Saying it promotes animal cruelty, the social media giant takes down Governor’s statement from Animal Wellness Action channel, denies appeal.
Oklahoma City, OK — YouTube has removed a video of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt because it violates the company’s community guidelines by promoting cruelty to animals. In a tribute video to cockfighters, Governor Stitt apologizes for not attending their rally in McAlester on November 12th but says he will “cheer them on from the sidelines” and that he looks forward to working to advance their legislative priorities in the state legislature in 2024.
A transcript of his full statement, along with that of former Governor Frank Keating, criticizing his statement, is available in this online folder.
“While we don’t support the take-down of Gov. Stitt’s video valentine to cockfighters, the YouTube action is yet one more indicator that his statement promotes the criminal enterprise of cockfighting and the bloodletting that results from staged animal combat,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “Governor Stitt can get himself on the right side of this issue by saying he opposes cockfighting and any bill to weaken the state’s voter-approved law.”
“Governor Stitt must make an emphatic statement against cockfighting to get past this global controversy,” added Louisa McCune with the Kirkpatrick Policy Group in Oklahoma City.
Cockfighting has been a felony for nearly a generation in Oklahoma, and that law is actively supported by all animal welfare groups in Oklahoma, including Animal Wellness Action, the Kirkpatrick Policy Group, and the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.
The Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission is a political action group whose primary objective is to decriminalize cockfighting. In August, OGC district leader Chance Campo and six other men were charged with the felony offense of servicing and facilitating a cockfight and also a misdemeanor offense of being a spectator at a cockfight in Carter County. Animal Wellness Action and Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) have documented that the leaders of the OGC are deeply involved in cockfighting, including trafficking of fighting animals to other jurisdictions in violation of federal law.
YouTube flagged the Governor’s video over the weekend, and this morning issued a final ruling that the video would not be reinstated and that no further review would be considered.
A direct message from YouTube to Animal Wellness Action said, “Content showing the malicious infliction of physical or psychological harm to animals isn’t allowed on YouTube. We review educational, documentary, artistic, and scientific content on a case-by-case basis. Limited exceptions are made when sufficient context is included.”
Animal Wellness Action has secured alternate placement of the unbelievable video love letter. It can now be viewed here.
“Cockfighting is barbaric and bound up with other crimes,” said former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson (1995-2011), who defended the anti-cruelty law before the Oklahoma Supreme Court from challenges in 2003 and 2004. “Governor Stitt is associating himself with lawlessness, and that’s not a proper role for any statewide elected official.” General Edmondson is co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council for Animal Wellness Action.
Prior to Jan. 1, 2023, the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission donated $41,250 to 34 sitting House members and nine Senators, with the single largest recipient of contributions being Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-21 ($2,500) and Governor Stitt ($2,000). A number of lawmakers returned the money to the Commission after learning more about the purposes of the group. An investigator obtained audio from this weekend’s cockfighting rally, and Animal Wellness Action is making that audio available today.
Animal Wellness Action is leading an effort to strengthen the federal law against animal fighting, partly as a reaction to the lawlessness documented in Oklahoma. The Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act would enhance the enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasting and gambling of animal fighting ventures; halting the shipment of mature roosters (chickens only) shipped through the U.S. mail (it is already illegal to ship dogs through the mail); creating a citizen suit provision, after proper notice to federal authorities, to allow private right of action against illegal animal fighters; and enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property for animal fighting crimes.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and John Kennedy, R-La., are the lead authors of S. 1529, and by U.S. Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., are the authors of H.R. 2742.