Tiny birds seem to be the next, albeit improbable, wave in fight-to-the-death blood sport.
Twice in recent months, authorities have raided operations where finches were kept to attack each other for onlookers who bet on which birds would survive the matches.
Moreover, authorities worry about public safety. “The individuals who enjoy this kind of brutality, who attend these fights should be regarded as very dangerous,” he says. “They’re the same type of people who enjoy dog fighting and rooster fighting. There may be drugs or arms, and criminal backgrounds.”
Increased public awareness and reporting have made dog and rooster fighting riskier, Rickey says. Finches are much cheaper to raise and keep, they’re quieter, and they’re easier to transport and secret away, he says.
Most of the birds seized in the busts in Shelton, Conn., and Ashland, Mass., were saffron finches, 6-inch songbirds indigenous to parts of South America, which sell for $120 and more a pair in the USA.
They’re aggressive when mating, Rickey says, and that’s why bird fighters favor them.
In the Connecticut raid last summer, 19 men were arrested and 150 birds seized. In Massachusetts last month, more than 20 finches were seized, and investigations into the 20 people living in the house continue.
Many of the people apprehended in both busts were Brazilians. Brazil has long had a culture of finch fighting, but the practice was outlawed two decades ago.