A petition to ban cockfighting in the communes it is still legal in Nord, Pas de Calais and France’s overseas territories has gained over 30,000 signatures since it was launched on Thursday (August 4).
Gabrielle Paillot, the author of the petition and a long-time animal rights defender, said: “The animals are raised in cages. They never see the light of day except when they are thrown into the ring to fight.
“There is terrible suffering for the animals,” she told AFP.
The petition is addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, the minister for ecological transition Christophe Béchu and agricultural minister Marc Fesneau, as well as various prefectures where the sport still runs.
Cockfighting is illegal in most of France but is still permitted in around 12 communes in Nord and 36 in Pas-de-Calais, where it is considered traditional.
It is also still present in the overseas territories of Réunion, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The Nord prefecture told AFP that the “fights are organised under controlled conditions”.
They have to take place in traditional “pits” called gallodromes. It is forbidden to open any new gallodromes in France and new owners cannot take over existing ones.
“It means this activity is destined to die out naturally,” the Nord prefecture said.
Ms Paillot states there are close to 1,000 fighting cock breeders and around 9,000 fights per year.
The birds are a special breed called coqs du Nord, usually weighing between four to six kilograms. They are fitted with small blades and pitted against each other where they fight to the death.
The sport still draws crowds in the Hauts-de-France region, with spectators also coming from Belgium where it is banned.
Ms Paillot said that the long-established history of the sport should not mean it is allowed to continue.
“Tradition is one thing, but cruelty to animals is another.
“We are no longer in the Middle Ages, these are barbaric practices that have no place today," she said.
This is not the first petition against cockfighting, with a similar one launched by the political party Parti animaliste and animal rights association One Voice reaching close to 70,000 signatures last year.
Cockfighting is illegal in most European Union countries but survives as an exception in northern France and in the Spanish Canary Islands.