Eighty-one percent support cockfighting ban, survey shows

The Associated Press, The New Mexican - 2/7/2001

SANTA FE (AP) - Four out of five New Mexicans surveyed last month oppose cockfighting and support a state law banning it, animal protection groups said Wednesday.

Support for a ban crosses geographic, ethnic and political lines, according to the survey of 412 registered voters.

"We have 81 percent of the state saying, 'Let's ban cockfighting for good,"' said Lisa Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection of New Mexico.

Holding dog fights is already a fourth-degree felony; activists propose to broaden the law to prohibit animal fights, which would cover cockfighting.

New Mexico is one of three states with no statewide prohibition on cockfighting, in which two roosters with sharp blades strapped to their legs are placed in a pit to fight.

Louisiana and Oklahoma are the other two states.

Eleven counties and 27 municipalities in New Mexico have ordinances banning cockfighting, but activists say there are areas of the state - primarily in the south and east - where it occurs.

"I think it is more than time to get this behind us once and for all," said Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, the sponsor of the bill to make it a crime to arrange or take part in animal fighting.

According to the survey taken by Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque, a cockfighting ban is supported by:

-84 percent of Anglos, 76 percent of Hispanics.

-80 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents or others.

-77 percent of voters on the east side, 83 percent in the south-southwest, 80 percent in the northwest, 80 percent in the north-central region, 82 percent in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.

Cockfighting pits are believed to exist in Hidalgo, Cibola, Lea, Valencia, Sierra, Otero, Luna, Roosevelt and Socorro counties, according to the bill's supporters.

In Cibola County recently, cockfighting proponents argued that a ban violated their civil rights.

According to an investigative report by the Humane Society of the United States, the most common type of organized cockfighting is a derby, in which entry fees are pooled to provide prize money. Fees also may be charged to spectators, the report said. Jennings said while gambling on cockfights is against the law, betting on the sidelines is a common practice.

Supporters of cockfighting have told lawmakers in the past that the practice is family-oriented, part of a rural lifestyle and helps rural economies because of feed and equipment sales to game fowl breeders.

"There is absolutely no reason why somebody should feel they could make a financial gain at the expense and suffering of another living being," said state Land Commissioner Ray Powell Jr., a veterinarian.

The coalition supporting the ban includes Attorney General Patricia Madrid, the District Attorneys Association, veterinary and animal control groups and the New Mexico Conference of Churches.

Counties where cockfighting is already prohibited, according to the coalition: Bernalillo, Colfax, Dona Ana, Los Alamos, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos and Cibola.

© Copyright 2001 The New Mexican