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Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Senate Committee Kills Bill To Outlaw Cockfighting

By Pete Herrera
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE A Senate committee on Tuesday narrowly killed a bill to outlaw cockfighting in New Mexico, one of two states that still allows the bloody sport.
    The Senate Conservation Committee tabled the bill on a vote of 5-4 after hearing nearly three hours of testimony from both sides of the issue that has stirred emotions and arguments in the state for years.
    "This is an example of the Legislature continuing to ignore the will of the people of New Mexico," said Danielle Bays of Animal Protection Voters. "We will continue to bring this bill before this body until the citizens of this state are heard and respected," the Santa Fe resident said.
    Supporters of the bill could introduce a similar measure in the House, but the Senate committee's action makes it unlikely the bill would succeed during the current session.
    Louisiana is the only other state where cockfighting is legal.
    Breeders and fans of cockfighting outnumbered animal rights activists and others who argued that watching two roosters fight to the death with metal spurs attached to their feet is barbaric.
    Janine Arvizu of Tijeras, a scientist and supporter of cockfighting, told the packed Senate gallery that watching the bloody sport causes less emotional stress on children than a college basketball game.
    "My child is safer at an organized cockfight than she is at a (New Mexico) Lobo basketball game," Arvizu said.
    Most proponents of keeping New Mexico a cockfighting-friendly state contend it's part of the state's Hispanic culture, that it provides much-needed income for families in rural areas and that fighting is an inherent part of roosters.
    Arturo Sandoval, a native New Mexican, was among those who spoke in favor of banning the sport.
    "It's part of our culture that was acceptable 600 years ago," Sandoval said. "It's barbaric ... and for anyone to say a majority of Latinos or Hispanos are in favor of cockfighting is inaccurate."
    Oscar Granado, a 27-year-old tire company employee from Loving, said he considers cockfighting more of a hobby but admits it can be big business. He has about 100 fighting roosters and plans to attend a cockfighting derby later this month in the Lea County town of Jal.
    Granado said for an entry fee of $1,000, an owner can enter up to seven birds in the winner-take-all event. A rooster that wins seven straight fights can earn its owner more than $100,000, Granado said.
    The bill was sponsored by Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales.