Network for Animals campaigns against the cruel practice of Organized Horse Fighting, a shocking blood sport prevalent in Mindanao, a part of the Southern Philippines and is billed as a cultural tradition.

In an Organized Horse Fight a female horse is tied up, and two male horses are incited to fight each other. The female horse’s scent helps to arouse the fighting instinct of the stallions, and the ‘winning’ horse mounts the female after fighting. This female horse is effectively raped – all in the name of entertainment.

Organized Horse Fighting is unnaturally brutal. During a fight, male horses are forced to bite, kick and strike each other with their hooves, inflicting serious injuries until one of them submits, flees or is killed. Gouges, gashes and broken limbs sustained during fights are serious and can be fatal. The suffering experienced by these horses is agonizing.

While most fights last about 15 minutes, historically they have gone on for up to three hours. Today, bouts are limited to one hour, to maximise the number of fights per day. Around four horses die instantly during Organized Horse Fights each year, but internal bleeding, contusions and fractures are commonplace. An estimated 15 more horses die a slow painful death lasting up to a week as a result of the torturous blood sport.

Organized Horse Fighting events are conducted in city stadiums or large fenced in areas before raucous crowds who attend in anticipation of intense fighting, gore and death. With high stakes in the balance, most horse fights involve purpose bred and trained animals who are large, sturdy and aggressive, but of course undeserving.

Organized Horse Fights are major events, and run over three days. They are referred to as derbies, and arranged by local crime syndicates. While horse fighting is promoted under the guise of tradition, the main reason it is prevalent is gambling, with bets reaching 1,000,000 pesos ($21,000). And, although Organized Horse Fighting is illegal, organizers receive sponsorship money from local business managers and politicians. This is  testament to how accepted the cruelty and pain of Organized Horse Fighting is within Mindanao.

Local officials can be fiercely protective of the activity and generally defies the national government’s authority on the issue, to the extent that local police are often hired by the promoters for crowd control. The power of organized criminal networks running these fights is a very clear factor in the prevalence of fighting.

However, over the last five years network for Animals has nearly halved the number of Organized Horse Fighting Derbies taking place in Mindanao each year, from 33 to 15. This is an incredible achievement, but we will not stop there. Our aim, as with any animal cruelty is to wipe it out completely. We fight with compassion, grassroots involvement, education, petitions, and you, our dedicated supporters.

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How we fight against cruelty

Funding Veterinary Care: Veterinary services for horses in the Philippines are very basic and often too expensive for impoverished local farmers who enter their horses in tournaments. Network provides free veterinary clinics in communities where horse fighting is prevalent as an incentive to stop horse fighting. Our veterinarians not only provide care for immediate problems, but also provide advice on long term care for horses and work to instil a sense of compassion towards horses, providing horses are not used in fights.

Education: Educating the public about the animal welfare concerns inherent in horse fighting is a crucial part of our work. Network regularly solicits television stations and newspapers to cover the horse fighting issue, thereby reaching hundreds of thousands of people with our message of compassion. Additionally, we print and distribute educational leaflets and posters in horse fighting areas, give presentations to veterinarians, schools and civic groups, and when funding allows, run advertisements in newspapers.

Petitions: Tourism is a vital source of revenue for the southern Philippines, an area that has an abundance of world class diving locations and beaches. Network works to petition prominent officials, with our team following up all petitions. Positive messages from you, our supporters, to such officials through petitions are incredibly helpful.