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Senate To Take Up Cockfighting Ban

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— The Senate Conservation Committee is poised to take up one of the session's most heated debates: whether to ban cockfighting.
    Committee chairman Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said his panel has set aside Tuesday afternoon to consider two measures that would prohibit the sport.
    The committee has reserved the Senate floor instead of a limited-seating committee room to hear the identical measures (SB 65 and SB 66). It will convene after the Senate floor session.
    "We're trying to afford an opportunity to all," Cisneros said.
    Cisneros said he had contemplated scheduling the hearing for today, but that bill opponents told him they had a conflict.
    Cisneros said he wasn't sure what the conflict was.
    A schedule from the Legion Club of Jal shows a cockfight listed today in the southeastern New Mexico city.
    The event is one of the biggest cockfighting derbies of the year and between 120 and 150 people from as far away as Hawaii are expected to enter.
    Ed Lowry, a cockfighter from Chaparral, said he and other ban opponents plan to attend the hearing Tuesday.
    So do Danielle Bays and other members of the group Animal Protection Voters, although Bays would have preferred the hearing be held today. Her group supports the ban.
    Both sides are expected to turn out in force.
    Cisneros said he takes the audience testimony seriously and has voted both ways on a cockfighting ban.
    Once a co-sponsor of a bill to ban the sport, Cisneros said the last time his committee heard the measure, he voted against it.
    Listening to the audience, Cisneros said he was convinced that the sport is a right guaranteed under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War.
    Attorney General Patricia Madrid in 2003, however, said it isn't.
    Lawmakers for several years have tried to ban cockfighting statewide. It's already illegal in 13 of the state's 33 counties and in 29 cities. New Mexico and Louisiana are the only two states where the sport is legal.
    A third measure to ban the sport this session, HB 878, is pending in its first House committee.