Feathers fly as French cockfighting lands in top court
France's top court will this month rule on cockfighting, an ancient blood sport that continues in some French regions despite being banned in most parts of the world.
Two Frenchmen approached the court on Tuesday to complain that current laws were unfair after they were prosecuted for opening a new cockpit on the French island of Reunion in 2012.
While animal cruelty is a crime in France, laws make an exception for sports deeply rooted in tradition like bullfighting and cockfighting.
However, while it is illegal to open new cockfighting rings, the construction of new bullfighting arenas is allowed.
The two men from Reunion argue that this is unfair.
Their lawyer Fabienne Lefevre said the different treatment of the two traditions was an "attack on the principle of equality before the law" and wants the Constitutional Council to overturn the law banning the construction of new cockpits.
By preventing new cockpits being built, the government hopes to eventually stamp out cockfighting.
The French court is expected to rule on the case on July 31.
Cockfighting, which dates to before the Roman era, was popular throughout the Middle Ages, but a distaste for the brutal sport developed in the 19th century and animal rights activists began protesting against the practice.
It was outlawed in Britain some 150 years ago.
The last American state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana in 2007, while the practice remains common and legal in parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia.
France -- like Spain -- has allowed cockfighting to continue in regions where it was considered traditional while trying to curb its expansion.
Aside from the northern Nord-Pas de Calais region, cockfighting continues in the overseas territories of Reunion, French Guiana, French Antilles and French Polynesia.
Cockfighting sets two roosters -- bred for their aggressiveness, trained and pumped with steroids -- against each other in a ring, often fighting to the death.
Sharp knives are often added to the birds' natural spurs to increase their deadliness, while spectators gamble on the outcome.
© 2015 AFP