SALT LAKE CITY — A state senator voted against a bill Monday that would make cockfighting a felony in Utah because abortion is legal.
"In a state where we can still allow people to kill their babies, we want to make it a felony to let chickens fight for the purpose of which they were raised," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.
Christensen said cockfighting is not "beautiful" or "wonderful." But the birds "naturally want to do this thing in their lives and we're going to send their owners to prison for this, yet we allow people to go ahead and murder their unborn babies."
SB52 would make it a third-degree felony to own or train game fowl for fighting, and attending a cockfight would be a class B misdemeanor.
Utah is the only state in the West in which cockfighting is a misdemeanor, said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, the bill's sponsor. The proposed law would mirror the state's dog fighting statute.
"This is horrendous activity that goes on. It's blood sport," Davis said.
Cockfights typically bring gambling as well as illegal drug and alcohol use, he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Wood Cross, said because cockfighting is a misdemeanor in Utah, it attracts people involved in it from outside the state.
"This is a problem," he said. "Utah is running the risk of becoming an underground gambling circuit for this horrendous activity."
The Senate preliminarily approved the bill 17-11. It will be up for a final vote later this week.