OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – New reports from an investigation by Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy suggest staging fights between birds in Oklahoma is becoming a problem statewide. Organizers of Thursday’s press conference are calling Oklahoma the cockfighting capital of the United States.
It is a federal felony to buy, sell, deliver or possess any bird with the intent to engage the bird in a cockfight. Now leaders are coming together to stop illegal cockfighting from happening in Oklahoma.
Not only is cockfighting a federal felony, but so is buying, selling, delivering or possessing any bird with the intent to engage it in a cockfight.
“Not only that, but invariably there is gambling going on and gambling is against the law in another section of the statute. And this is like a home place for gambling. Invariably there are guns involved,” said Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma Attorney General (1994-2010).
During these fights, three to five birds with knives attached to them are put into pits. They fight until one bird is left standing.
The investigation by Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy said often times there is other criminal activities going on at these fights, like drug use, weapons, gambling, prostitution, or even illegal attendance including minors.
New reports from the investigation reveal its role in spreading Avian Flu and other infectious diseases.
“It’s inhumane and barbaric. It is often associated with other criminal conduct, and it is also a threat to avian health more broadly,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy
There’s video the group claims which shows massive fields in Oklahoma with hundreds of different breeds of birds separated in cages.
“These are birds that are in different stages of their development. You know, they start they start with chicks, and they raise them up. And they’re specifically bred for aggression. You do not raise these birds for a farm operation for meat or for eggs. These birds have to be kept separate because they, due to their breeding, will instinctively fight,” said Steve Hindi, president, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.
“No legitimate farm needs or even wants a large number of roosters, A sizable farm just needs, you know, three or four or five or six roosters. That’s about it, and they really don’t want more,” said Hindi.
Another video allegedly reveals operators of a major cockfighting complex in Coal County, illegally shipping fighting birds through the U.S. Post Office in Coalgate.
The investigation is also reporting Oklahoma’s biggest cockfighting operators accounted for 40% of the 11,500 birds shipped by cockfighters to the small U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific.
“I had to watch thousands of these birds coming from my home state of Oklahoma, coming here to Guam exclusively for cockfighting. Unfortunately, cockfighting is legal in Guam,” said Dr. Thomas Pool, D.V.M, MPH, Dipl. ACVPM, senior veterinarian for Animal Wellness Action.
“It is illegal for these birds to land in Guam from Oklahoma,” said Pacelle.
Former Attorney General, Drew Edmondson said he is alarmed by evidence law enforcement is choosing to ignore.
“There’s a statute in the books that says if someone in law enforcement is aware of gambling taking place and does not take action to stop it, he or she forfeits their position. They are removed from office,” said Edmondson.
All of this information comes as State Representative, Justin Humphrey’s has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize some cockfighting activities and gut the voter-approved ballot initiative establishing felony-level penalties for the activities.
Back in 2002, Oklahoma Voters approved state question 687 which made birds for fighting and even attending a cockfight, illegal.
Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy have formulated new federal legislation to strengthen the existing statute against animal fighting and enhance enforcement by:
- Banning simulcasting and gambling of an animal fight, no matter where it originates
- Halting the shipment of mature roosters (chickens only) shipped through the U.S. mail
- Creating a citizen suit provision to allow private right of action against illegal animal fighters and ease the resource burden on federal agencies
- Enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property used in the commission of an animal fighting crime.