Continuing with our travels in Bali, I was given the opportunity to visit a Balinese cock fight, or Tajen. Please be aware, this is a fairly barbaric event, and therefore some of the photos may upset you. It was pretty sickening to see the birds fighting and dying, but it was an event that I was glad I was able to experience.
Bobby, the taxi driver we were using in Ubud, is a friendly guy, and he was happy to spend his time showing us all the normal tourist attractions on the island. I had been discussing my photography with him, and expressed an interest in getting some photos that were a little bit different to the ‘normal’ Bali vacation images. One evening he mentioned that there would be a village cock fight the following morning, and asked if I would like to go. Thinking it would be an ideal opportunity to get some good reportage shots, I said yes.
Cockfighting in Bali is big business. The village cockfights happen a couple of times per year, and are visited by thousands of people. It’s an opportunity for local bird fighters to take their prize cocks to fight to the death against other cocks. A practise that is fairly barbaric and illegal in the rest of the world, but tolerated in Bali (tolerated in as much as pay a bribe to the local police chief, and he’ll turn a blind eye). There is also a religious aspect to the cockfighting – they are also practiced inside temple grounds as an ancient ritual of religious purification to expel evil spirits. Unfortunately this was not such an occassion.
The trainers condition their birds, feeding them the best food and grooming them daily until they are about two years old and ready to fight. Cocks have national aggression for other males, so once the time has come, the trainers stick steroids down their throats, tie blades to their legs, and put them into the ring to fight.
Like a boxing match, the umpire decides how far the fight will go – either until the bird is killed, or, more usually, until the bird is injured and can’t fight on. At which point the losing bird will be killed, his right leg cut off and presented to the winner, and the rest of the bird goes to the soup pot. During the fights the spectators are going wild, shouting to encourage the bird that they have bet upon.
Also like a boxing match, significant money is exchanged in the form of bets – the trainers receive appearance money, with more going to the winner, and the spectators can bet at predetermined odds on their favourite bird.
It’s a social event, and outside the ring there are vendors selling food, drink, and clothing, giving the gamblers an opportunity to spend their winnings if they were lucky, or drink away their sorrows if they were not.
Chapter Forty One: Life in Istanbul, October 2014
Chapter Forty: Sitting down in Istanbul: October 2014
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Leica Factory Visit, Wetzlar, Germany: September 2014
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Ngaben Cremation Ceremony, Ubud: July 2014
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