Cockfighting in Bali at the full moon celebrations.

Balinese culture is steeped in tradition, spirituality and black magic. Ancient customs persist, from the daily offerings of incense and rice for the gods, to the dances and ceremonies. Religious texts indicate that tabuh rah (literally spilling blood) has occurred since at least the 10th century as a sacrifice to appease evil spirits. In fact, no religious ceremony in a temple may commence until the blood of at least three sabung (roosters) has been spilled on the ground.

Cockfighting not only fulfils this religious belief, but is a form of entertainment, gambling and camaraderie which draws desperate villages together. Fights are spontaneously organised and hidden away on back roads, out of sight of the authorities and tourists. If an illicit fight were to be raided by the police, westerners would definitely have had visas revoked, been fined several thousand Rupiahs, or thrown in an Indonesian jail.

Cockfights are brutal and you may find these photos unsettling. However It should be noted that these roosters live extraordinary lives up until their fight. They’re cared for like a child, and roam free in their owners homes. These sabung (cockerels) are stroked, massaged, combed, bathed in a pool of herbs with lukewarm water. The owners preen their feathers and hand feed them them corn - just as a mother would take care of a child, a Balinese man would his roosters.

This tradition dates back over 1,000 years in Bali, and the Balinese have the utmost respect for their sabung. The roosters which loose are often cooked there and then, satay style, nothing is wasted.