Plans to hold cockfight at summer festival sparks fury
A plan to hold a cockfight as part of this year's Lady of the Lake Festival in Irvinestown has sparked fury among animal rights organisations.
The cruel practice has been banned for more than 150 years, but continues illegally in some areas close to the border.
Festival organiser Joe Mahon, who owns a hotel in the Co Fermanagh village, told the Impartial Reporter that the cockfight "would be one of the highlights of the festival".
He said: "We are hoping to have plenty of gamecocks there to take part."
Mr Mahon defended the cockfighting plan, stating that the authorities had raised no issues about the proposal.
"We have carried out a full risk assessment and have spoken to various people about this.
"I've already met the police regarding the festival and there have been no issues raised," he added.
As outraged animal lovers took to social media to protest against the plan, the League Against Cruel Sports called for the festival to be boycotted.
Spokeswoman Janice Watt said last night: "We strongly condemn Mr Mahon's proposals to make this barbaric cruelty a so-called attraction at the festival.
"Cockfighting has been illegal in Northern Ireland for almost 200 years, so it is extremely disturbing to hear that Mr Mahon believes he is above the law and his proposals to include this sickening blood sport are of great concern."
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA also called on the organisers to ditch what they called a "sick competition".
"Cockfighting is described by some as a blood sport, but for any right-minded person there is no glory in watching birds die horrific deaths in the name of sick competition.
"We would urge the organisers of this festival not to host this illegal and horribly cruel activity at their event.
"Anyone wishing to report illegal activity like this should contact the police immediately," the spokeswoman added.
Last night, the PSNI said they would be taking action to ensure no cockfighting occurs at the event.
Chief Inspector Clive Beatty told the Belfast Telegraph: "Police have only become aware of plans to hold a cockfight at the Lady of the Lake Festival. A meeting will be held with the organiser of the festival in the very near future to advise him that cockfighting is illegal and will not be permitted."
Mr Mahon did not respond to contact from the Belfast Telegraph last night.
In 2013, an illegal cockfighting ring was uncovered in three separate locations in the Enniskillen area.
Fighting gamecocks can be worth hundreds of pounds to their owners and to spectators.