Illegal cockfighting club broken up outside Madrid

Three arrested after Civil Guard seizes 32 fighting birds in raid on secret venue

Video: Madrid authorities break up an illegal cockfighting club.Video: Civil Guard / Madrid Municipal Police
F. Javier Barroso

Civil Guard and Madrid municipal police officers have broken up an illegal cockfighting club that held competitions at least twice week inside a makeshift warehouse near the Madrid satellite town of San Fernando de Henares, officials said Monday.

Three people, including the owner of the warehouse, were arrested and 11 others were placed under official investigation after a raid against the ring on June 3.

Of the 32 fighting birds seized by authorities, five had to be put down because they were badly injured

Cockfighting is illegal in all Spanish regions, except for the Canary Islands.

Of the 32 fighting birds seized by authorities, eight were in serious condition and five had to be put down.

The undercover investigation, dubbed Operation Cockpit, began in January when judicial police in Ciudad Real arrested several people in the Madrid municipality of Navalcarnero who were allegedly holding cockfights.

Local authorities contacted the Civil Guard’s Seprona nature protection unit, which launched an inquiry to determine if other illegal cockfighting rings were operating in the region.

One of the roosters found during the June 3 raid.
One of the roosters found during the June 3 raid.guardia civil / policía municipal de madrid

Officers found the illegal structure on the M-203 highway, outside San Fernando de Henares. The premises also housed a bar and a set of cages where the fighting birds were kept.

Seprona officers closely watched all movements at the location, sometimes using helicopter surveillance, before they determined that cockfights were regularly held there two or three times a week.

The fight organizers had tight security and not everyone was permitted entry. Those who were allowed to attend had to pay a €10 cover charge.

People came from various parts of Spain to attend the fights, but most were from Andalusia, explained Seprona Captain José Hernández Sierra.

In many cases spectators would bring in their fighting roosters themselves in large boxes. Betting would start at €10 and sometimes reach as high as €4,000, according to sources close to the investigation.

During the raid, officers found about 70 people, including youths aged between eight and 15

The Seprona stakeouts continued but became more frequent after a badly injured rooster was uncovered inside a vehicle by police operating a routine checkpoint at the entrance to the deprived Cañada Real Galiana neighborhood.

The Civil Guard and Madrid municipal police were then called into action.

“It was difficult to keep watch over the warehouse because it was in an isolated location. Any passing vehicle might raise suspicions. It was an extremely tight group – only those who knew someone involved could enter,” said Sierra.

More information
Cockfighting ban for Canary Islands fizzles out in Congress
Spain’s celebrations of cruelty
Animal rights groups offer €2,550 rewards for reporting abuse

On June 3, authorities raided the location and found around 70 people, including youths aged between eight and 15, inside the warehouse. A large group of officers took part in the raid because authorities feared that some of the spectators may have been armed.

Many of those in attendance were carrying large sums of cash, between €600 and €1,000.

Madrid regional veterinarians were called in to examine the birds and decided to put down five of them because they were badly injured. Authorities also discovered a pit where the roosters that were killed in the fights were later dumped.

Besides the three arrests, 11 other people are facing animal cruelty and criminal conspiracy charges.

The owner of the warehouse was also charged with building a structure without a permit and stealing electricity.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS