[Editorial] Rooster Fight Events during Pandemic

What are rooster fights?

  • Cockfight or rooster fight is a blood sport in which sharp knives are attached to the legs of roosters which are then egged on to fight.
  • These fights continue until one of the roosters either surrenders or dies.
  • These events are organized on occasion of Makar Sankranti, especially in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh.
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How prevalent are these events?

  • These are high stake events with bets running into crores of rupees and in many cases go beyond money to involve houses, agricultural lands, cars and other properties.
  • It is common in all the districts of the state but is conducted as high profile events in East Godavari district, West Godavari district, Krishna and Guntur districts.
  • These annual events see participation from people of adjoining states too- Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
  • These events are hosted by local leaders and often see participation from senior politicians, big businessmen, NRIs and film actors.
  • These events are accompanied by a boost in business for the local hotels and restaurants. Preparations begin several weeks ahead of the actual event.

Why is it a source of concern?

  • Rooster fights are banned under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The courts have also upheld the ban in 2015 and 2016. Though the Supreme Court allowed the event to be conducted in 2018, it prohibited the use of knives and the involvement of gambling in these events.
  • Despite these bans, police warning and various efforts to wean the public away from it, the event is organized in special arenas, lit with floodlights and with banners and poster welcoming participants.
  • This year, these events are being organized even as the 3rd wave of the pandemic bring in increasing number of Omicron infection cases. Courts have called for ‘strict vigilance’, but the blood sport is witnessing massive attendance. There is a high probability of these events turning into super spreader events.
  • Most of the participants in these events are youth and many families’ breadwinners. If they were to get infected, the economic repercussions for the state and the lakhs of families would be severe.
  • Officially, the state has recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 positive cases recently. However, the actual number could be much higher.
  • Though the state government has made special arrangements for transport, in the form of ‘festival special’ buses, to ease up the traffic, no such arrangement has been made for social distancing in these transports.
  • In addition to this, the events are turning into hubs for gambling and liquor trade.

What is the way ahead?

  • In a society, festivals, traditions and customs constitute an integral part. However, the larger cause of public health cannot be sacrificed in the name of festive spirit.
  • The 2nd wave of the pandemic has already claimed many lives due to negligence regarding COVID-appropriate behaviour. Yet, public memory appear to be too short to develop a sense of caution regarding the next wave. This is evident from how gatherings are being arranged inspite of the rising caseload.
  • The state police have already registered hundreds of cases, seized knives, money and roosters and taken offenders into custody. Yet, the administration hasn’t been able to restrict these events due to support from the businessmen and political leaders.
  • Given the high cost of flouting COVID protocols, broader restrictions may be considered to reduce the risk of overcrowding and consequently, the creation of super-spreader events.

Conclusion:

Rooster fights continue to be an open secret in the state. This year, however, flouting rules may actually cost lives.

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