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Oklahoma Bans Cockfighting!

On November 5th, the voters of Oklahoma overwhelming approved State Question 687 to outlaw cockfighting, with 56.2 percent voting "yes" and 43.8 percent voting "no." By approving this measure, Oklahoma becomes the 48th state in the nation to ban cockfighting. Also in that election, voters handily rejected State Question 698, a measure referred to the ballot by the Legislature that would have nearly doubled the number of signatures needed to qualify any animal welfare initiative for the ballot. The vote was 46 percent favoring SQ 698 and 54 percent rejecting it. In all, it was a double-barreled win for animal advocates in Oklahoma on election day.

The Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting wishes to thank the people of Oklahoma for adopting the statewide law to rid our state of this form of animal cruelty. They exhibited good judgment and humane sensibility in outlawing cockfighting and maintain the current initiative qualification standards. It was indeed an embarrassment to Oklahoma to be known as one of the last bastions of these cruel gladiatorial spectacles. Special thanks go to Governor Frank Keating, who spoke out in the strongest terms in favor SQ 687 and against SQ 698. We also thank Steve Largent and U.S. Senator James Inhofe for speaking out against cockfighting and endorsing the initiative. And special thanks to the state's two largest newspapers, the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman, for their hard-hitting editorials endorsing SQ 687 and opposing SQ 698.

Unfortunately, our battle is not yet over. Cockfighting enthusiasts have filed lawsuits in more than two dozen counties to halt enforcement of the law. We are working with Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson to consolidate these cases and bring them before the Oklahoma Supreme Court for a final ruling. We are confident that the state's highest court will uphold the measure in its entirety; cockfighters filed similar post-election lawsuits after voters approved ballot initiatives in Arizona and Missouri to ban cockfighting and the courts have rejected their frivolous claims. The laws are in full effect in both Arizona and Missouri.

Also, state Senator Frank Shurden (D-Henryetta) has announced his intention to introduce legislation in February 2003 to repeal SQ 687. Shurden was the author of failed SQ 698 and he is the Legislature's leading cockfighting enthusiast. His attempt to subvert the will of the people is an outrageous slap at democratic decision-making, and it should be rejected without hesitation. Already, the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman have denounced Shurden's ill-conceived plans to undermine a statewide election.

It is critical that Oklahomans contact their state Senators and Representatives and urge them to uphold SQ 687 as approved by voters and oppose any legislation offered by Shurden and his allies. Please see our fact sheet on the issue and obtain contact info for your state legislators by calling your county election board or visiting www.vote-smart.org or www.state.ok.us.

Finally, at the federal level, we note that U.S. Senators John Ensign (R-NV), Wayne Allard (D-CO), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) intend to introduce legislation in early 2003 to strengthen federal laws against dogfighting and cockfighting. Their legislation would make it a federal felony to ship fighting birds or dogs across state or national lines and it would ban any interstate shipment of the knives and gaffs cockfighters affix to the birds' legs. Please contact your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and urge them to support this legislation. Please see a fact sheet from The Humane Society of the United States on this issue.

As we continue our battle against animal cruelty, your support is deeply appreciated. We also welcome your donations to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting to allow our work to continue, to monitor legal maneuvers by cockfighters, to stand against legislative repeal efforts, and to be sure that SQ 687 properly implemented.