OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Despite an animal advocacy group outcrying that Oklahoma is the cockfighting capital of the country, a bill that would lessen the punishment for the act made progress at the state Capitol Wednesday.

This bill is being considered despite Oklahoman overwhelmingly voted to ban cockfighting in the state under State Question 687 in 2002.

Representative J.J. Humphrey’s measure to change cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor passed in the House’s Judiciary-Criminal committee.

“There’s been a lot of rhetoric about this the last few days,” said Rep. John George to Humprey at the meeting. “I just want to make sure everyone is clear. This is not legalizing cockfighting, is that correct?”

“Absolutely,” Humphrey responded.

The rep emphatically expressed that his measure, House Bill 2530, does not decriminalize cockfighting in the state, but would only change it from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The committee passed the bill in a vote of 5 to 2.

Photo courtesy KFOR, State House Members

“It’s a criminal justice bill,” Humphrey told those in attendance. “That’s what I’m here for. That’s who I am. So, it’s as simple as that.”

He previously told KFOR he’s making the punishment for cockfighting more fair.

“You can argue about whether it’s cruel,” he said. “You may win that argument but at the end of the day, do you think that that is worse than fentanyl?” he asked. “So, killing a chicken is going to be worse than having fentanyl that killed 800 Oklahomans and that this one should be ten years in the penitentiary and this one should be a misdemeanor? That is not fairness in sentencing. It is grotesquely wrong and that’s what I’m fighting.”

But advocacy group Animal Wellness Action is pointing their moral finger at offenders rather than to the law, which they believe is good as is.

“There’s one way to avoid going to prison for cockfighting or dogfighting or any other act of animal cruelty. Don’t do it,” said President Wayne Pacelle. “Don’t do it! That’s the easiest way to avoid getting nabbed for animal cruelty.”

Pacelle expressed his deep concern that the bill is advancing.

“It’s outrageous that a majority of members of a criminal justice committee voted to repeal the voter-approved ballot measure to outlaw the barbaric practice of cockfighting,” he said.

Humphrey told KFOR the bill will now go to the House floor for a vote. He hopes for that vote to take place in about two weeks.