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Animal rights groups say cockfighting contributes to avian flu outbreak

Pittsburgh man faces penalty if he can't catch noisy rooster
Posted at 2:17 PM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-08 19:11:30-05

TULSA, Okla. — The nation and the world’s largest avian flu outbreak is wreaking havoc on the poultry industry. It is partly to blame for rising egg prices and animal rights groups say it’s time to crack down on illegal cockfighting rings.

Animal Wellness Action calls Oklahoma the cockfighting capital of the United States and released a 63-page report linking the avian flu to cockfighting.

“There’s an overlap where the commercial birds are, to where the cockfighters are, and where avian influenza [cases] are,” said Dr. Jim Keen of Animal Wellness Action.

Among various ways, activist Wayne Pacelle says, is the transporting of gamecocks to “derbies” nationally and selling them internationally. Researchers say animal movement by people is a huge risk factor for the spread of infectious disease.

Animal Wellness Action obtained records showing Oklahoma as the number one shipper of fighting birds to Guam, where cockfighting is illegal but rampant.

Dr. Tom Pool is an Oklahoma State University graduate and former territorial veterinarian for Guam who saw first-hand. With no commercial poultry or show-bird industry there, he says there’s simply no other reason for those birds to be shipped there.

“I had to watch thousands of these birds coming in from my home state of Oklahoma, coming to Guam exclusively for cockfighting,” he said.

Pool says he refused to sign import permits but the birds were allowed in, anyway.

“I was overruled,” he said. “The directors overruled me and continued to allow them in.”

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson alleges “unspoken agreements” between cockfighters and law enforcement.

Animal rights groups push for enforcement, call Oklahoma the 'cockfighting capital of the U.S.'

“When it’s going on as openly as it’s going on in Oklahoma today, you have corruption of law enforcement,” Edmondson said. “To stand back and let it go on is a corrupt way to enforce the law and that is not law enforcement.”

Last week, we reached out to seven Oklahoma sheriffs’ offices. Only two have since returned the call, both saying they have not received complaints of cockfighting but would investigate when reported.

While cockfighting is a federal crime, an Oklahoma lawmaker is looking to pass a bill this session that would reduce penalties for cockfighting.

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