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The Moral and Conceptual Universe of Cockfighters: Symbolism and Rationalization

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Cockfighting is an ancient sport that has deep roots in rural parts of the world and in certain areas of the United States. It also has great symbolic significance to its practitioners and aficionados as an affirmation of masculine identity in a increasingly complex and diverse era. Although the activity is illegal in most jurisdictions, it continues, generally in a covert setting. Because cockfighting is subject to criminal sanction and informal social disapproval, cockfighters have developed rationalizations which they use among themselves and offer to outsiders. These rationalizations are complex; some are overtly religious in nature. Cockfighters do more than merely talk about their pastime - they actively engage in formal and informal lobbying to keep criminal penalties for their activity at a low level of severity. As the nation continues to urbanize, these lobbying efforts, while effective in the past, are gradually losing legislative support. For a number of reasons, the pastime is losing respectability and adherents and will probably be criminalized nationwide before the end of the century.



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