On January 25, 2009, 43 roosters were seized in the Bronx when authorities busted an illegal cockfight. Cockfighting is a gruesome and abhorrent blood sport that results in immense animal suffering and violent deaths for untold numbers of birds every year. For the battered roosters who were confiscated on that January evening, and those people who truly cared about their plight, one could be heartened by the belief that help had finally arrived! Yet within an hour of entering NY Animal Care & Control (NYC ACC), all of the roosters had been killed.
In the media about the rooster confiscation and subsequent killing, Richard Gentles, spokesman for Animal Care & Control said that the roosters could not be rehabilitated and that there is “no placement for them.”
Of course, not everyone agrees that “rehabilitation” is impossible or placement completely non-existent. People who rescue and provide sanctuary for domesticated fowl have found truth contrary to Mr. Gentles’ words. Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary and other rescue and sanctuary organizations have accepted fighting roosters and find they can be taught to live with other birds peacefully again. A death sentence is often unwarranted. The Wall Street Journal, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and other publications have all written about their fighting rooster rehabilitation successes.
Empty Cages Collective began publicly questioning the compassion and alleged commitment to a No Kill future in New York City in relation to the decision to kill the fighting roosters without even an attempt to find temporary holding space, placement or transportation to sanctuaries for at least some of the blood sport victims. Such questioning and gentle prodding paid off.
On February 13, when Animal Care & Control received roosters seized from an NYPD raid, Animal Care & Control reached for the phone instead of the usual syringes filled with sodium pentobarbital. While advocates only had 24 hours to get the roosters out of the shelter, all of the birds from this confiscation (19 in total) were pulled from NYC ACC for foster and eventual placement in appropriate sanctuary situations where the birds could live out the rest of their lives in peace, free from human-inflicted abuse, needless suffering and premature death. Empty Cages Collective had the privilege of rescuing, fostering and eventually transporting four of the beautiful birds (Mercury, Nat, Phoenix and Pablo) to their new homes. We weren’t surprised to find they were sensitive, intelligent individuals with distinct personalities. We were surprised to find, however, that they weren’t aggressive in any way towards humans – even initially.
As Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center and author of the very important book, Redemption: The Myth of Companion Animal Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America has written: “So how does a traditional shelter make a community no-kill? We did it with a simple yet highly effective three-step process 1) Stop the killing; 2) Stop the killing; 3) Stop the killing. I am not joking. No-Kill starts as an act of will.”
We concur. It is apparent to us that when there is a true commitment to take animals interests’ seriously and the ethical obligation to alleviate suffering and preserve life simultaneously is recognized, solutions are discovered and created. New paradigms rooted in justice, compassion and respect for other animals’ lives replace antiquated ones that justify, enable and promote cruelty and killing as viable solutions.
For the sake of roosters abused and exploited in fighting rings throughout the U.S., we hope that new, truly humane paradigms replace old ones, where solutions to reduce the number of birds being fought illegally in blood sport are created and gain momentum. Furthermore, we envision the victims of animal fighting are rewarded with protection and safe spaces when they are rescued, not mandatory death sentences.
Phoenix, Nat, Mercury, and Pablo are our most recent reminders of the serious need for us to do our part to get to such a place.