In the United States, Oklahoma is considered as the cockfighting capital. While the activity is banned by federal law, state legislators want to reduce penalties.
Senator Lonnie Paxton authored SB 1006, a bill that would allow county voters to reduce the crime of cockfighting to a misdemeanor, advanced out of the Senate Tourism and Wildlife Committee.
Oklahoma State Representative Justin Humphrey introduced HB 2530 which would go so far as to legalize cockfights in the state as long as the animals weren’t wearing any weapons.
Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said that cockfighting isn’t something they see. “Since the law went into effect, we’ve never had any reports of actual fights. We’ve got people who raise that type of rooster, but we’ve never had any problem out of them,” he said.
However, Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy who are working with Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) conducted investigations in Oklahoma and documented a cockfighting operation in Coal County that illegally shipped fighting birds through the U.S. Post Office.
Bringing birds from different flocks together for cockfights is a cause of concern in light of avian influenza outbreaks. Avian influenza is highly pathogenic and can infect many types of birds.
Jodie Parolini, Cherokee County Oklahoma State University Extension Office agriculture educator, said that this disease is one of the causes of falling chicken populations and rising egg prices.
In 2022, a statewide ban was placed on all poultry exhibition, public sales, and swap meet to prevent the spread of avian influenza.
Bub Girdner, who believes cockfighting should be legalized again, does not take part in exhibition shows but does breed roosters to make a living. “By selling, it helps feed stores and lumber yards, and even though the ones against it who say we make them fight – that’s a lie. When they are 3 months old, [roosters] have to be separated or they will kill each other because they are very aggressive and dominant to each other,” he said.
Tahlequah Daily Press asked its readers during a Saturday Forum if Oklahoma should defy federal law to make cockfighting legal in the state again. They were also asked about the avian flu and what should be done to punish cockfighting if anything.
95% of the respondents or about 2,568 people said absolutely, 1.5% said probably, 4% said probably not, 2.5% said absolutely not, and .5% said they were undecided or don’t care.
Eric Swanson of Lawton said he doesn’t have strong views on cockfighting but he believes lawmakers should retain the ban on cockfights and raising birds for fighting. Some readers proposed that the law should be actually enforced instead of changing it.