Finch fighting busted in Connecticut

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2009:
DERBY, Connecticut–All 19 defendants in the first
finch-fighting case in the U.S. that anyone could remember on August
11, 2009 surrendered title to 150 saffron finches who were seized in
a July 26 raid on the home of Jurames Goulart, 42, of Shelton,
Connecticut. Goulart, Sebastian Andrade, 37, and Nonato Raimundo,
51, both of Danbury, were charged with organizing a finch-fighting
ring that drew gamblers from as far as Massachusetts, New York, and
New Jersey. The other arrestees were charged as spectators.


Police said that some of the finches had sharpened beaks and
one had a sharp metal object attached to his beak. The finches were
apparently enticed to fight by the presence of female birds in a cage
above the cage where the fights were held.
All 19 defendants were of Brazilian background, but
Brazilian animal advocates and journalists told investigators that
they had never before heard of finch fighting. On the day of the
raid, however, Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar reported
that finch singing contests held in the Richmond Hill district of
Queens, New York “have drawn increased scrutiny recently from law
enforcement, as federal officials target illegal smuggling of
finches from Guyana. Authorities also suspect the men place illegal
bets on the birds.”
Guyana is a small nation on the Caribbean coast of South
America, bordering Brazil. Slightly more than half the human
population of Guyana are descended from 19th century South Asian and
Chinese immigrants who brought songbird competitions and songbird
fighting with them.
Songbird contests continue today mainly in major Chinese
cities. Songbird fighting continues mainly in Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and other parts of Central Asia, mostly as a marketplace
gambling pastime.
In Central Asian-style songbird fighting, freshly captured
wild birds held by silk threads are briefly pitted against each other
until one quits or escapes. Both birds are released after the fight
to avoid violating the Islamic prohibition on caging wild birds.
Songbird fights often occur in the same pits as cockfights,
in proximity to domestic poultry. Because the wild-caught birds may
have contact with infected poultry before release, songbird fighting
is believed to be a vector for spreading avian diseases, including
the potentially deadly H5N1 avian flu.

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