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          Front Page




Cockfight Ban Gets TV Star's Support

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    The perennial push to ban cockfighting in New Mexico got boosts Monday from television's "The Golden Girls" star Rue McClanahan and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez.
    The pair, surrounded by animal advocates, spoke in support of a proposed state ban on cockfighting, which will be presented to the Legislature again in January.
    "I find the whole thing appalling," said McClanahan, who has lived in New Mexico and taught dance here. "New Mexico is too beautiful to let this happen."
    "It's frankly just outright cruelty to animals and it has no place in New Mexico," Chávez said.
    New Mexico and Louisiana are the only two states in the country where it's legal in some places to hold cockfights— with birds wearing sharp metal spurs and at least one often dying.
    Cockfighting supporters argue the sport is part of the state's agricultural and Hispanic heritage. Money spent on birds and special feed puts millions of dollars in the state's economy each year, they say.
    Animal-rights activists for years have urged New Mexico lawmakers to pass measures outlawing the sport statewide, but lawmakers from rural areas have been able to kill them off.
    Cockfighting currently is banned in 13 New Mexico counties and in 29 cities.
    Although Albuquerque is one of the cities where cockfighting is banned, Chávez on Monday proposed city legislation that would further clamp down on cockfighting-related activities, including breeding game birds for cockfights or organizing fighting events.
    "I think most people agree now that it's not cultural or if it's cultural, it's cultural just the same way that exploitation of children and exploitation of women used to be cultural," Chávez said.
    A representative of the New Mexico Game Fowl Association, which supports cockfighting, could not be reached for comment Monday.
    A poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal this summer found that two-thirds of the registered voters surveyed said they would support a statewide ban.
    Support for a ban was strong around the state, but on the east side 50 percent of those polled said they would support a ban while 32 percent would oppose it.
    McClanahan on Monday delivered a letter to Gov. Bill Richardson's office urging the governor to support a ban, as actress Pamela Anderson did earlier this fall.
    Richardson, who would have to sign or veto a ban if the Legislature approves one, remains undecided on the issue, spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Monday.
    "Cockfighting is already banned in the majority of counties and municipalities. The governor is willing to discuss and consider any legislative measure after a full and thorough debate on all sides," Gallegos said.
    Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, plans to introduce a cockfighting ban during the upcoming session, which starts in mid-January.
    Dan Mathews, a vice president of campaigns with the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said his group is focusing on getting cockfighting banned in New Mexico.
    "The word is getting out that this barbaric practice is happening here," he said.
    Chávez agreed that 2005 could be the last for cockfighting in New Mexico.
    "This really needs to be done at the state level," he said. "I'm very hopeful that we'll have better luck this year on this issue.
    "As we go out and market the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico to attract ... employers, we just don't want to be in the same league as Louisiana," Chávez said.
    "This is not a backwater state," the mayor said. "This is a cutting-edge state and a marvelous place to be. I can't speak for the entire state but I can speak for the city of Albuquerque: We are not going to tolerate it here, this is not our culture, it's not our economy, it is not who we are."