Former Kentucky Attorney General Prosecutes the Case Against Cruelty

A Profile of Chris Gorman

by Josh Marquis

As attitudes about animal cruelty evolve, both new and old voices call for reduced tolerance of animal abuse and neglect.

That call was heard recently in Kentucky, a state where cockfighting has been a barely concealed practice in the Bluegrass State. Among the leading voices denouncing this barbaric practice is a member of AWA’s National Law Enforcement Council, former Kentucky Attorney General Chris Gorman, who served as the state’s chief law officer from 1992 through 1996.

General Gorman with his second love, “Maddie Mat,” a Shih-Tzu now 13 years old.

During an August news conference in the state, AWA President Wayne Pacelle detailed our investigation describing Kentucky as a global hub in trafficking of fighting animals throughout the world. General Gorman joined Mr. Pacelle nearly running out of words in reacting to the report.

“I’m shocked, disappointed, outraged, embarrassed,” Gorman said. “We need to strengthen our laws.”

Gorman’s advocacy for cracking down on animal abuse is not a newly found passion. He recalls an event that occurred sometime before he entered junior high school, when he came home and discovered a longtime friend had been torturing a tortoise they had found. Gorman never spoke to his friend again.

Gorman was brought up in central Kentucky and spent summers on the family dairy farm. After graduating from the University of Kentucky and its law school, Gorman began a long and distinguished career as a successful politician and lawyer. The family farm was eventually shut down and sold. After the farm had changed hands a couple of times, Gorman discovered the eventual purchasers were cockfighting enthusiasts, and Gorman was revolted.  “A thousand years from now, people will look back in horror, asking: What were they thinking? Didn’t they know animals can feel pain and loneliness?”

Gorman’s view of the planet, shared by humans and  animals but in many ways entrusted to our species, requires humans to be good stewards. “We have a responsibility to maintain the planet for all the creatures on it,” Gorman said. “Animals have wants, needs, and desires, just as we do, although expressed differently.”

His love of animals seemed built into his DNA, and the dogs he grew up with allowed for an early expression of his compassion. He worked one summer on the his relative’s family farm, and knew each of the 38 cows! The pack of dogs has gotten smaller as the years have passed, but dogs are still a big part of his life.  This picture is of Gorman with “Maddie Mat,” a Shih-Tzu,  who is now 13 years old.

Gorman married “the love of my life, Vicki,” who became head nurse in the ICU/CCU of Louisville, Kentucky’s Jewish Hospital. About 10 years ago the Gormans endowed a nursing scholarship at the University of Kentucky in Vicki’s name.

Chris Gorman continues his legal practice as a partner at Conliffe, Sandmann & Sullivan, in Louisville.

Gorman joined the AWA’s Law Enforcement Council in 2019, along with over two dozen distinguished former state attorneys general and elected district attorneys from across the United States.

AWA has taken the lead in identifying the key players in the U.S.-based cockfighting industry, which sells hundreds of thousands of animals destined for fighting pits throughout the world. The release of the investigation in Kentucky was just the first salvo, and Chris Gorman intends to keep at it until the cockfighting industry in Kentucky is cleared not just from his family’s old barn but in every building, structure, and field in the state that he loves and that he’s served as its chief law enforcement officer.

Josh Marquis is co-chair of the NLEC and a former seven-term District Attorney for Clatsop County, Oregon.

The Gorman’s family farm was sold and had changed hands a couple of times, Gorman discovered the eventual purchasers were cockfighting enthusiasts, and he was revolted. 

3 thoughts on “Former Kentucky Attorney General Prosecutes the Case Against Cruelty”

Leave a Comment