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One Less Cock to Fight

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Late last week, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill to outlaw cockfighting in his state, ending a decades-long struggle by animal rights activists to ban the bloodsport from the state. Now only one state remains where cockfighting is legal -- Louisiana -- and senators there are already promising to outlaw it within the next three years.

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that the cockfighting measure drew more controversy than any other issue the New Mexico state legislature addressed in its regular session, which wrapped up Friday. Cockfighting, the paper reported, has "become a symbol of New Mexico's growing cultural divide."

"We're country folks out here mainly; we don't bother anyone," cockfighter Ronnie Barron told the paper. "The [animal rights people] come in with their big New York ideas -- we don't want to be like New Yorkers."

"Welcome to the 20th century," is the way local animal rights activist Danny Reid reacted to the decision in New Mexico. Reid is so offended by cockfighting that he has stopped using Amazon.com because it sells cockfighting material, including books and magazines. He has encouraged his friends to do the same.

But Mike Ratliff, who we profiled in January as the greatest cockfighter that ever lived, says the New Mexico ban won't have much impact on the thousands of Texans who fight roosters.

"They're gonna fight 'em anyway. They may have to go to Mexico to do it, but they'll fight 'em," Ratliff told me.

The ban will have an impact on Jal, New Mexico, though, Ratliff said. He built the pit there and from the beginning has fought the Humane Society to keep it running. Now he says the town will die without the tourists who come for the weekend cockfighting derbies.

"It's a disaster," Ratliff says. "They're shutting down a complete way of life." --Jesse Hyde

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