What lies behind the rise in animal fighting?

Despite animal baiting having been prohibited for over a century, reports of dog fighting to the RSPCA have increased significantly since 2004. This activity either involves a number of people coming together to pit one fighting dog against another, with large amounts of money being placed as bets on the outcome of the fight, or less organised fights in places such as public parks. A recent high-profile case – a dog fight in Birmingham attended by 26 people – has brought the activity back into the public consciousness.

While reports of cock-fighting have decreased, the RSPCA still receives a number of complaints. This also involves people watching and betting on fighting animals – this time cockerels – in a pit area. The birds are conditioned to fight and may have the natural spurs on their feet sharpened – or even replaced with steel spikes - so as to inflict the maximum damage to their opponents.

Also on the decrease, but still occurring, is badger digging or baiting, whereby small groups of people use terrier dogs to enter badger setts to locate and corner badgers deep in the tunnels of the sett. Both the dog and the badger are likely to receive severe bit injuries as a badger will fight fiercely when cornered.

Animal fighting is viewed by the RSPCA as one of the most serious areas of animal cruelty. The activities are deliberate and calculated and by their very nature cause a great deal of unnecessary suffering – and often death – to the animals involved. It is, however, extremely difficult to establish the true scale of the problem in the UK because of its covert nature.