Sweat, Tears, but Mainly Blood: Addressing Blood Sports, the Dark Side of the Sports World

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The following article contains content that is not suitable for young audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

For many, sports are envisioned as a great thing for society. Sports gets people active, gives them a sense of purpose, and if they’re lucky, gives them a successful career. However, not all forms of sports are held in such a positive light. Such is the case with the most infamous category of sports: Blood sports.

Blood sports are those sports that involve the shedding of blood (even killing), especially of animals. This article will look to address the world of blood sports, particularly about how public perceptions have changed and what moves need to be made to further prevent blood sports that are illegal from being engaged in.

Various forms of blood sports have been participated in throughout history. Examples include goose pulling (where a goose is hung by a pole and individuals ride a horse under the pole attempting to pull the goose’s head off as they ride underneath), monkey baiting (where a monkey is pitted in a fight against a dog, often to the death), octopus wrestling, and more recognizable forms such as cockfighting and dogfighting.

Despite the fact that blood sports have had a constant presence throughout history, many have fallen in terms of their acceptance by the public. Even some of those that have cultural significance in a nation have lost popularity. Such is the case with bullfighting in Spain which, in a 2017 study of public perceptions of Bullfighting and animal welfare by Marıa et al., it was found in a survey of over 2,522 Spaniards that the vast majority did not like bullfighting nor planned to ever attend a match (yet only a minority of those interviewed approved of nationally abolishing the blood sport).

Other forms of blood sport have not only lost public approval, but have been criminalized. Such is the case with dogfighting, which from 2008 has been a felony in 50 states in the United States. Yet, as many news articles have discussed over the years, despite being illegal, many of these blood sports continue to be engaged in secretly, internationally.

What do we need to do to prevent further instances of these blood sports from occurring (those that are illegal that is)?

Well Ortiz, in a 2010 study on the effectiveness of dogfighting laws, suggested various actions that we could use to prevent further instances from occurring generally through his specific addressing of how to make the "prosecution of dogfighting more effective." Such recommendations included increasing criminal penalties and implementing task forces through which enforcement of the law can be improved.

Of course, there are still going to be those who are supportive of blood sports no matter what you do or what the masses believe. Not only those involving animal vs animal or animal vs human, but human vs human such as combat to the death similar to gladiator battles of Ancient Rome. Some of these supporters argue, as found on an anonymous debate website, that these human vs human style blood sports should be legal because it could serve as a population controlling device (pitting criminals in combat to the death to lower prison overcrowding). Others stated support for their legalization on the basis that if there are people who consent and are willing to engage in these battles, why shouldn’t they be legal?

Such a question is beyond the scope of this article to answer, but it does lead one to wonder as to what the future of blood sports will be in the modern global society. At the end of the day, we are left asking ourselves: Will a category of sport, with a history as bloody as its name suggest, continue to exist, or will the blood finally run dry?


blood sport. (n.d.) Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. (2010). Retrieved March 3 2019 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/blood+sport

In the name of sportsmanship should blood sports be legal.(n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2019, from https://www.debate.org/opinions/in-the-name-of-sportsmanship-should-bloodsports-be-legal.

Top Ten Most Unbelievable Blood Sports. (2014). Retrieved March 3, 2019, from https://lukeymeyer.com/2014/04/19/top-ten-most-unbelievable-blood-sports/.

Maria, G.A., Mazas, B., Zarza F.J., Miranda de la Lama, G.C. (2017). Animal Welfare, National Identity and Social Change: Attitudes and Opinions of Spanish Citizens Towards Bullfighting. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 30(1), 809-826.

Ortiz, F. (2010). Making the Dogman Heel: Recommendations for Improving the Effectiveness of Dogfighting Laws. Stanford Journal of Animal Law & Policy, 3(1), 1-75.

A Closer Look at Dogfighting.(n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2019, from https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/dogfighting/closer-look-dogfighting