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By Ted Monoson, CQ Staff Writer

Dec. 10, 2001 - Supporters of a ban on the interstate movement of birds bred for cockfighting are starting to count their chickens.

After several years of trying, Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo, has moved closer to achieving the ban by incorporating it in the farm bill (S 1731) the Senate is taking up this week.

The bill's miscellaneous section includes a change in the Animal Welfare Act that would ban the transfer of birds bred for cockfighting from the 47 states where it is illegal to Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the three states that permit cockfighting. Another provision would prohibit the export of fighting birds to foreign countries.

Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., added the same language to the House-passed farm bill (HR 2646) when it was on the floor. It was adopted by voice vote.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who supports Allard's efforts, added the provision during the bill's markup.

Animal rights groups and law enforcement organizations stand behind Allard's measure. They say it would close a loophole that allows organizers of illegal cockfights to maintain that they are raising the birds for fights in the three states where it is legal or for the international market.


Inclusion of the provisions angers senators from southern states where the birds are raised. In the past, the lawmakers have blocked the ban.

"At a time when we've got 10 million illegal aliens in the U.S. and we say we don't have the manpower to arrest and deport them, it is just silly as hell to waste manpower stopping somebody's car to see if they have game chickens in it," said Zell Miller, D-Ga. 

Despite his opposition to the cockfighting provision, Miller does not plan to oppose the farm bill. "We've got a good farm bill, and I am not going to let this hang it up," Miller said.

Wayne Pacelle, a lobbyist for the Humane Society, is confident that efforts to remove the provision will fail.

"I can count 85 votes and that's a conservative count," Pacelle said. "I think people have assessed the politics of cockfighting, and they realize it is going to pass."


The overall situation with the farm bill has placed Allard in an awkward situation. Although he has struggled for years to ban the interstate trade of fighting birds, he said he will vote for an alternative farm bill that does not include the ban. The alternative will be offered by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Allard said Cochran has refused his requests to add the ban. If the Cochran-Roberts proposal is adopted, Allard plans to offer the cockfighting language as an amendment.

"He's not interested in putting it in," Allard said. "On the floor, I don't think he would oppose it."

Source: CQ Monitor News Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill � 2001 Congressional Quarterly Inc.

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