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Albuquerque Journal

Cockfighting Critics Aim for N.M. Ban
2002-11-20

LAS CRUCES — A top official with the Humane Society of the United States said in Las Cruces on Tuesday that following a victory in Oklahoma, the organization has set its sights on banning cockfighting in New Mexico, one of the last two states where the deadly sport is still legal.
The only other state remaining without a wholesale ban on the practice is Louisiana.
But cockfighting is banned in 13 of 33 New Mexico counties, and in 27 cities, according to the advocacy group Animal Protection of New Mexico.
"The legal havens for cockfighting are methodically being eliminated," said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of communications and government affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, during a visit to Las Cruces. "Their (cockfighting enthusiasts') backs are against the wall and they know it."
Proponents of a statewide ban on cockfighting were rebuffed at the committee level in the New Mexico Legislature last year. But Pacelle said supporters will try again in the upcoming legislative session in January.
Pacelle noted three developments as he argued that the momentum is with critics of cockfighting.
First, Oklahoma voters in the Nov. 5 election approved by a 56-to-44-percent margin a measure making cockfighting and related activities a felony.
Second, new federal laws will go into effect next May prohibiting the interstate transport of fighting roosters, a change Pacelle said will have a "huge impact" on the profits of breeders.
Third, a statewide poll last year conducted on behalf of Animal Protection of New Mexico showed that 81 percent of New Mexicans supported a ban on cockfighting.
"We have something approaching a national consensus on this. How much more evidence do we need to show this activity does not pass a basic test of decency and humane treatment of animals?" Pacelle said.
But Artesia resident Ronnie Barron, president of the New Mexico Game Fowl Breeders Association, said he pins his hopes on the belief that state legislators will leave it up to local governments to decide where to ban cockfighting.
"There's no doubt about it. We are going to have a fight with (animal rights activists) and we know it," Barron said. "If they think we are going to back up and take it lying down, they are badly mistaken."
The Humane Society of the United States played a big role in the Oklahoma vote, paying $400,000 for advertising supporting the cockfighting ban, Pacelle said.
Animal Protection of New Mexico will once again spearhead the campaign to ban cockfighting in the state, working with a coalition of groups called Voices Against Violence.
"The (cockfighting) industry is dying, and I think people have a real low tolerance for an industry that involves hurting animals for fun," said Lisa Jennings, Animal Protection's executive director.