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The underground world of cockfighting

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Cockfighting has been illegal in Oklahoma for more than a decade now.

Voters decided to outlaw the sport.

However, there is still an underground world of cockfighting in this country, and this state.

Farmers and ranchers who make their living off of the birds.

They say they are simply trying to "harvest" their livestock.

NewsChannel 4 found one rancher who is angry about the law.

He claims government officials are willing to threaten his life in order to save the life of a chicken.

The United States Humane Society provided KFOR with undercover video from inside the illegal gatherings.

They are still happening, despite being banned.

In the video you see roosters, armed with spurs, fighting, in many cases to the death.

BL Cozad, an Oklahoma rancher, says, "They will fight until one of them kills the other one or one of them quits."

It's activity which is illegal in all 50 states.

However, Cozad admits his livestock, his livelihood are game cocks.

His chicken ranch in rural Oklahoma is not hidden, despite the fact the sport his birds are raised for is illegal.

It's that law which led Cozad to reach out to KFOR.

He said, "This is about my constitutional rights."

Cozad believes the state's ban on cockfighting is preventing him from harvesting his livestock and making a living.

Cozad said, "The method of harvest for a game cock is competing it against another game cock."

He believes the state law banning cockfighting violates his religious rights, in that God has given man dominion over the animals (referring to Genesis 1:26).

Cozad says, "I see two gamecocks fighting I understand it is just a part of God's plan and his perfect design of the world and I am simply attempting to perpetuate the traits and conduct a harvest of the natural abilities he placed in the gamecock when he created it. Exercising the 'dominion' that is given to me by God over the animals I own is the free exercise of religion that is protected by the 1st amendment of the Constitution as a practice of religious freedom."

He says the ban also puts his family in danger.

Cozad said, "This law creates situations were government agents will make raids and rip our families apart and point guns at us."

Cozad says raids in the past prove the agencies who enforce the law are willing to risk a human life to keep the chickens from fighting.

He is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his family.

Cozad said, "Every time they make a raid they create a situations where they're going to potentially hurt cripple or kill a human being."

Hayden Hise is a former cockfighting referee.

Back in 2007, he was arrested during a raid of a cockfighting gathering.

Hise said,"Here they come law enforcement, whoever they were, carrying big guns and running."

Hise is 88 years old. He has been a lifelong fan of the sport. He says the raid was violent.

Hise said, "One run up behind me and slammed me into the wall."

Don Gray was at the same raid.

He said, "They stuck assault rifles in my face."

He says there were SWAT teams with rifles, helicopters and state police involved.

Hise said, "They treated us like we were murderers or rapist, just for fighting a rooster."

Cozad said, "The constitution is written to protect human rights, not animals."

He said, "Can you pass the same law against the cattleman that you passed against a game cock farmer?"

Cozad says the birds are not trained fighters. He believes they fight because it's in their genes.

He said, "You can't force it to fight. You can't train it to fight. You can't make it fight. It fights because of the natural instincts God put into the creature."

While he knows law enforcement, the government and animal rights agencies will continue to battle against cockfighting, he says the sport will not disappear.

Cozad said, "You're never going to stop the game cock farmer from harvesting their game cocks without killing the game cock farmer."

The United States Humane Society is one of the groups who has been involved in cockfighting raids here and in other states.

They provided us the undercover video of the fights and raids.

We asked them about Mr. Cozad's claims and their thoughts on the fights still happening in the state despite voters choosing to outlaw it.

Cynthia Armstrong, with the USHS, said, "It is a reprehensible, bloody, horrible, cruel activity that has no place in civilized society and Oklahoma voters weighed in very strongly."

She said if cock fighters would follow the law they would not need to be concerned about raids.

She said, "The fact is cock fighters are more likely to die from cockfighting on cockfighting violence than from any kind of raid with law enforcement."

Ironically, the game fowl confiscated from these events are in many cases euthanized. The USHS says if they can be rehabilitated then they try to keep them alive.

Cozad does believe there is a bigger battle behind the cockfighting laws. He blames something he refers to as UN Agenda 21.

Cozad said, "The goal of those behind UN Agenda 21 is to remove farmers and ranchers from the soil and force all of us into the huge cities known as 'human settlement zones, in accordance with the 'wildlands project.'"

Cozad has been working for years to reverse the state's ban, but so far the ban stands. Cockfighting is considered a felony crime in Oklahoma.