Cockfighting is prohibited in all 50 states as well as US territories. However, the blood sport may make a comeback all thanks to a pending legislature in Oklahoma that initially failed to become a law.
Back in March, the Oklahoma House of Representatives dismissed House Bill 3283 which was filed by Rep. Justin Humphrey. HB 2383 would have lowered the penalties in Oklahoma’s voter-approved anti-cockfighting law. It also would have decriminalized the possession and training of fighting animals.
The bill was dismissed, not because of predominant “no” votes, but because it lapsed the deadline for it to be moved from the House to the Senate for the final vote. In short, the inaction of the House resulted in its demise.
However, on April 4, State Rp. Humphrey stated that he would keep changing the law to “keep legitimate game fowl breeders out of jail and pump more money into rural Oklahoma’s economy.” He then amended his earlier Senate Bill 1522 to contain the cockfighting wording.
SB 1522 passed in the Senate by a vote of 3 to 2, bringing it back to life and receiving another chance.
Humphrey wants to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than USD 2,000. Additionally, he wants to redefine “cockfighting” to mean “Only when the birds are fitted with artificial spurs, knives or gaffs would it be considered a cockfight.” Moreover, the bill would also remove language from the current definition of “cockfighting” and remove the prohibition on advertising a cockfight.
Oklahoma game fowl breeders state that raising and selling game fowl in the U.S. and shipping them to countries where cockfighting is legal brings in at least USD 4 million annually to rural Oklahoma. Humphrey hopes to challenge the law punishing raising birds to sell, stating, “What other people do with them is their business.”
An investigation done by Animal Wellness Action (AWA), an organization against animal cruelty, found that two dozen cockfighting operators in Oklahoma were illegally shipping birds to Mexico, the Philippines, and 20 other nations.
Drew Edmundson, who serves on the AWA National Law Enforcement Council stated, “All border states treat cockfighting as a felony offense, and Oklahoma will be a magnet for criminals in these states, conducting illegal gambling, drug trafficking, money laundering, and attempting to corrupt law enforcement.”
Wayne Pacelle, the founder of AWA, said, “Cockfighters in Oklahoma are breaking the law every day, and now they are seeking to weaken the legal standards so they don’t have to worry about doing it. We blocked their efforts in 2022 and we’ll do so in 2023. No state in recent decades has weakened any state anti-cockfighting law.”
AWA has also asked voters to keep an eye on the Oklahoma Senate Bill as it seems to be a bold departure from traditional animal welfare values in the U.S. Other organizations have also asked voters to be aware of the spread of online gambling measures that are similar to the Philippines’ online cockfighting or e-sabong.