It’s hard not to like Manny Pacquiao.
Even if boxing’s not your cup of tea or the WBO Welterweight and WBC Super Welterweight Champion isn’t your favorite fighter, there’s just something about the Filipino athlete that endears himself to the general public.
However, there are many who aren’t particularly fond of him due to his involvement in a blood sport. But I’m not referring to boxing. I mean his involvement with the equally brutal “sport” of cockfighting.
Pacquiao is a huge fan of cockfighting and even raises thousands of roosters for the specific reason of sending them into battle. This, of course, has many people and animal rights groups around the world up in arms. It also raises the question of a possible double standard as American NFL football player Michael Vick was deemed to be a despicable human being because of his involvement in illegal dog fighting.
Millions of people were (and still are to some extent) disgusted and sickened by Vick. He pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. He also lost his NFL salary along with lucrative endorsements -- and even ended up filing for bankruptcy. But barely a word has been said about Pacquiao’s involvement in cockfighting by the average sports fan.
There are several reasons for this, though.
The main one: Cockfighting, known as sabong, isn’t illegal in the Philippines and many other countries. It’s actually a common and popular sport. Like bullfighting, it may be inhumane and cruel to many, but it’s still legal and part of the Filipino culture -- even though illegal fights are sometimes held. Also, if the roosters need to be destroyed, they’re sometimes served as food. Advocates of the sport say the cocks are just doing what comes naturally to them and they aren’t forced to fight.
The sport is also a fast way out for many poverty-stricken people, considering money can be made on cockfighting by owners and bettors. In fact, there’s a huge tournament staged in the Philippines each year called the World Slasher Cup, which attracts thousands of fans and hundreds of entries from around the world. Basically, cockfighting means as much to Filipinos as bullfighting does to the Spanish. There are an estimated 2,000 or more cockpits in the country and numerous tournaments and television shows based on the sport.
Another reason why Pacquaio's actions are overlooked: What upset most people about Vick and dog fighting is the fact dogs are considered to be pets in many parts of the world, and several badly injured dogs had to be destroyed (read: shot in the head). Ironically, dogs are eaten in some cultures and it’s been reported that Pacquiao’s own pet dog was eaten by his father’s friend when the boxer was a youngster.
As a devout Catholic, some people have a hard time understanding Pacquaio's involvement in the brutal game of cockfighting. But it’s really a moral issue not a legal one. And like religion, people shouldn’t force their beliefs onto others. It just happens to be that cockfighting is a part of Pacquiao’s culture. Sure, people may not agree with it and could question and criticize it, but does anybody really have a right to interfere in the cultures of other nations?
It’s just their way of life.