Cockfighting may be illegal in New York, but in Morrisania many say it's just a spectator sport where the loser ends up on the dinner table.
The sport that is a crime was the talk last week on the 1000 block of Morris Avenue following a massive police raid on a cockfighting tournment in a boxing gym.
"It's not cruel because that's a sport in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico," said Miguel Morada, 54, a cook. "Here, it's illegal. It makes no sense."
Morada said he never attended a fight during the 40 years he has lived in the United States. But, every year when he visits his native Puerto Rico, he bets at the stadium. He said the misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals in New York state law should be changed.
"The rooster, you eat it," said Morada. "That's not a pet. Cockfighting would bring money to the country, bring in tax revenue from gambling."
On March 25, police and agents of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrested 296 people at the Benitez Athletic Club, a converted theater where visitors enter under a blue awning with a logo showing boxing gloves.
Officials say that during the fights, roosters, with sharpened metal spurs strapped to their legs and often strung out on angel dust, battle each other to the death in a frenzy of kicks and flapping feathers.
Spectators were charged with misdemeanor counts while event organizers were slapped with felony charges, police said.
"You have to respect the law," said Renzo Hilario, 35, owner of a discount store and native of the Dominican Republic. "It's like if you go to Japan, you have to eat with chopsticks."
Hector Medina, a 43-year-old truck driver for Coco Rico coconut soda, disagreed. He said he understood why people would watch cockfighting.
"It's like a good horse," said Medina. "You bet on the one that's going to win. The rooster, they'll kill it anyway to survive. They would just cut its head off."
Medina added that he has never attended a cockfight. But to other neighbors, any type of animal fighting is barbaric cruel.
"It's definitely cruel to the animals," said Darren, a barber who said his viewpoint would not be welcome in the community. "To them, that's amusement, to me that's cruel. It's bad for the community. The people that cockfight already have money."