Press Release

Barry Switzer Calls Cockfighting ‘Barbaric’ and Implores Gov. Kevin Stitt to Oppose Any Attempts to Weaken the Voter-Approved Anti-Cockfighting Law Standards

Football legend is latest public figure in Oklahoma to express concerns about the governor’s embrace of a cockfighting group whose members are engaging in ongoing criminal activities.

Oklahoma City, OK — Former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer has weighed in on the cockfighting scandal in Oklahoma. The legendary football coach and animal advocate condemned Gov. Kevin Stitt’s embrace of a politically active cockfighting group and asked him to deliver an unambiguous statement that he opposes cockfighting and will oppose any attempt to weaken the voter-approved law.

“I know a little something about sports and my state of Oklahoma. That’s why I am very disappointed in our governor for encouraging the barbaric blood sport of cockfighting in our great state. Staged fighting between animals is cruel, immoral, deeply unpopular in our state, and a felony to boot. I hope that Governor Stitt made a terrible mistake and that he will correct the record and indicate he opposes cockfighting and will oppose any legislation at the capitol to weaken our law. I voted for the anti-cockfighting law in 2002 and supported every word of it.”

Kirkpatrick Policy Group, in cooperation with Animal Wellness Action, today released the statement from Coach Barry Switzer, who guided Oklahoma to three national titles in college football and the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl. 

“Coach Switzer is telling the world that animal cruelty is not okay, it’s not sport, and it doesn’t represent who we are as Oklahomans,” said Louisa McCune, board member of Kirkpatrick Policy Group. “In many ways, this feels like a battle for the soul of Oklahoma. We thank Barry Switzer for his dedication to animals and for standing up for what’s right.”

Switzer’s statement comes in response to Gov. Stitt’s direct-to-camera message that premiered at a cockfighting rally in McAlester on Nov. 12, where the governor associated himself with the gamecock community, praised its contributions to rural Oklahoma, and said he would support their efforts in the upcoming legislative session in Oklahoma City. Last session, lawmakers failed to pass an intact HB 2530 or SB 1006 in either chamber, but the bills can be re-examined in the 2024 session.

This week, YouTube took down the Oklahoma governor’s video from the account managed by Animal Wellness Action because it said the video violates the company’s community guidelines by promoting cruelty to animals.  Last week, former Gov. Frank Keating called the statement an “embarrassment” and “toxic to the idea of economic development and forward progress for our great state.” Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson said: “I got surprised when I saw the governor of the State of Oklahoma joining this band of criminals in saying ‘I’m with ya.’ ”

Opposition to cockfighting has only cemented since voters approved State Question 687 to outlaw cockfighting and associated activities in 2002. According to an April 2023 Sooner Survey, less than 10 percent of Oklahomans think cockfighting should be legal and 87 percent of voters favor the existing statewide ban that makes cockfighting a felony.

“There are still a set of moral concerns that bind us together as a nation, and opposition to staged animal fighting and other forms of cruelty is among them,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “All political leaders should embrace the legal and moral principle that animal fighting is wrong, and that’s why we ask Governor Stitt to make an emphatic statement that Oklahoma’s law against cockfighting must remain intact and be enforced.”

The Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act would strengthen federal laws against animal fighting, enable private citizens to bring civil suits against animal fighters, ban online wagering on dogfights and cockfights, and forbid the shipping of adult roosters by U.S. mail. Kirkpatrick Policy Group and Animal Wellness Action want to see the FIGHT Act added as an amendment to the forthcoming Farm bill.

“Governor Stitt doesn’t understand the consequences of publicly embracing the ‘spirit of competition’ that’s involved in strapping ice picks on the legs of beautiful animals and pitting them against one another, to a bloody death, for gamblers,” said McCune. There is nothing ‘agricultural’—neither food, nor fiber—about cockfighting. We welcome a meeting right away with the Oklahoma governor to help him understand that cockfighting is forbidden, a felony, and animal cruelty.”

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News