(AFP) – Sep 22, 2011
LONDON — Child welfare groups and politicians expressed outrage Thursday after a video emerged of two eight-year-old boys fighting in a cage as hundreds of adults watched.
The video, shot earlier this month at Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, shows the two boys grappling without protective padding or head gear as a 250-strong adult audience watches.
Children's charity NSPCC said the video was "disturbing" and culture minister Jeremy Hunt condemned it as "barbaric".
But Lancashire police said it had "looked into this matter fully and there are no issues for us to pursue".
Nick Hartley, the father of one of the boys in the video, insisted his son was at no risk.
"He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport. He likes to do it, he's never forced to do it, he wants to do it, so leave him to do it," Hartley told the BBC.
"He'll never get hurt, it's a controlled sport. He could never get hurt.
"Until he gets a bit older and he starts doing physical contact, kicking and punching, then maybe, but at his age it's wrestling, like grappling."
Hartley denied the children were cagefighting -- an often violent sport whose popularity has spread rapidly in recent years through widespread exposure on cable television.
"The children weren't doing cage fighting, they were doing what they call grappling. The cage fighting only comes when they're older," he said in a separate interview with Sky News.
A Lancashire Police spokesman said it had looked into whether any crime had been committed but would take no further action. The club's licence was in order to stage such events.
Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at children's charity NSPCC, said: "We would strongly discourage parents from letting their children take part in this kind of fighting.
"It's quite disturbing that some of those involved in the bouts were as young as eight, an age when they are still developing, physically and mentally.
"The organisers of these activities should think very carefully before allowing children to be involved when they are egged on to inflict violence."
Hunt, the culture minister, condemned the video as "barbaric".
"Getting more young people doing sport is great but I do ask myself whether it really does have to be in a cage," Hunt told the BBC.
Some said the reaction was overblown.
Ian Jack, a Thai boxer and mixed martial artist who is a fan of cage-fighting, said that in the extracts of the fight shown on news bulletins the boys did not appear to be doing anything more violent than in a children's judo competition.
The 33-year-old finance worker told AFP: "I really don't think it's that bad. If it was kids boxing with no head protection, that would be a lot more serious."
Jack said the key to such events were whether they were properly supervised and controlled, adding he would not object to his five-year-old son, who already trains in Thai boxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, taking part.
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