In Bali there is an enormous Cockfight culture in which many of the locals immerse themselves in completely. Walking or driving down the streets in Bali, one would see chickens everywhere, and often times in the arms of their proud owner, who will stroke, massage, and treat their chicken like royalty up until the day of the fight. There are many elements to the cock fighting culture that make it significantly more interesting and intriguing.
Little do most know there is a significant symbolic meaning behind the cock fighting culture. There have been studies that analyze the connection between the chicken and it’s owner, providing explanation as to why such a strange ‘hobby’ is taken so seriously. The chicken is said to symbolize the man himself; cock fighting suddenly becomes a double meaning as the men fight through their chicken to prove their manhood and ability. The chicken’s potential symbolizes this sense of manhood. The men treat their chicken so incredibly well, massaging them, feeding them well, and strengthening them, as ultimately it helps them to win the fight and gain respect as a man. During the fight itself, often the owners are found impersonating the fight behind their chicken, as if they are living the fight through this cock. This desire to prove ones manhood becomes so desperate that the men indulge themselves further, bringing about other aspects of the cockfighting culture.
Within the cockfighting scene, there is a huge gambling culture, which is causing many problems for the Balinese financially. Because they become so immersed in the cockfighting scene, they begin to bet large amounts of money on the winning chicken; to make the game more interesting and add more competition, as that is what makes it so thrilling. However this gambling culture becomes an addiction, and many locals find themselves in great debt. To pay off this debt, or make more money for future gambling, often times locals will end up having to sell their houses, rice paddies, etc to tourists. These tourists cannot be trusted to look after such precious rice fields, as they have not grown up farming like the Balinese, and therefore cannot dedicate themselves as well. Also, these tourists may end up building on this sold land, ridding Bali of it’s beautiful rice paddies, and industrializing it further.
Although these chickens are treated like royalty up until the actual fight, the fight itself is brutal and cruel. They tie knives to the feet of the chicken, pull their feathers and tap their chests to get them angry and riled up, and then release them to fight. The fight itself lasts no more than 10 mins, however it is often bloody and painful to watch. At one point in the fight they put a weaved basket over the two chickens so that they are forced to fight without much space to move, and often times this is when one of the chicken grows much stronger, while the other is badly injured, weak, and close to death. The chickens hurl themselves at each other, one, or often both being stabbed with each thrust. The cruelty of the game becomes more clear when the white chickens fight, as the blood stains their feathers, and their pain becomes obvious. A man rings the gong; the round is over, both chickens bleeding, one often extremely weak and on the verge of death. The gong rings again, the men pull their chicken’s feathers and beat their chests to wind them up again, and the chickens are forced to face each other again. Often by this point, one chicken is too weak to put up a fight, and is injured further, and soon killed. The one positive aspect is that they use the chicken once it’s dead, so it is not a waste. They are seen plucking and preparing the dead chickens on the side, ready to make a meal out of it later.
At many cockfights, the women are not allowed to attend, for it is a mans sport. So naturally it was immediately an awkward experience; I have never seen such a concentrated number of men in one area. This particular cockfight was a big one, taking place in a stadium-like area, sort of like a boxing ring. It reminded me of the colosseum; the chickens being the Gladiators. It was cruel. Just outside of the stadium was where the food was sold, and the betting took place, however this wasn’t the only betting going on during the fight. As the men prepared their chicken to fight, the crowd would all begin yelling “Lasal! Lasal! Lasal!” and shaking their hands in the air, meaning they were looking to bet on the chicken. They would then attempt to make eye contact with someone else to bet right then and there; 100.000rp to 500.000rp. In the official betting station, people would gamble up to 250million rp. ($25000). The men would then hold their chickens, ready to release, and the whole stadium would go quiet. The chickens would then fight, the crowd yelling each time one hit the other. As one chicken got stronger, the other began to fade, and eventually die after another stab or two. The crowd would then go crazy, and those who lost the bet would literally throw money across the stadium to those whom they lost to. The only women seen in and around the stadium were the ones selling or cooking food, which says something about the cockfighting culture being a mans culture.
Perspective from a local- Made Budi
“The Balinese people continue to sell their land, and the value continues to increase, so that even the Balinese themselves can hardly pay for land. So what about the ones that need a home and cannot afford this land? Where are they going to go? By selling land for cock fighting it’s like people are killing themselves”
“I wouldn’t even sell a handful of Balinese land because I love Bali so much and I don’t want land to be thrown away like that. It makes me sad.”
To look at a short film made my John Schroeder about Cockfighting, click on this link: