Columbus Day Musings

We live down the street from a rooster farm – no, make that two rooster farms. We didn’t know about one of them, which only came into being a week after we settled into this place. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be or not to be in company with such an annoyance, rather in order to secure a nice home with a modicum of privacy, this is what was available; this is what we got.

When the tradewinds are down as they are and have been for the past few days, the noise can be unbearable, never mind the agenda that presents itself when one considers the raising of these lovely birds, each tethered by its foot to a triangle of plywood just big enough for its body. To us animal lovers, it is a disturbing and pitiful sight. And let’s face facts – there is no earthly reason to raise these creatures except to fight them. They don’t lay eggs and their meat is too tough to be palatable. And though cockfighting is illegal in the great old US of A, it is largely overlooked in Hawaii due to the diverse cultural milieu.

Before you get all riled up as I was the first time I realized people actually engaged in this awful practice while living on the island of Moloka’i twenty years ago, I’d offer this caution: if righteous anger could alter an engrained cultural practice overnight, we would live in a very different human universe. Sadly, it does not and cannot. Changes of this caliber happen slowly, if they happen at all, through peaceful understanding and more patience than the gods ever granted folks like me, though I am learning. Changes such as this happen by impressing youngsters with knowledge and alternatives. In turn, they then may or may not affect the deeply rooted values of their parents.

If I’ve learned nothing else through confronting injustices such as this, it is to cultivate greater tolerance. Countless others have attempted through personal and litigious channels to eradicate rooster fighting from the islands without success. And I realize that, just like personal transformation, change happens from inside the culture. It’s highly unlikely that another white person (who, like it or not, remains a symbol for the coopting of indigenous people through imminent domain) is going to ingratiate himself into the native community while insisting that people sweep away even more vestiges of their familiar. It’s a conundrum and a balancing act in this evolving world where many of us envision a more level playing field for all sentient beings.



6 thoughts on “Columbus Day Musings

    1. Yeah, Ronnie, after living on Moloka’i where nobody hides anything, we were pretty clued in as to what was going on back when we lived there. And although I’m surprised cockfighting continues to this day, on the other hand I’m not. Change takes time, especially as pertains to such longstanding practices that are so widely accepted in what we used to call ‘third world’ countries. Thanks for coming by and commenting, as always.


  1. I agree with your analogy of change within a culture. The human race has undergone change in a similiar manner, tethered to a system that encourages lawlessness by ignoring it, granting favors to politically connected and punishing anyone who speaks out for justice.

    My heart goes out to the roosters, much like dogs that are used in dog fighting. Both illegal, but a permissive legal system encourages the practice by ignoring it.


    1. Thanks, RM, for your thoughtful comment. What I tried to convey in this piece is that it’s a bit more complicated than the law. In Hawaii, we live with many people who were brought here to work, basically as slaves, to the sugar and pineapple plantations. It has not been too long since the plantations pulled up stakes and went elsewhere where they could get even cheaper land and labor to exploit. Although to Kohala Sugar Mill’s credit, they did leave their workers with small homes (if they moved them to another location).

      My husband and I have lived amongst these dear people who have been so gracious in accepting ‘outsiders,’ for the most part. It is very much like moving to a foreign country, in that we try to respect the prevailing culture instead of imposing all our beliefs on them. They have suffered enough. And so it’s a bit trickier, more complicated than it may appear on the surface. None of us want to see cruelty to animals, let me be perfectly clear on that point. That is what makes it difficult to step back in situations such as this.

      On another note, I’ve been reading an old book by Fosco Maraini called Secret Tibet about his travels in that country in the ‘forties and ‘fifties. He posits that it takes a thousand years to change a cultural norm. And this seems familiar, as in the Native American’s philosophy of ‘seven generations.’ I do know change takes time. And alienating ourselves from people who might otherwise be open to learning new behavior from outsiders coming in does not seem appropriate or wise. And so we all do what we can do, when we can do it. We teach young people that all animals are sentient; show them how to care for and husband livestock large and small. To me it all begins with them, as they are most open to it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can’t change people with anger. And so laws are tricky, as there is – as you have discovered – a lack of parity when it comes to enforcement.

      On a positive note, the day I wrote this post, I was bicycling up the hill toward the highway. Coming toward me was an ancient large framed dog, all but walking sideways. He veered to give me more room; in other words, he really didn’t want to engage. I asked him out loud, “Are you okay, buddy?” As he tottered on down until he found ‘his’ driveway and found his way into the backyard of a small house. Meanwhile, a Filipino couple in their forties, I would say, stopped their car and asked me, “He okay? He old, but why nobody take care?”

      The reason I relate this story is that cockfighting is practiced in Hawaii mostly within the Filipino culture, just like eating dog used to be years ago. The Philippines is a dirt poor country, by and large. Poverty we cannot imagine, hard as we try. And yet here it was, this couple so concerned about this ragged old dog. It lifted my spirits and touched my heart. Further, it gave me hope that things are changing. The couple then headed down the hill toward the rooster farm where they must be living or know somebody who resides there. And so it’s only a matter of time, I think, before chickens are put on the same level as dogs. Let’s hope it will be soon.


  2. Hi Bela,

    What jumps out at me reading your post is that for any change to happen and remain sustainable, it needs to be an inside out change in our values. But values alone may fail to deliver. What I believe matters is the awareness and a passion to change aligned to the values. This would hold true at the societal as also at the individual level.

    Your experience of the Rooster fighting tradition and your inner perception of the practise indicates a clash of individual values versus a societal perspective.Something has to give here one way or the other.

    Great post, Bela, it holds the promise of opening so many thought trains linked to one’s past experiences.



    1. Aloha Shakti. I think you might find my response to Ray’s Mom, above, of interest. It’s the best way I can describe how these values and feelings converge.

      Thanks so much for coming by! And now I’ve got to see if you’ve written something new! 😀


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