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Lawsuit alleges cockfighting law discriminates against Cajuns, Latinos

Friday May 30, 2003

By CAIN BURDEAU Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Louisiana cockfighters and breeders have sued the federal government, claiming its ban on shipping fighting birds discriminates against Cajuns and Hispanics because cockfighting is integral to their culture.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Lafayette on May 23, nine days after a law banning the interstate transfer of cockfighting birds went into effect.

The law denies equal protection to Cajuns and Hispanics in Louisiana two groups that widely practice cockfighting, said John R. Kramer, a Tulane University law professor representing the United Gamefowl Breeders Association, two breeders, two owners of fighting birds and an arena that hosts cockfights.

The suit also contends the law unfairly targets Louisiana. Cockfighting is illegal in every state except Louisiana where it generates an estimated $150 million annually and New Mexico.

"The suit contends that the federal government should not be imposing its judgment on Louisiana that's not federalism, that's moral imperialism,'' Kramer said. "They're dissing them, and dissing is not American.''

Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president with the Humane Society of the United States, a staunch opponent of cockfighting, said Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce, and that he is confident the suit will fail.

"This is a desperate move by a desperate industry whose core activity is illegal in 48 states,'' Pacelle said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)