Northern Ireland

Cock fighting network uncovered by USPCA

Cockfighting, a practice that has been illegal for almost 200 years, is still going on, BBC Newsline has discovered.

Image caption The birds are armed with metal spurs which can inflict horrific injuries on their opponents

The fights take place regularly at clandestine venues known only to a network of individuals who gather to watch birds fight, sometimes to death.

For months now BBC Newsline has had exclusive access to an Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigation.

Men were filmed setting birds on each other in bloody contests.

At one site last weekend, about 60 people, some of them children, were gathered around a makeshift ring in County Monaghan about five miles from Middletown in County Armagh.

On another occasion, both birds seemed to survive. In another earlier encounter one of the birds was lifted, apparently lifeless, from the ring.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMen were filmed setting birds on each other

These big events in the cockfighting world are known as derbies.

On St Patrick's Day this year, another meeting took place just south of the border.

Cars, vans and hatchbacks transported the birds in cages where they are penned before being agitated to fight.

Again birds died in the ring. Again children were there. A young boy was pictured taking care of one of the birds that survived.