NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana will become the last U.S. state to outlaw cockfighting under a bill approved by the state legislature on Wednesday.
The ban, which will take effect in August 2008, follows a measure in New Mexico that outlawed cockfighting earlier this year.
Animal anti-cruelty groups in Louisiana have long sought a ban on the bloody sport, in which trained roosters battle, often to death.
But proponents of cockfighting managed to forestall a ban for years, defending the practice as an integral part of rural Louisiana culture.
Animal advocates hailed the vote as a triumph for Louisiana, much of which is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
“The whole country has been focused on Louisiana due to our massive rebuilding and recovery efforts, and no one wanted to see Louisiana blemished with the stigma of being the only state that still allowed such a brutal and inhumane practice,” Laura Maloney, executive director of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a written statement.
Much of the debate over the bill in this year’s legislative session centered on whether to ban cockfighting immediately, which animal rights groups favored, or to allow a one-year delay to give those in the business time to sell their animals and equipment.
The impasse nearly scuttled the ban, which has widespread public support in Louisiana. Lawmakers agreed to the one-year reprieve by a vote of 91-1 in the state House and unanimously in the Senate.
Legislators also approved a ban on gambling at cockfights that will take effect this summer, a move that could effectively end the sport much sooner than the 2008.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco is expected to sign both bills in coming days.