Juan Carlos Padilla, a gamecock breeder in western Mexico, claims the fact that 70 per cent of his birds kill their opponents in the ring has little to do with the fact that he injects them with anabolic horse steroids.

‘It makes the birds extremely aggressive, and every trainer does it since the fight organisers don’t enforce blood testing,’ he told MailOnline at the factory where he manufactures the razorblades which are strapped to fighting cock’s legs in the popular Mexican bloodsport.

Padilla’s clients aren’t complaining about the doping either. The owner of the ‘El Asustado’ Ranch in Guadalajara, 400 miles north west of Mexico City, rears just 200 gamecocks a year and at, £100 each, he has never been left with surplus stock.

‘Training a gamecock is a long process,’ says Padilla’s groundskeeper Santos, 76, who manages the El Asustado Ranch, which translates as ‘The Frightened’.

In addition to injecting the birds with the Equipoise horse steroid, Santos’ gamecock training regime includes spitting in the animals’ faces to rile them, squeezing at their eye sockets, and throwing them off tall buildings in an effort to build their wing strength.

At eighteen months Santos cuts the red crest from the cock’s head, given that the excess skin becomes a target for an opponent’s beak in the ring.

Gamecocks at El Asustado are raised from chicks, which are separated at six months old as they begin to attack one another. Each cock is then secured to the ground by a metre long leash beside a small hut in which he can shelter from the elements.

‘Life here is noisy,’ says Juan Carlos, whose father established the ranch 45 years ago. ‘The cocks crow from dawn until sunset.’

Cockfighting is particularly popular in western Mexico, where every town in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan and Guerrero has a Palenque, or cockfighting ring.

MailOnline went with Juan Carlos to a ‘Combat Spectacular’ in San Miguel Cuyutlán, Jalisco state, which staged 120 cock fights in 16 hours.

The atmosphere was of high tension and machismo. A crowd of over a thousand men drank, smoked and gambled around the blood-soaked central area where the cocks are paraded and then forced to battle to the death.

Prior to a bout, trainers have two minutes to strap an inch long, razor-sharp hook to the back of their cock’s left leg. The hook is designed to accentuate the birds’ style of attack, which is to lunge forward with the feet before raking its claws and blade back over the target. A correctly aimed slash can kill an opponent outright.

Once set upon one another, the cocks meet in the centre of the arena in a tumble of wings, feathers and blood. The animals peck at each others’ heads and eyes while their claws and razor blades are aimed at their opponent’s vulnerable underside.

A fight is called off only when one of the fighters is dead or clearly close to death, at which point the animal is unceremoniously swept into a dustpan along with the feathers now littered across the arena and carried away in preparation for the next bout with two new antagonists.

Bouts are generally short, but if both animals survive the first three minutes they are taken from the main stage to a smaller Palenque beside the bar where spectators are often showered with blood by the greater proximity to the action.

It’s here that the gruesome affair, which often sees a trainer resuscitate his animals by putting its head in his mouth and blowing air into its lungs, is meted out for the benefit of those with money staked on the outcome.
Gambling is a major aspect of the event, and as much as £40,000 can be placed on a single bout. Bookkeepers patrol the stands and take bets. Spectators gamble only on the overall outcome, and all odds are set at 2:1.

While cock fighting is banned in Mexico City and other parts of the country, it remains popular in areas where agriculture supports much of the economy. In recent years a number of government initiatives have attempted to ban the bloodsport nationwide; threats which have angered the community that makes its living from the spectacle.

‘The cocks don’t suffer,’ says Juan Carlos, who boasts that a man could smoothly shave his face with one of the 120 leg blades he manufactures daily.

‘If you put two gamecocks together they will naturally try to kill one another,’ he says. ‘The razorblades that are strapped to their legs serve to make the fight more efficient.’

The cock fights are a big draw for the narcos, members of Mexican organised crime, who come to high stakes games in order to gamble.

‘It’s not uncommon to see shoot outs towards the end of an event,’ says Juan Carlos, who attends cock fighting festivals across the country in order to keep abreast of his rivals’ animals. ‘Mix Mexican gangsters with drugs, alcohol and high stakes gambling and you’ve got a recipe for murder.’

Earlier this month ten people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed at a cock fight in Mexico’s Guerrero state after gunmen opened fire at the Palenque in the town of Cuajinicuilapa.

‘The government has threatened to ban cock fighting but a lot of people make their living from the sport,’ he says. ‘In my business alone, six separate families depend upon the cock fight industry.’

Even if a cock wins its bout it isn’t guaranteed to live.

‘Sometimes their wounds are so severe that there’s no way it will ever compete again,’ says Juan Carlos. ‘So unless the trainer wants it to sire further generations they will kill it there and then.’

As the crowd’s insatiable clamour for blood goes on within, the losing birds are slung onto a grotesque pile behind the Palenque. Many birds are still alive, squawking feebly as they die slowly from their razor wounds.

‘They’re useless once dead,’ says Padilla. ‘The meat is so full of anabolic horse steroids that it would be dangerous to feed them even to livestock.’

Read the original story on the Daily Mail

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Alasdair Baverstock MA is an award-winning multimedia foreign correspondent based in Mexico City, with more than five years of experience covering Latin America. Originally from London, and with full NCTJ certification, he specialises in news and feature journalism for print, radio and television. He currently works as CGTN America's Mexico correspondent, and has formerly published work in TIME Magazine, Daily Mail, The Atlantic, Penthouse, Fox News, BBC, Daily Telegraph, TRT World, and others.

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