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Staments Of Support

Governer Frank Keating

"The Initiative Petition calling for a vote of the people on this matter has met a long series of court tests, and it is time for the people to decide. Cockfighting is cruel, it promotes illegal gambling and it is simply embarrassing to Oklahoma to be seen as one of only a tiny handful of locations outside of the third world where this activity is legal. I will vote yes for State Question 687, and I encourage all Oklahomans to do the same."

Governer Keating will oppose
State Question 698

"This measure would create two classes of citizenship in the initiative process. It is unfair and undemocratic and I will vote against it in November. The initiative petition process is a vital part of Oklahoma's political traditions, and it is the means by which citizens can bring a measure to a vote of the people. It should not be changed to create an unlevel playing field on specific issues. If you don't like a measure, don't sign the petition, or go to the polls and vote no. The idea behind State Question 698 is like requiring one football team to rush for ten yards for a first down, while demanding the other team get 15. Let's keep our political process fair for all by rejecting the ill-advised concept in State Question 698."

American Veterinary Medical Association statement on animal fighting

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports laws against the use and/or transport of domestic or foreign animals for fighting venues. Further, the AVMA recommends that animal fighting be considered a felony offense.

Statement of the Humane Society of the United States Opposing the Ballot Measure to Take Away the Voting Rights of Oklahomans and to Provide Constitutional Protection for Cockfighting Issued January 2002

Official Summary: This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 2 of Article 5. It changes the number of legal voters needed to propose an amendment to the law of this state. At present 8% of the legal voters are required to propose a change in the law. This measure will change the number of legal voters to 15%. It would only apply to certain types of laws. It would apply to laws that would do away with methods for hunting, fishing, or trapping. It would also apply to laws that would do away with occupations dealing with animals. Also, it would apply to laws that would do away with sporting or entertainment events dealing with animals.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization, strongly opposes State Question 698, which would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to double the number of signatures needed to propose an initiative to restrict hunting, trapping, cockfighting, rodeo, circuses, factory farming, or any other activities or enterprises involving the use of animals. It is a radical and anti-democratic constitutional amendment that seeks to take away the voting rights of Oklahomans and to prevent the adoption of policies to prevent cruelty to animals by making such initiatives a practical impossibility. The HSUS strongly urges all Oklahomans to vote against SQ 698.

SQ 698 comes as a direct response to efforts to pass a ballot initiative to restrict the barbaric practice of cockfighting, in which roosters are bred for aggression, fed stimulants to heighten their aggression, fitted with knives or gaffs on their legs, and placed in a pit to fight to injury or death for the amusement and illegal wagering of spectators. Reputable surveys conducted for The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman reveal that more than two-thirds of state voters want this form of animal cruelty banned.

In December 1999, citizens submitted 100,000 signatures of Oklahomans on an initiative petition to ban cockfighting. Cockfighters sought to block placement of the measure on the ballot, and tied up the measure in the courts until November 2001, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the measure met all the requirements for ballot qualification. The HSUS urges all Oklahomans to vote for State Question 687, the initiative to ban cockfighting in Oklahoma.

The cockfighters expect to lose a direct vote of the people, and their desperate hope is to stymie the voting rights of citizens by making it impossible to put this question on the ballot. Indeed, an earlier version of the measure spearheaded by Senator Shurden, which passed the Senate but was blocked in the House, would have referred a measure to the ballot to guarantee citizens of Oklahoma a right "to engage in occupations and sports that involved animals." In effect, this measure would have barred any new regulations or statutes to protect animals, including cockfighting. When that measure failed, Shurden and his allies opted for the signature increase.

Cockfighting is banned in 47 states; only Oklahoma, Louisiana, and certain counties in New Mexico allow legal cockfighting. Changing the Constitution to protect cockfighting would damage the reputation of Oklahoma and brand it as a backwater where legislators believe that the citizens who elected them are too ignorant to discern what constitutes cruelty to animals.

Moreover, SQ 698 is an attack on the initiative process, which takes away the voting rights of Oklahomans. Under the terms of the state Constitution, it is necessary to gather about 100,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify a measure for the ballot. If voters approve SQ 698, it would require citizens to gather about 200,000 signatures in 90 days - an almost impossible task.

Oklahomans have launched only one initiative petition in the state's history to provide additional statutory protections for animals: the aforementioned anti-cockfighting measure. There have never been serious attempts in the Legislature to restrict hunting, trapping, or the use of animals in circuses or rodeos. Cockfighting defenders recognized that a measure restricted to the issue of cockfighting would not gather sufficient support in the Legislature or from the people. So they lumped other more popular and common animal uses, such as hunting, fishing, and rodeo, into the measure in an attempt to attract a broader base of support.

