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Frequently Asked Questions About Cockfighting:

What happens at a cockfight?

Cockfighting is an organized fight between two male chickens (roosters). The animals’ feet are fitted with metal knives or ice pick like gaffs, which measure up to 3 1/2 inches long. Often, they have been drugged to make them more aggressive and to clot the blood that will inevitably flow during the fight. Then the birds are placed into a pit and held face-to-face, again to stimulate aggression and manipulate their territorial instinct. Meanwhile, bets are being placed among the human participants and the spectators. During the fight–from which neither rooster can escape–the long, sharp gaffs stab deep into the flesh requiring handlers to physically pull the animals apart. The fight only ends when one rooster is dead or is too weak to fight. The loser then gets thrown in the trash. For the winner, there is no guarantee that he will survive his injuries.

Don ’t these birds fight naturally?

While it’s true that this type of bird has a fighting instinct, its natural purpose is to establish a "pecking order "and seldom results in serious injury. In cockfighting, birds are specifically bred for aggressiveness; their natural spurs are replaced with metal knives and gaffs; and they are often given drugs to maximize their aggression and stamina. Unlike birds in the wild, these animals cannot escape. They are placed in an enclosed pit and forced to fight until one quits, is severely injured, or dies.

Where is cockfighting taking place in New Mexico?

Cockfights operate under an air of secrecy, much like exclusive clubs. They tend not to advertise–only one New Mexican cockfighting club posts a schedule of events in the national game fowl magazines. Based on the limited public records and anecdotal information, cockfighting appears to be concentrated in the southern and eastern parts of New Mexico, with pits in Hidalgo, Lea, Valencia, Sierra, Otero, Luna, and Roosevelt counties, and possibly others. Part of the difficulty in obtaining verified information stems from the fact that cockfighting activity seems to be taking place without business licenses and without paying gross receipts taxes.

Isn’t cockfighting exempted from the felony animal cruelty law?

In 1999,the legislature wisely made intentional cruelty to animals a fourth degree felony, recognizing that intentionally hurting animals was a serious crime. Cockfighting was omitted from the 1999 bill as many lawmakers felt that the animal fighting issue should be addressed separately from that measure. Indeed, dog fighting is prohibited in a separate section of our animal protective statutes. Cockfighting is blatant and intentional cruelty to animals and should be punishable as a fourth degree felony, just like other kinds of intentional cruelty to animals.

Why should cockfighting be punishable as a fourth degree felony?

Since 1981,dogfighting has been punishable as a fourth degree felony in New Mexico. Cockfighting is no different in deserving the same status. It is a cruel and violent activity that results in the intentional harming and killing of roosters for fun. The New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association and the New Mexico District Attorneys Association both support a felony penalty for cockfighting. A misdemeanor penalty would not curb cockfighting, as the fines would simply be considered a business expense.

Won’t banning cockfighting simply push the activity underground?

This is not, and never has been, an adequate reason not to enact a law. Many illegal activities continue–drug trafficking, murder, robbery–even though laws and public opinion oppose these activities. It is likely that any illegal cockfighting activity would eventually be eliminated through proper enforcement of the law.

Is gambling taking place at these events? Is that legal?

New Mexico law prohibits gambling at cockfighting events. However, side bets are a standard part of cockfighting. Evidence of this type of illegal gambling was documented during an undercover investigation by a New Mexico television station.

Is there a lot of money involved in cockfighting?

According to an investigative report on animal fighting by the Humane Society of the United States, the most common type of organized cockfight in the U.S.is the derby, in which dozens of people participate. Entry fees, ranging from $100 to more than $1,000,are pooled into a pot that makes up the purse for a derby. Participants’ roosters are fought round robin, and the person whose roosters win the most fights is the winner of the purse. The pit owner may also charge a fee for spectators. A winner could go home with tens of thousands of dollars from one derby. The reality is, few people go home with a lot of cash, the majority leave empty handed, no money, no rooster.

Why not let the counties decide if they want to allow or ban cockfighting?

While a number of counties have banned cockfighting through their local ordinances, cockfighting–like dog fighting and intentional animal cruelty–should be addressed by the state legislature. Failing to ban this blatantly cruel spectator ‘sport’ at the state level is a silent endorsement of events based on injury to, and the killing of, animals. The results of a January 2001 public opinion poll in New Mexico clearly show that support for a statewide ban is overwhelming throughout the state. Therefore there is no honest reason not to pass a state law. In addition, some people in rural counties have been reluctant to take on the issue of cockfighting, for fear of intimidation by a small minority of vocal cockfighting enthusiasts. Some people fear for their personal safety, and the safety of their families, if they speak out against cockfighting in their community.

