On November 19, 2023, Oklahoma’s Republican Governor, Kevin Stitt, is facing criticism from animal rights groups and political opponents after a video surfaced of him expressing support for the state’s illegal cockfighting industry. In the video, Stitt gives a shoutout to the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission (OGC), an organization that advocates for reducing penalties for cockfighting. This move has sparked outrage as cockfighting involves birds fighting to the death, often with miniature razors attached to their talons.
Cockfighting was banned in Oklahoma in 2002 through a referendum, making Stitt’s vocal support for the industry controversial. The OGC has been associated with donations to Oklahoma lawmakers, including Stitt himself, and has been actively lobbying for legislation to benefit the cockfighting industry.
Former Republican Governor Frank Keating, who banned cockfighting during his administration, described the practice as cruel and backward, and he criticized Stitt’s support for it as embarrassing. Similarly, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson expressed disappointment in Stitt associating himself with lawlessness, emphasizing that it is not the proper role for an elected official.
Despite the backlash, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office stated that Stitt does not support animal cruelty, but instead backs “Oklahoma agriculture.” The spokesperson denied that Stitt endorses legislation related to the topic of cockfighting.
The controversy surrounding Stitt’s support for the cockfighting industry continues to draw attention and criticism, adding fuel to an ongoing debate about animal rights and illegal practices within the state.