By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
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Even though gambling is strictly forbidden in Laos, locals continue to conduct rooster fights - pitching rooster against rooster to fight to the death for cash prizes.
In May 2016, Claudio Sieber was visiting the 4000 islands of Laos when he got the chance to witness some traditional cock fighting.
He said: “It’s what they’ve done for centuries. The events are organised by villagers and take place mostly in rural areas and the city outskirts - even local police guys attended.
“On average a mean fighting rooster costs up to $1000 in Laos and if the rooster wins an owner can make up to $50 per fight.”
Depending on the physical condition of the chicken each fight lasted for about three rounds.
Before the fight owners will carefully select their opponents and then coaches will feed and pet their roosters before they come face to face with their competitor.
The nomadic photographer said: “The Laotians raise their roosters, give them special food and take good care of them. On the spot, the coaches let the roosters gaze at each other and the roosters will each want to protect its area.
“When their coaches put them on the ground and the roosters face each other, their gaze starts to get very serious and focus.
“It’s all about defending the area and, of course, survival.”
The rear claw is taped for safety reasons and if both fighters are still alive after the third round it is usually ruled as a draw.
As the photographer had already witnessed other brutal cock fights in Bolivia and South America, he was not shocked to see the deaths and injuries of each rooster.
He said: “They get injured all the time. Some had half missing crests, bleeding eyes or even bad scratches and scars from previous fights.
“After each round the owner takes their rooster and cares for it as much as possible. There were instant surgeries and even lemongrass wraps to cool down the furious fighters. Before the next round some roosters were even given energy drinks.
“Rooster fights are very traditional and the owners don’t think much about harm, just about winning the pot. That’s probably why it usually happens in secret spots.”
Although he is against forcing animals to fight each other, Sieber never interferes in such events, instead choosing to soak up and respect all aspects of the culture around him.