Respect The Will Of The People -
Oklahoma voters approved SQ 687 on November 5th, 2002 to outlaw cockfighting. The vote was 565,967 (56.2%) in favor and 441,220 (43.8%) in opposition.
Oklahoma aligned itself with other states in adopting this initiative petition, becoming the 48th to halt cockfighting. The Oklahoma Humane Federation, Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, Family Farm Alliance, and newspapers throughout Oklahoma, including The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman, endorsed SQ 687.
Oklahoma legislators should respect the will of the people. The process was fair - with both side spending comparable amounts in the campaign -- and the outcome decisive. The anti-cockfighting petition secured 117,000 more votes than the winner of the gubernatorial contest. Senator Frank Shurden's proposal to repeal the measure on a county-by-county basis runs against democratic principles. The Oklahoma Constitution allows for statewide initiatives, with a law adopted if a majority of electors favor the measure. If Shurden's logic were applied to decisions by the state legislature, then a bill passed by a majority of legislators would not apply in districts where a state legislator voted against the bill. Such thinking makes a mockery of state law-making, whether through direct or representative mechanisms.
The people of Oklahoma heard the cockfighters' arguments and rejected them. Over the course of the three-year campaign - one of the longest initiative battles in Oklahoma history -- there were countless news stories, letters, opinion pieces, and advertisements. A small group of legislators should not attempt to substitute their judgment for that of 566,000 voters who weighed the arguments and supported SQ 687.
Cockfighting is cruel and inhumane. Cockfighters breed birds for aggression, pump them full of stimulants, strap razor-sharp knives or ice-pick like gaffs to their legs and place them in a pit to hack each other to death - all for amusement and illegal gambling. Cockfighters regularly bring children to the fights, exposing them to animal cruelty, gambling, and other vices.
The penalties in SQ 687 are identical to those in the state's anti-dogfighting statute, which the Legislature approved in 1982. In fact, all of the provisions in SQ 687 were modeled on the dogfighting law. Strong penalties are needed to deter this form of animal cruelty, and cockfighters can avoid these penalties by observing the law. Cockfighting is a felony in 27 other states, including neighboring Colorado, Missouri, and Texas.
A new federal law against cockfighting, to take effect in May 2003, would have radically diminished economic activity associated with cockfighting in Oklahoma, even if SQ 687 had not been adopted. In 2002, the Congress adopted an amendment to the Farm bill banning any interstate movement or exports of fighting birds. In practical terms, this forbids individuals from other states from transporting birds to Oklahoma fighting pits and it bars Oklahoma cockfighters from shipping birds outside of the state.