Sunday, March 7, 1999 Published at 00:12 GMT
Cock fighting big business
Last month saw first international amateur competition in Thailand
The illegal practice of cock fighting remains big business in Britain, with prize birds stolen to order and forced to fight to the death, the BBC has learned.
BBC One's Countryfile programme - to be broadcast at 11.30am on Sunday - reports that the brutal medieval sport is still very much alive in the betting underworld.
A BBC spokesman said: "Many people think cock fighting died out years ago, but there is evidence it is on the increase.
"Within the past week, Countryfile has obtained an amateur video recording of a recent cock fight.
"Cock fighters take pictures of their prize fighting birds in action because a successful cock can be worth hundreds of pounds," he said.
Wildlife liaison officer for Cheshire police, PC Mike Wellman, said: "Although cockfighting is quite widespread, it is difficult to get information about it."
Many of the birds suffer appalling injuries as a result of being slashed, according to Mike Butcher of the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit.
"The birds kick out with spurs on. They rip upwards and bits of the other bird can get torn off.
"There is a lack of veterinary care for these animals because it is an illegal activity. If they are not killed outright, many will die of shock afterwards," Mr Butcher said.
Colin Clarke and his partner Rosemary of East Anglia are two breeders who have suffered as a result of the latest upsurge in cock fighting.
Last month they were raided for the eighth time in 10 years, and have lost more than 200 birds at the hands of this barbaric sport.
Mr Clarke, who breeds his birds for shows, said: "Even if they survived the first fight, they would be killed a short time later.
"Most of my exhibition birds were taken and would have stood still while the other bird attacked them."
Cock fighting, which was brought to Britain by the Romans, was restricted and finally banned by a series of Acts of Parliament between 1833 and 1845.