The Moral and Conceptual Universe of Cockfighters: Symbolism and Rationalization

Fred Hawley
1993 Society & Animals  
Cockfighting is an ancient sport that has deep roots in rural parts of the world and in certain areas of the United States. It also has great symbolic significance to its practitioners and aficionados as an affirmation of masculine identity in a increasingly complex and diverse era. Although the activity is illegal in most jurisdictions, it continues, generally in a covert setting. Because cockfighting is subject to criminal sanction and informal social disapproval, cockfighters have developed
more » ... ers have developed rationalizations which they use among themselves and offer to outsiders. These rationalizations are complex; some are overtly religious in nature. Cockfighters do more than merely talk about their pastime -they actively engage in formal and informal lobbying to keep criminal penalties for their activity at a low level of severity. As the nation continues to urbanize, these lobbying efforts, while effective in the past, are gradually losing legislative support. For a number of reasons, the pastime is losing respectability and adherents and will probably be criminalized nationwide before the end of the century. Over the past fifteen years I have engaged in a detailed criminological, ethnographic study of cockfighting in several venues: the Midwest, the South, and Latin America and the circum-Caribbean area. In this research I have attended cockfights and conducted structured interviews in all areas visited. In addition I have eaten with and interviewed informants in smoke-filled diners and truck stops, visited in cockfighters' homes, attended meetings of organized cockfighters and carried on correspondence via telephone and mail with numerous informants. During the course of the research these correspondents and widely dispersed field informants provided me with invaluable information and with an entree to different pits and cockfighting circles. A "snowball sample" was employed in which each informant led me to new sources; all the while the critical mass of data grew, stratified, and awaited analysis.
doi:10.1163/156853093x00055 fatcat:dlk73rru6fadnjsohjyvultvxm