La. Senate refuses to protect ‘chicken boxing’

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The sport of “chicken boxing” doesn’t have many friends in the Louisiana Senate.

Senators refused Monday to protect chicken boxing from Louisiana’s ban on cockfighting, despite pleas from their colleague, Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas.

Guillory said chicken boxing is similar to human kickboxing, with matches that aren’t fought to the death and that involve rubber “gloves” to cover the spurs on a chicken’s legs to ensure safety.

“There is no blood. There are no knives. There is no cruelty. And there is no abuse,” he said, holding two pairs of chicken boxing gloves.

Guillory’s defense of chicken boxing came during debate on a bill by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, that would close loopholes in Louisiana’s cockfighting prohibition. Guillory, who represents an area of rural Louisiana that fought to keep cockfighting legal prior to the 2008 ban, said Morrell’s bill was so broad it would ban a legitimate sport between chickens.

“I rise on behalf of men and women who are law-abiding citizens … Don’t criminalize a harmless sport,” he said.

Morrell said he believes chicken boxing already is illegal under Louisiana’s current cockfighting ban.

Senators sided with Morrell and voted 29-8 against Guillory’s request to exempt chicken boxing from the loophole-closing bill. Then, they voted 31-7 to send Morrell’s bill to the House for consideration.

Cockfighting is a rural tradition in which specially bred roosters, often outfitted with spurs, gaffs or knives, fight to the death while spectators place wagers on the outcome.

For years, lawmakers resisted animal rights activists’ efforts to outlaw it. They relented in 2007, and the ban took effect a year later, making Louisiana the last state to make the rooster fights illegal.

Guillory has argued that chicken boxing is a legitimate sport unrelated to cockfighting, while animal rights activists say the sport was devised to circumvent bans on cockfighting.

Morrell said his proposed bill would tighten the state’s cockfighting ban, putting it in line with state laws that prohibit dogfighting. He was not pleased that debate on his proposal got sidetracked by discussions of - and jokes about - chicken boxing.

“I’m dealing with a serious issue and to close loopholes that we never intended in the law,” he said.

The bill would broaden the definition of “chicken” in the current law to include roosters, game fowl and other birds. It also would criminalize the possession, manufacturing, buying and selling of spurs, gaffs and knives if there is evidence the paraphernalia is being used to fight chickens. The bill also would toughen the penalties for anyone convicted of cockfighting.

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