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Animal welfare advocates cry fowl after Oklahoma Gov. Stitt records video for cockfighting advocacy organization

Animal welfare groups and former elected officials are criticizing Gov. Kevin Stitt’s video played at the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission’s annual legislative meeting on Nov. 12.

The group's purpose is to “promote the interest of game fowl owners in Oklahoma,” according to its website. In the video, Stitt said the commission’s members play a role in preserving the state's heritage.

“We need to protect the nearly 5,000 game fowl farmers across Oklahoma and lift up our rural and municipal economies,” Stitt said in the video. “I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in the next legislative session.”

Leaders of the Kirkpatrick Policy Group, Animal Wellness Action, the Center for a Humane Economy, former Gov. Frank Keating and former Attorney General Drew Edmondson panned the video in a press conference.

The ballot measure banning cockfighting passed during Keating’s administration and Edmondson, who is now co-chair of Animal Wellness Action, defended Oklahoma’s cockfighting ban in 2004.

“Cockfighting is barbaric and it's inextricably bound up with other criminal activity,” Edmondson said.

Cockfighting and the owning, possessing, keeping or training of birds for cockfighting is a felony in Oklahoma. The commission — which received Stitt’s report — advocated for a bill reducing the criminal punishment for cockfighting that missed a legislative deadline this past session.

Abegail Cave, communications director of the governor’s office, said Stitt does not support animal cruelty.

“He supports the Oklahoma agricultural industry and often records videos for Oklahoma groups,” Cave said. “No legislation has been presented to him and he hasn’t considered or endorsed any legislation on this topic.”

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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