A father and son from West Sussex are due to be sentenced for charges relating to cock-fighting (Reuters)
A father and son from West Sussex are due to be sentenced for charges relating to cock-fighting (Reuters)

A father and son from Sussex are facing jail after a raid on two of their farms revealed a huge cock-fighting operation involving more than 500 birds.

Mark Giles, 48, and his 26-year-old son, also called Mark, pleaded guilty to 19 charges of animal cruelty between them following an investigation by the RSPCA.

The two men face up to six months in jail after the discovery of more than 500 birds, dedicated fighting pits and accessories such as metal spurs, which are attached to birds' feet to cause injury.

The discoveries were made at the pair's farms in Strood Green and Marringdean Road, both in Billingshurst, West Sussex.

During the raids at the Sussex farms, officers recovered mobile phone footage of cock-fighting taking place on the premises. RSPCA officers said it is possible the fights were viewed by a number of spectators from a variety of backgrounds.

RSPCA inspector Dave Long, who led the investigation, told the Sunday Times: "This was a breeding farm specifically for fighting cocks but it was also used for others to come and test their own birds.

"The people involved come from all walks of life, including people with respectable occupations such as doctors and dentists."

Dozens of animals recovered from the farm will have to be put down as they are too damaged to live with other cockerels. Steroids are thought to have been used on the birds in order to make them stronger and more aggressive.

The pair will be sentenced at Brighton Magistrates' Court on 17 October having already pleaded guilty to charges under the Animal Welfare Offences Act, including causing unnecessary suffering to more than 80 chickens.

The RSPCA believe the operation could have existed for a long time before the RSPCA's raid on the farms last spring.

Andy Robbins, speaking on behalf of the charity, said: "You don't come across set-ups like this every day, it's not a regular occurrence. The type of set-up... here could not have been established in just six months."

The Sunday Times reported cock-fights could become a disturbing new trend for people in the UK, quoting a source commenting on a recent rise in the popularity of cock-fighting.

He said: "It's a kind of cock-fighting chic. It seems to be a new trend. I haven't come across it before."