Jon Hamilton, NPR
Thai cock trainer Su Chin says new government rules that make it harder for roosters to travel for matches have hurt his ability to make a profit, because birds only rise in value if they win important matches.
This month marked the start of the Year of the Rooster, but in Thailand, where fighting cocks are considered a national treasure, the rooster has become an embattled creature.
Strictures put into place by the Thai government to stop the spread of bird flu have imperiled the future of cockfighting, a pastime that many Thais consider an integral part of rural life.
Thai officials say they're trying to protect people. So far, only a few humans have been infected — including at least one owner of a fighting cock. But each new infection increases the chance that bird flu will jump from chickens to humans. Disease experts say that could start a flu pandemic that would kill millions of people around the world.
Mandhana Bijaisoradat for NPR
Se Leong (right) spars with Du in a cockfight. Each bird's heel spurs are covered with leather gloves to prevent serious injury.