Especially the Cruelty of Cockfighting.
It gave us no pleasure to conclude that Oklahoma has become “the cockfighting capital of the United States.” That conclusion is inescapable after following the trail of evidence. In cooperation with Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), we’ve discovered a lawless subculture of cockfighting in the Sooner State, and sooner we can wipe it out the stronger and better Oklahoma will be.
Our investigations have discovered a network of illegal fighting arenas in the state and a far larger numbers of cockfighting traffickers. Two cockfighters – John Bottoms of LeFlore County and Bill McNatt of Haskell County – supplied 40 percent of the 11,500 fighting birds that went to Guam from the states over the last five years. More than a dozen other Oklahoma cockfighters also shipped fighting birds from rural post offices in Oklahoma and sent them on a 10,000-mile journey in a box without food and water, only to land there and be thrown into Guam’s illegal fighting pits.
When a Philippines-based cockfighting network came to the United States to conduct 50 short films and interviews with America’s best-known cockfighting traffickers, nearly a third of the videos features Oklahoma cockfighters. They were conducting fights in Oklahoma and then shipping fighting birds to other states and to more than 25 other nations throughout the world, with Mexico being the top destination.
Since 2002’s ballot initiative to banned cockfighting in Oklahoma, there have been more than 30 bills introduced by pro-cockfighting lawmakers to unwind the vote of the people. Fortunately all of them have failed. In 2022, a group of cockfighters created a new group – the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission (OGC) – and gathered money from cockfighters in the state and around the nation and they have mounted an effort to guy the law. They even formed a political action committee and have raised more than $70,000 in a brazen attempt to buy off the votes of state representatives and senators. This year, they are working with allies to mount a determined effort to decriminalize the rancid practice of staged animal fighting.
These cockfighters claim “we just want to be able to sell our birds and run our businesses.” But that is the business of cockfighting. Cockfighters fight birds and some of them win derbies. They then breed more fighting birds and sell them to other cockfighters for profit. They make more from the illegal sale of the birds than from the illegal wagering at the cockfights. Through and through, it is a criminal subculture.
These sales of fighting birds – and that’s exactly what is happening – are illegal under federal law. And under state law, it is illegal to possess these fighting birds. And that’s exactly why the OGC is working to decriminalize cockfighting and then to gut penalties for the few remaining cockfighting crimes that would exist.
Their problem is, they’re still felons in the eyes of federal law if they maintain their fighting yards and their sales of fighting birds. Federal law bans fighting and also possessing fighting birds and selling or transporting fighting birds. In sum, what the cockfighters are seeking is permission from state lawmakers to break federal law. That’s permission they’ll never get.
We at Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy are working to enforce our state and federal laws and stop their cruelty. We’ll continue to work with the appropriate authorities and make arrests when these scofflaws continue to violate our social norms and our legal strictures. And we will work not only to maintain Oklahoma’s strong prohibitions on cockfighting, but to make the federal anti-animal fighting law even more comprehensive and easier to enforce.
Cruelty isn’t OK. And there’s no more iconic symbol of barbarism and backwardness than cockfighting. Our goal is to pull up cockfighting at the roots.
Wayne Pacelle, President
Oklahoma Game Commission Pushes to Reduce Penalties for Cockfighting, Janelle Stecklein, 3-17-23 (CNHI News, covering a dozen papers in state)
Oklahoma cockfighters need to be prosecuted, not given a free pass from crime, Ginnie Graham, TulsaWorld, 3-10-23
“Oklahoma cockfighting controversy escalates to criminal accusations,” Sam Gelfand, KTUL-TV Tulsa, 3-5-23
Why is a county clerk candidate drawing donations from a cockfighting group? Ben Felder, The Oklahoman, 3-6-23
Cockfighting bills that would reduce punishment spark controversy, Kayla Holt, KXII-TV (Sherman, TX) 3-2-23
Activists speak out on proposed Oklahoma cockfighting bills, Erin Cristy, KJRH-TV Tulsa, 3-2-23
Cockfighting Opponents Have Claws Out Again, Janice Francis-Smith, Journal Record, 3-2-23
Cockfighting Bills Move through State Capitol: Just Reform of Criminal Enablement? Carol Mowdy Bond, OKC City Sentinel, March 1, 2023
Weak penalties for cockfighting show no regard to laws in place, Drew Edmondson, The Oklahoman (column), 2-26-23
EDITORIAL: Reducing cockfighting penalties is a bad idea, Enid News and Eagle Editorial Board, 2-27-23
Cockfighting fight turns back time at Oklahoma Capitol, Mike Allen and Tres Savage, NonDoc Sunday, 2-26-23
Oklahoma bills to cut cockfighting laws backed by big money, KTUL-TV Tulsa, Sam Gelfand, 2-23-23
Lessening penalties for illegal Oklahoma cockfighters has international effect, Thomas Pool (column), Tulsa World, 2-23-23
Pro-cockfighting group has spent more than $70K on effort to decriminalize sport in Oklahoma, Ben Felder, The Oklahoman, 2-22-23
Two bills making their way around capitol reducing cockfighting punishment, Katelyn Ogle, KFOR, 2-13-23
Animal rights groups say cockfighting contributes to avian flu outbreak, Erin Christy, Channel 2 Tulsa, 2-8-23
"We should be ashamed:" Former Oklahoma AG criticizes alleged cockfighting ring, John Hayes, KTUL-TV, Sat, 2-4-23
'Cockfighting capital' of US? Oklahoma bill to ease penalties draws attack from activists, Jack Money, The Oklahoman, 2-3-23
Latest cockfighting bill draws ire of former AG, Janice Francis-Smith, Journal Record, 2-2-23
Investigators looking into illegal cockfighting in Oklahoma, Taylor Mitchell, KFOR-TV, 2-2-23
Call Governor Stitt at 405.521.2342 or contact him here.
Search for your Oklahoma State Representative here.
Search for your Oklahoma State Senator here.