Statement on Sooner Survey Poll Showing Near-Unanimous Opposition to Cockfighting in Oklahoma

Sooners see cockfighting as ‘very definition of barbarism and backwardness’

Oklahoma City — Today, Animal Wellness Action, which has been leading the effort to defend State Question 687 from efforts in the Oklahoma legislature to gut its provisions, reacted to a just-released poll from the Sooner Survey. The statistically valid survey of 500 Oklahomans revealed that less than 10 percent of Oklahomans think cockfighting should be legal and nearly 90 percent of voters favor the ban. 

Here is the statement from Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action:

“If political leaders pay heed to the views of values of Oklahomans, the debate over cockfighting ends today. Cockfighting is the very definition of barbarism and backwardness and that’s how Oklahomans from every part of the state see it.  The poll also reveals that voters will be harsh in their judgments of lawmakers who favor efforts to promote the crime of animal fighting and the other illicit conduct entangled with it.”

SB 2530, from Rep. Humphrey, R-Lane, provides a pathway for counties to opt out of the strong penalties in the law – “a practical decriminalization of cockfighting” and operate cockfighting enclaves. That bill had its title stripped in the House and got the bare minimum number of votes to keep it alive and send it to the Senate before the bill crossover date.  It would have to pass both chambers to get to the governor’s desk, but that prospect is extremely remote, especially now with the polling data that shows near-unanimous support for retaining the state’s anti-cockfighting law.

Unfortunately, that law has been poorly enforced, and perhaps the polling data will kickstart more robust enforcement. From 2004 to 2022, there were only 29 law enforcement actions resulting in the arrest of individuals involved in cockfighting, an average of 1.75 busts a year for 76 of 77 counties in Oklahoma. (Data are not yet available from Oklahoma County.) There’s not been a single arrest in most of the biggest cockfighting counties in the state, including Atoka, Coal, LeFlore, and McCurtain counties. In fact, there’s not been a single arrest of anyone named in an 87-page dossier assembled by Animal Wellness Action that exposes many of the biggest cockfighters traffickers throughout Oklahoma. The data was assembled by the District Attorneys Council at the request of Oklahoma State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-94, and was obtained by Animal Wellness Action.

Earlier this year, the Center for a Humane Economy released a comprehensive 63-page report on the links between cockfighting and avian influenza and virulent Newcastle Disease. There have been 15 introductions of vND into the United States since 1950, 10 of which occurred via the illegal smuggling of game cocks across our southern border from Mexico. (Virulent Newcastle disease is endemic in Mexico and all of Latin America.) Just three of those outbreaks cost the federal government more than $1 billion.

Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.