Voters in other states have rejected amendments to take away their voting rights, and Oklahomans should as well. Proposition 201 sought to amend the Arizona Constitution to create a two-thirds majority to pass any initiative to protect wildlife and to restrict hunting or trapping. Even though hunting groups outspent animal protection advocates seven to one, voters rejected Proposition 201 with a 63% "no" vote in November 2000. In Alaska, there was a measure on the ballot to amend the Constitution to forbid any citizen initiatives to restrict hunting or trapping. Voters rejected that measure with a 64% "no" vote. The Alaska and Arizona measures only served as sinkholes for the dollars of hunters and hunting organizations who backed these ill-conceived and unpopular measures. Oklahoma's SQ 698 is far more radical than either the Alaska or Arizona measures, which were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

A broad spectrum of organizations oppose this measure, from the Oklahoma League of Women Voters to the Oklahoma Christian Coalition, as do the state's two largest newspapers The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. The HSUS strongly urges Oklahoma citizens to vote against SQ 698.

Copyright © 2001 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved.

Statement of the Humane Society of the United States In Support of the Oklahoma Ballot Initiative Banning Cockfighting Issued January 2002

Official Summary: This measure adds a new section to Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The measure makes cockfighting illegal. It defines "cockfighting" as: 1. A fight between birds. 2. Whether or not fitted with spurs, knives, or gaffs. 3. Whether or not bets or wagers are made on the outcome of the fight. The definition includes training fights. The measure defines equipment used for training or handling a fighting bird. Under the measure: 1. It is a felony to instigate or encourage cockfighting. 2. It is a felony to keep places, equipment or facilities for cockfighting. 3. It is a felony to aid or assist in cockfighting. 4. It is a felony to own, possess, keep or train birds for cockfighting. Under the proposal it is a misdemeanor to knowingly be a spectator at a cockfight. The measure provides for the forfeiture of birds and equipment used in cockfighting.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization, strongly endorses State Question 687 to ban cockfighting in the state. We urge all citizens of Oklahoma to vote "yes" on SQ 687.

The HSUS urges all Oklahomans to support SQ 687. We are urging citizens to oppose State Question 698, a counter measure placed on the ballot by cockfighters and their political allies that would nearly double the number of signatures required to place any animal welfare measure on a statewide ballot.

Oklahoma banned cockfighting from the latter part of the 19th century through 1963, when an Oklahoma Court of Appeals judge declared that chickens are not animals and thereby determined that these creatures were not covered under the state ban on animal fighting. This petition seeks to restore the long-established policy of the state to criminalize the instigating of fights between animals for amusement or illegal gambling purposes. If dogfighting is wrong, surely cockfighting is wrong, too.

Cockfighting is banned in 47 states; in addition to Oklahoma, cockfighting is legal only in Louisiana and in certain counties in New Mexico. In November 1998, voters in Arizona and Missouri overwhelmingly approved initiatives to ban cockfighting. There are felony-level penalty provisions for illegal cockfighting in 26 states, including the border states of Colorado, Missouri, and Texas. The HSUS supports the imposition of felony-level penalties upon those who instigate illegal cockfights.

Cockfighting is inhumane and barbaric, and has no place in a society committed to an basic anti-cruelty principles. Cockfighters frequently drug birds to heighten their aggression, affix knives or ice-pick-like gaffs to their legs, and place them in a pit to fight to injury or death - all for amusement and illegal wagering of handlers and spectators. The knives and gaffs gouge eyes, puncture lungs, and inflict other grievous wounds.

It is not true that birds fight to the death in the wild and that cockfights are natural exhibitions of their innate aggression. While it is true that birds will often fight over food, territory, or mates, such fights occur generally to establish dominance within a group and seldom result in serious injury. This contrasts sharply with cockfights, where the birds cannot escape and they are goaded by handlers to fight until a winner is declared. There is nothing natural or normal about the stimulants, knives and gaffs, and other substances and paraphernalia -- all advertised in cockfighting publications -- that are commonplace during the training or fighting of birds. Nor is it natural to breed birds for maximum aggressiveness.

The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes cockfighting on the basis of animal welfare concerns and urges violations of anti-cockfighting penalties be felony offenses, as do law enforcement agencies throughout the country. HSUS investigators have witnessed that adults sometimes bring children to cockfights. Cockfighting venues are not a suitable environment for instilling socially responsible values in our children. These spectacles expose young people to animal cruelty, violence, gambling, and even narcotics. If our society's general opposition to needless cruelty has any practical meaning, it should be the policy of every state to criminalize this barbaric treatment of animals.

An anti-cockfighting ballot initiative is an appropriate response to this problem because other legislative and judicial options have been exhausted. It was a state court that invalidated the state's prohibition on cockfighting. And in the wake of that ruling, the legislature has failed to act on a series of bills introduced to restore the ban on cockfighting during the last three decades. The current campaign to ban cockfighting is a classic case of the appropriate and judicious use of the ballot initiative process.

The HSUS strongly urges Oklahoma citizens to support SQ 687, the Oklahoma anti-cockfighting ballot initiative.

Copyright © 2001 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved.