Life without the cockpit: Former cockfighters have taken up new hobbies

March 10, 2020

 

“On the bright side, I have months’ worth of kadun pika,” Yona resident Mike Camacho quipped. Like most other cockfighters on Guam, Camacho was forced to retire from cockfighting following a federal ban that came into force on Dec. 20 amid protest from local cockfighting community.

 

“I have no choice but to butcher and eat them,” Camacho said. “Or is that considered animal cruelty, too?”

 

The ban on cockfighting was long overdue, according to animal welfare advocates, who continue to monitor any underground derby on island. The federal law has forced the shutdown of cockpits on island, marking the death knell for all U.S. territories’ lucrative cockfighting industry.

 

Cockfighters from the U.S. mainland made more than 500 illegal transports of fighting birds to customers on Guam, according to an analysis by the Animal Wellness Foundation and Animal Wellness Action of 2,500 pages of live-animal shipping records obtained from the Guam Department of Agriculture.

 

AWF and AWA said records reveal the illegal trafficking of nearly 9,000 gamefowls to Guam alone in a 33-month period. Five exporters, including three from Oklahoma, accounted for more than 50 percent of the 8,800 birds sent to Guam.

 

Currently, there are no available information on the fates of thousands of gamebirds on Guam after the ban took effect. Clearly, some wound up in the pot.

 

While possession of these fowls is not illegal, AWF and AWA asked the local Department of Agriculture to deny certification for any additional shipments of game fowl bound for Guam, “except in cases where the shippers and receivers can affirmatively demonstrate that they are not involved in the cockfighting.”

 

Camacho resents the cockfighting ban, but he has no choice but to follow the law. He doesn’t want to get himself in trouble. But he wished the local government had fought harder to keep the once long running island tradition alive.

 

But how has life been for them since the ban?

 

“It hurts the business,” said Randy J. Barcinas of Merizo. “And it hurts the simple man who is

trying to make some money.”

 

The more serious enthusiasts are more likely to travel to the Philippines, where cockfighting is legal and the tradition remains undisturbed.

 

 For Barcinas, cockfighting had a sentimental value. It was, he said, a way for him to feel the presence of his grandfather, who introduced him to the sport.

 

 

Barcinas said he has cut down on the number of roosters he raises and trains.  From time to time, he still fights the roosters for fun. He said some of his friends have resorted to bingo to make some extra money.

 

Barcinas has taken up other hobbies, too. “I started to breed fancy guppies,” he said. He bought and shipped guppies from Thailand.

 

Also known as million fish and rainbow fish, the guppy is one of the world's most widely distributed tropical fish.

 

Barcinas said breeding guppies often reminds him of breeding his roosters for they have similar colors. It brings back memories. Now that his rooster business is dead, Barcinas hopes to start selling these freshwater aquarium fish.

 

Just the same, Barcinas said he misses the rush of the cockfighting atmosphere. The rush of seeing the roosters fight, not knowing who is going to win or lose, preparing the roosters by testing them and then breeding them. There are some of the things he misses. It’s all about having fun, whether you lose or win. It brings all sorts of people together for some fun and relaxation.

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