Society
Society

Cockfighting: Rachel Gordon, 22, Rehabilitates Fighting Cocks, Running out of Room

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Gordon, 22, founded Morning's Song Rooster Rescue on a farm in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts in 2011. She is currently rehabilitating about 120 roosters, hens and chicks, but says she needs more room, so she can save more lives.

"In all my time rehabilitating roosters, I have not found one that can't be rehabilitated," she told The Berkshire Eagle.

Cockfighting rings throughout the world kill millions of roosters annually. The “blood sport,” which pits rooster against rooster in a fight to death, is illegal in all 50 states. U.S. cockfighters and organizers are arrested increasingly as laws are toughened, and from a few to several thousands of birds are seized.

There are very few places that keep fighting cocks for adoption because of their aggression. Shelters can only keep a few, because they must be in separate cages.

Rachael Gordon is working to change all that, by rehabilitating the victims of criminal cockfighting rings one rooster at a time.

"Cockfighters are aggressive because they're abused, they're not violent by nature," she assured reporter Scott Harris.

Cockfighting rings throughout the world kill millions of roosters annually. U.S. cockfighting organizers are being arrested increasingly as anti-cruelty laws toughen, resulting in the seizure of thousands of birds.

"Less than 2 percent of the cockfighters that are removed are adopted," Gordon said. "The rest are euthanized and disposed of."

When Gordon hears about a major bust of a cockfighting ring, and she has room, she contacts the arresting authorities and makes arrangements to bring some of the injured to Morning's Song.

"They come here for life," she said.

According to John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States, nearly 7,000 chickens were seized in raids on cockfighting operations in 2013. He said that while it is illegal in all 50 states, it is a felony in only 41 states..

"Roosters are made to suffer horrible injuries and slow death just so people can gamble on them," he told the Berkshire Eagle. "The injuries afflicted on these birds is excessive — they feel the pain. There is no debating the fact that this is animal cruelty.”

‘COCKFIGHTING ROOSTERS ARE NOT AGGRESSIVE AND VIOLENT’

Rehabilitating roosters is difficult, Gordon said, but no matter what, chickens want to be chickens…they're not violent by nature."

From birth, cockfighting trainers teach young roosters to be aggressive by putting them into a cage with a cockfighter, she states, and they either learn to fight to survive or die in training.

At 2 years of age, if showing enough prowess, the rooster's comb and wattles are removed, and he is sold into the cockfighting ring.

"The chickens are kept in horrific conditions (by cockfighting rings), and injuries and diseases make many of them unadoptable," Gordon told The Berkshire Eagle. "Ninety-eight percent of them are euthanized because nobody will take them."

REHABILITATION BY EXAMPLE

Most people think cockfighting roosters are aggressive and violent, she noted, "but that's absolutely not the case. Cockfighters are actually easier and faster to rehabilitate than domesticated roosters," Rachel emphasizes.

In the rehabilitation process, cockfighters are given rehabilitated roosters to observe for new behavior training.

In the aviary where newly arrived chickens are kept, a number of roosters in single cages observe the rehabilitated roosters and chickens roaming around and socializing on the floor.

When a rooster first arrives, Gordon explained, "that animal is expecting to be abused. But when they realize you're not going to abuse them, the fear starts to dissipate."

Slowly they are reintroduced to a flock, first to observe flock behavior, then under a supervised, protected setting they are allowed to interact with the flock.

The third stage in rehabilitation is full flock integration. "Phase three is where you live out your life as a happy, healthy chicken," Gordon said.

‘THERE’S NOBODY ELSE OUT THERE DOING THIS’

Rachel began her mission to save fighting cocks while she was a senior at Hampshire College in 2012-13, For her thesis, she designed a therapy program for the former combatants that allows them to return to their natural behaviors.

Gordon said she finances her operation by working odd jobs around the community. "I save every penny for the roosters," she told the Eagle.

Morning's Song is starting a fundraising campaign to finance the construction of another aviary for rehabilitating fighters. The problem is, the sanctuary's location is not publicized, because cockfighting rings are criminal organizations and frequently traffic in illegal guns and drugs.

"Donations are rare — mostly because we are so private," Gordon said.

"There's nobody else out there doing this," she said. "And it's a group targeted for violence and death that is in extreme need — chickens are highly intelligent and underappreciated."

Source: Cape Cod Online