Col. Thomas Pool
Within the last several weeks, we have seen county sheriffs bust cockfighting operations in Carter, Marshall and Oklahoma counties. These are important law enforcement actions, but other counties with rampant cockfighting must take similar actions to shut down known cockfighting arenas and gamecock farms.
It is precisely because I am a meat eater, a rancher, a hunter, a veterinarian and a staunch advocate of animal agriculture that I strongly oppose cockfighting. Animal agriculture is a noble enterprise, providing sustenance for billions of people and livelihoods for millions (including thousands in our state). Cockfighting, on the other hand, is a disgrace and a crime, providing no benefit to anyone but the people who enjoy animal bloodletting and who illegally wager on staged fights between birds armed with knives or curved ice picks on their legs.
I grew up on an Oklahoma ranch and embraced animal agriculture long before I attended Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Cockfighting bears no resemblance to animal agriculture. There are no standards of care, there is no proper utilization of the animals, there is no service or value to the American consumer. Animal abuse is built into the marrow of cockfighting, and mutilation of animals is its very purpose.
If we in animal agriculture do not distinguish between this kind of evil and proper and acceptable uses of animals, we will see people turn away from animal agriculture.
We must all be grateful that our state lawmakers in the 2023 Oklahoma legislative session rejected the obnoxious and noxious effort by cockfighters to weaken our state’s voter-approved anti-cockfighting law. How anyone can confuse strapping knives on the legs of roosters and placing them in a pit to fight, with the time-honored traditions of raising chickens or beef is beyond comprehension.
For nearly a century, my family has raised and consumed cattle on our small ranch in southwest Oklahoma. We have long taken pride in the compassionate treatment of our few hundred cattle, and we can readily defend their welfare. Our cows live content lives for 8 to 10 years before undergoing humane slaughter. We safeguard them against hunger, cold, drought, predators, diseases and any other threats, ensuring their safety and comfort. Without animal agriculture, the existence of cattle in Oklahoma and beyond would be finite and fleeting.
The cockfighters try to associate themselves with animal agriculture. We must call them out as animal agriculture fakers. They went so far as to pour substantial amounts of money into the hands of our legislators, but I was proud to see many lawmakers turn away those funds and vote against their treachery.
It is good news indeed that there is an effort at the federal level to strengthen our national law against animal fighting. The FIGHT Act (Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking Act) has been introduced by leading Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, and I urge all seven members of our congressional delegation to cosponsor this timely and critical legislation, House Resolution 2742/Senate Resolution 1529.
Animal agriculture in Oklahoma currently generates $4 billion in annual revenue and holds a promising future, alongside numerous other industries that are attracted to Oklahoma’s favorable business environment as states with higher taxes and restrictions falter. Any legislative flirtation with a pro-cockfighting agenda tags Oklahoma as backward and non-discerning.
I implore every Oklahoman to reach out to your federal lawmakers and urge them to stand up for Oklahoma’s noble tradition and to reject the fakers. It is time to drive the cockfighters out of Oklahoma. It is past due that they hang up their spurs and halt their criminal animal abuse. Support the FIGHT Act (S. 1529 and H.R. 2742) to safeguard animal agriculture in Oklahoma and to stop an abominable form of animal cruelty and organized crime.
Col. Thomas Pool is a graduate of Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and is senior veterinarian with Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.