Is cockfighting important to new mexico ’s economic development?

When asked about cockfighting’s role in New Mexico’s economic development, John Garcia, Secretary of Economic Development, told KOAT Channel 7:"It's an absurd form of entertainment that is from the Dark Ages. I think we need to look ahead at different benefits, different industries ...prostitution has an economic impact, too, but it's not legal." In addition, the Grants/Cibola County Chamber of Commerce and the Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Chamber of Commerce both are opposed to cockfighting in their communities. "Cockfighting is not the image we want the world to have of Cibola County. We don’t want tourists or businesses to perceive our community as a place that condones animal abuse," Dr. Cecelia Perrow, President, Grants/Cibola county Chamber of Commerce.

Isn’t cockfighting a traditional activity?

Historically, cockfighting has not been identified with any particular culture or tradition. It is thought to have originated in Asia, the birthplace of our domestic fowl, been the focus of betting in ancient Greek and Roman societies, and eventually became a favorite pastime of English nobility before being banned in 1835. That began the long tradition of outlawing cockfighting. Massachusetts was the first state to ban cockfighting in 1836. A total of 30 states enacted bans during the 1800s with 13 more enacting bans prior to WW11. New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana are the only states that have not acted to stop this violent and cruel activity.

But cockfighting is part of the Hispanic culture in New Mexico, protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo?

This is not about culture; it is about cruelty. The majority of Hispanics (76%) questioned in a 2001 poll of New Mexican voters favored a ban on cockfighting. In fact, many Hispanics are offended that cockfighting is associated with their culture–to assume that people of a particular culture are more likely to engage in cockfighting is prejudicial. Furthermore, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo has nothing to do with cockfighting. It served to protect land grants and religious freedom for the people involved. Cockfighting has been legally banned in every other state covered in the treaty. Cockfighting has also been banned in a number of Latin American countries including Costa Rica, Cuba, and Paraguay.

Do children attend cockfights?

Yes, the alarming truth is that children are often spectators at cockfights. Some cockfighting enthusiasts have gone so far as to claim that raising fighting cocks keeps their children out of gangs, as if they were their children’s only options. The reality is, children watching cockfights can learn that it is ok to be cruel just for fun and become accustomed to violence. To teach our state ’s children to be compassionate members of society, adults need to set good examples, not condone cruel, violent entertainment.

Aren’t factory farmed animals treated worse than fighting roosters?

While the public is gaining a better understanding of the true conditions of animals raised in intensive confinement, as well as the poor environmental and labor practices of the poultry industry, that knowledge does not diminish concerned about cockfighting. Concentrated animal feeding operations, or factory farms, have little or nothing to do with cockfighting. Cockfighting is in no way necessary–it is simply animal cruelty performed for entertainment.

If cockfighting is banned, won’t the rodeo, hunting, and ranching be next?

A cockfighting ban should be judged on its own merits and not on unsubstantiated fears. The fact is forty-seven states have banned cockfighting, most of them more than a century ago, and not one of them bans the rodeo, hunting, or ranching.

It is time for a statewide ban on cockfighting.


Cockfighting is currently illegal in all states in the U.S. except for:

New Mexico


26 States make it a felony to organize or participate in cockfighting

38 States make it against the law to be a spectator

13 New Mexico Counties Ban Cockfighting:

Bernalillo, Cibola, Colfax, Doña Ana, Grant, Los Alamos, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos

28 New Mexico Municipalities Ban Cockfighting;

Albuquerque, Aztec, Belen, Bernalillo, Bosque Farms, Clayton, Corrales, Deming, Española, Eunice, Ft. Sumner, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lordsburg, Los Lunas, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Raton, Rio Rancho, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Taos, Truth or Consequences, Tucumcari, Williamsburg


When population data for all areas covered by bans is tallied, local bans represent 1,410,323 people or 78% of the state’s population. It is time to make it 100%.

For more information on how to activate your Voice Against Violence, please contact;


Animal Protection of New Mexico
PO Box 1215, Santa Fe, NM 87504
954-4262 or Danielle@APNM.org



Animal Protection of New Mexico, Inc. (APNM)
P.O. Box 11395, Albuquerque, NM 87192
(505) 265-2322 | (505) 265-2488 (fax) | apnm@apnm.org
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