(CN) – New Mexico’s 2007 legislative amendment banning cockfighting is constitutional, the state Court of Appeals ruled. It said the ban simply prevents bird owners from staging fights, but doesn’t prevent them from owning or breeding them.
The New Mexico Gamefowl Association and a handful of individual cockfighting enthusiasts challenged the ban, claiming the sport is protected by the state Constitution.
The appeals court agreed with the lower court that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing, but held that the association had grounds to sue.
However, the Court of Appeals did not buy the group’s argument that its members have a culturally protected right to participate in cockfighting.
The association claimed that the framers of the state Constitution meant to preserve its rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo, in which Mexico ceded land to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War.
The plaintiffs said the treaty protects the property rights of people in the ceded territory, including “all uses of that property recognized by Mexican law and those uses which are culturally bound, even where those uses might not be culturally prevalent in the United States.”
They argued that cockfighting is a “culturally bound” use of fowl.
But this argument isn’t backed by the language of the treaty, the appeals court ruled.
It also rejected the plaintiffs’ takings claim, citing the Supreme Court’s holding that “the denial of one traditional property right does not always amount to a taking.”
“In the present case, the cockfighting ban does not prevent the ownership or breeding of birds,” Judge Castillo wrote. “The ban prevents fighting – one use of the birds – and as a result, only destroys ‘one strand of the bundle’ of property rights.”
This lone restriction is not a taking, the court concluded.