5 High-Profile Cockfighting Cases and Controversies

Cockfighting, a centuries-old blood sport involving the pitting of gamecocks against each other for entertainment and gambling, has faced significant scrutiny and legal repercussions worldwide.

Despite being illegal in many countries, including the United States, it persists underground, leading to high-profile cases and controversies. Here are some notable instances.

Cockfighting Controversies

Oklahoma Governor Stitt’s Support for the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission

In 2023, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt posted a video addressing the members of the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission stating, “I wish I could be with you for the Gamefowl Commission’s annual legislative meeting, but I wanted to take a moment to cheer you on from the sidelines. Oklahomans like yourselves remained dedicated to the spirit of competition and camaraderie that runs deep in our communities.”

Numerous animal welfare groups have slammed the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, citing it as an organization that supports cockfighting. Governor Stitt received massive backlash, with various animal rights organizations and individuals denouncing his statement. In response to the controversy, Governor Stitt attempted to retract his support for the Commission.

Manny Pacquiao Wants to Regulate Online Cockfighting

Before e-sabong or online cockfighting was banned in the Philippines, champion boxer and senator Manny Pacquiao said he was in favor of regulating the activity. Many individuals from across the globe were surprised that Pacquiao supported cockfighting.

Pacquiao stated, “If we are going to ban e-sabong, let us all ban online casinos. After all, is there any difference between e-sabong and online casinos?”

Pacquiao added, “Let us be fair to not shut down [e-sabong] operations as soon as possible. Let us balance it, which is why I’m saying it should be regulated. If we are going to prohibit e-sabong, we should also ban online casinos. The government should regulate both so that children won’t get addicted to it.” 

Nearly 40 People Linked to Online Cockfighting Missing

During the height of the pandemic, online sabong or online cockfighting became incredibly popular in the Philippines as it was highly accessible to anyone with a device that could connect to the internet. Around April 2021, the first two cockfighters went missing.

Over the course of the year, more and more people began to go missing, with almost every one of them disappearing after attending an online sabong event. The disappearances halted around January 2022.

It was this case, as well as the growing number of crimes related to online cockfighting, that had then-president Duterte ban online sabong in the Philippines. To this day, none of the missing cockfighters have been found. Online sabong also remains to be prohibited.

Former New York Mets Pitcher Pedro Martinez Under Fire for Cockfighting

In 2008, a video of former professional baseball pitcher Pedro Martinez, along with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, attending a cockfight surfaced on YouTube. The two were laughing before releasing roosters. They took part as honorary “soltadores,” the word used to describe the person who puts the animal to fight.

While cockfighting is banned in the United States, the activity is legal and popular in the Dominican Republic, Martinez and Marichal’s home country. It is where the fight took place. Animal welfare organizations sent letters to Martinez and Marichal, urging them to make a public apology. 

“I understand that people are upset, but this is part of our Dominican culture and is legal in the Dominican Republic,” Martinez said in a statement issued by the Mets. “I was invited by my idol, Juan Marichal, to attend the event as a spectator, not as a participant.”

Romanian Princess Staged Illegal Cockfights

Irina Walker, a princess in the defunct Romanian monarchy was apprehended in Oregon in connection with operating a cockfighting ring. She is also known as Irina Kreuger, the daughter of the last king of Romania. Irina’s husband was also arrested by the authorities.

A couple of months after her arrest, US district judge Michael Mosman sentenced Irina and her husband to probation after Irina apologized for being involved. She said that she had brought shame to her and her family and that it was “not her intention to go against the law.” 

Final Note

High-profile cockfighting cases and controversies serve as reminders of the ongoing struggle to combat animal cruelty and illegal gambling. Despite efforts to eradicate the practice, cockfighting persists in various forms, fueled by cultural traditions, underground networks, and organized crime. 

Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach involving law enforcement, legislative action, public awareness campaigns, and international cooperation to dismantle the infrastructure supporting this activity.