Illegal, cruel horse-fighting in Mindanao alive and kicking
by Pia Ranada
Despite national and local laws, horse fight organizers are finding ways to hold their profitable derbies outside the gaze of authorities
MANILA, Philippines – “Bratatatatatatat!” blares a commentator as two white male horses fight to the death in the village of Dawis, Digos City, Davao del Sur.
Their flanks, tense with the threat of violence, are matted with blood and dirt. After biting his adversary on the neck, one horse paws the ground like a bull.
The crowd goes wild and unseen whistles screech in ecstasy. The children, watching from nearby tree branches, cheer along with their elders, making private bets among themselves.
Recorded in video by animal rights group Network for Animals (NFA), the horse-fighting derby allegedly took place on May 16, 2014.
It is one of dozens of horse-fighting events that take place in Mindanao provinces every year.
This is in violation of Republic Act No 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 which prohibits horse fights and the maltreatment of horses. Anyone engaged in horse-fighting can be imprisoned for 6 months to 2 years and fined P30,000 to P100,000 ($676-$2,200), depending on whether or not the horse dies.
In a horse fight, two male horses are put in a ring with a mare in heat. The stallions are goaded to mate with the mare and then restrained in order to induce aggressive behavior.
Once violent enough, they are released so they can fight over the mare.
The cruel practice, which leaves hundreds of horses dying or severely injured, has been going on in the region since the 1980s, according to NFA Philippines.
Aggressive campaigning has led two governors – Jose Zubiri of Bukidnon and Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of North Cotabato – to ban horse-fighting events in 2014.
But insiders say those who make big bucks from horse-fighting have changed tactics to avoid the law.
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