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'We should be ashamed': Former Oklahoma AG criticizes alleged cockfighting ring

{p}Oklahomans voted to outlaw the act in 2002, but House Bill 3283 aims to amend the law to lessen the punishment for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. (KOKH){/p}

Oklahomans voted to outlaw the act in 2002, but House Bill 3283 aims to amend the law to lessen the punishment for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. (KOKH)

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Oklahoma's former Attorney General Drew Edmondson is criticizing inaction from the state and federal lawmakers on dealing with illegal cockfighting in Oklahoma.

Cockfighting is a felony in Oklahoma, and was banned statewide back in 2002 by State Question 687 in a 56% to 43% vote. A cockfight is a fight between birds, and animal welfare advocates say those birds are encouraged to attack or fight one another; typically resulting in injury or death.

"Oklahoma, the cockfighting capital of the United States," said Wayne Pacelle with Animal Wellness Action.

The organization hosted a virtual news conference Thursday, discussing the findings of a joint investigation with Showing Animals Respect And Kindness, another animal welfare group.

"We're working across the county to document both cockfight pits and now breeders," said Steve Hindi with SHARK.

Hindi says SHARK has used drones in recent days to investigate what it says are cockfighting complexes. Hindi says SHARK also documented a cockfighting operator in Coal County that he says is illegally shipping birds through the U.S. Post Office.

Both organizations shared multiple clips of that drone video with NewsChannel 8. While most of the footage from above the air is difficult to make out, Hindi says it shows what appear to be birds trapped in cages. The organization's leaders say they're hoping to shine a light on criminal activity involving cockfighting rings in Oklahoma.

"We should be ashamed," said Edmondson. "And we should be driven to take action to make sure that this disappears from the face of our state."

Edmondson said the clips came as a massive disappointment considering the decades he's worked in the legal field and serving the state of Oklahoma. He also said that while the clips highlight one issue, he's certain more laws are being broken as well.

"Invariably there is gambling going on. Invariably there are guns involved. Invariably there are drugs involved, and invariably when it goes on as openly as it is going on in Oklahoma today, you have corruption of law enforcement."

The Center for a Humane Economy also released a report on the links between cockfighting and avian influenza and virulent Newcastle Disease. Experts say that by allowing a massive cockfighting industry to flourish in Oklahoma, the state is putting the enormous number of commercial poultry operations in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas at risk.

You can read that entire report here.


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