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Bill Richardson and the Commerce of Dead Animals

Secretary of Bloodsports

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson will probably do fine as Secretary of Commerce. Unless he has to deal with animals.

Richardson is among the one half of one percent of the public who is pro the sacred tradition of cockfighting which was legal in New Mexico until he sought the Democratic nomination for president.

A cockfight consists of two roosters fitted with blades or gaffs on their legs fighting until one is dead or badly wounded.

Richardson defended the "sport" on the Tonight Show in 2006 saying there were "good arguments" on both sides of the debate over its legality.

Really?" retorted host Jay Leno. "What’s the good argument for cockfighting? [It] keeps roosters off the street? It gives those roosters without any skills a chance to make it? What reason is there for cockfighting?"

Richardson also loves doves. With bigger game he told the press, "you tend to get one or two shots. You’ve got to find them. But with dove, you have a lot of opportunities."

Of course dove opportunities may dwindle as more states move to ban the annual decimation of the symbol of peace known as "dove season."
Richardson also loves big game–especially when it can’t get away.

Who can forget the 2005 photo of Richardson posing with a felled oryx?

The photo was distributed to the press by his office but expunged soon afterwards when the public regarded the gentle beast killed for no reason at all and said he shot WHAT?

Richardson bragged that the exotic long-horned African antelope he killed on media tycoon Ted Turner’s 360,000-acre Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico was his most "memorable hunt" ever– though unlike macho woman Sarah Palin, he didn’t skin or gut the animal.

Canned-hunting trophy ranches like Turner’s with their "no kill, no pay" policies, hunting dogs and feeding stations to train unsuspecting animals to trustingly enter into hunters’ sights are legal in the United States of America.

"Unless there’s a big problem with exotics reported to us, we don’t seek out regulation," Gary Young, a US Fish and Wildlife agent in Texas tells the Washington Post.

Hunters from as far away as Australia and South Africa come to put-and-take "high-fence" hunting ranches like 2,000-acre Circle E in Bedias, TX where they can shoot exotic species like wildebeest and zebra for $6,500 a head.

"Don’t call them hunters" wrote Port Huron Times Herald reporter Mike Eckert after viewing videotape from a high fence game farm in 2006. "The enclosure wasn’t bigger than my back yard. Sick and dying deer were propped in front of killers who paid thousands of dollars to shoot them. For customers who were really slow to aim and shoot, deer were drugged."

Recently canned hunting ranch Circle E owner Robert L. Eichenour, 51 was convicted of buying deer for his sportsmen to shoot that were smuggled from Minnesota in violation of Texas’ out-of-state deer ban.

The law is intended to protect Texas’ $73 million deer-hunting industry by reducing herds’ exposure to chronic wasting disease.

Eichenour, described by the AP as a wealthy Houston businessman, was given a fine and an 18-month sentence–uncharacteristically harsh for a mere animal crime.

And while most Grimes County residents condemned the sentence–Judge Gene Stapleton said it "totally ruins," Eichenour’s life- one local deer farmer condemned the deer heist.

"If they were bringing them down to hunt them instantly, how close to ‘canned’ hunting can you get?" he remarked to the AP referring to the probable Secretary of Commerce’s favorite sport.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. She can be reached at: mrosenberg@evmark.org