble on the outcome.

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