Oklahoma’s highest state executive, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, has found himself at the center of a fiery controversy following a video endorsement that has provoked the ire of animal rights activists and elicited bewilderment amongst political adversaries. The contentious video offers support to actors within the state’s clandestine cockfighting scene, a faction that has been outlawed for the past two decades.
The short video in question features Governor Stitt extending his best wishes to the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission (OGC), an organization campaigning for the lessening of cockfighting penalties. This sport, steeped in barbarity, has traditionally involved armed birds engaged in a deadly ballet to satiate the gambling appetites of onlookers—a spectacle fraught with cruelty and suffering, wherein the creatures are fitted with lethal bladed attachments to guarantee a fatal outcome.
In the wake of this controversial sport’s prohibition through a 2002 popular vote, the pursuit of such macabre entertainments has not waned for some. One foundational member of the OGC, district director Chance Campo, recently found himself under the prosecutorial microscope, indicted on felony charges of cockfighting-related activities during a crackdown on an event in Carter County.
Despite the discordance between the Governor’s message and the illegality of the act, Stitt’s communiqué was one of encouragement, regretfully acknowledging his absence from the OGC’s annual gathering but nonetheless telegraphing an effusive message of support. He waxed nostalgic about Oklahoma’s deep-rooted association with gamefowl, expressing his aspiration to bolster the state’s 5,000 gamefowl farmers and amplify the vitality of local economies, both rural and urban alike.
The OGC’s financial influence is far from negligible, having reportedly contributed sizable donations to state legislators, including a generous sum to Governor Stitt himself. The organization unabashedly touts its legislative liaisons on its website, citing last year’s success in shepherdling quadruple bills through committee stages—though none made the ultimate leap into enacted policy.
However, not all share the Governor’s retrospective fondness for these bloodsports. Frank Keating, Stitt’s Republican gubernatorial predecessor and instrumental figure in the enactment of the 2002 ban, characterized cockfighting as a regressive and cruel vestige. He decried Stitt’s recent overtures as antithetical to the state’s forward momentum and economic expansion, labeling the discussions around decriminalization as morally and strategically toxic.
In alignment with Keating’s rebuke, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson expressed his disapproval of the Governor’s alignment with elements embroiled in illegality, asserting that such associations are misaligned with the responsibilities befalling elected state officials.
Faced with the ensuing backlash, the Governor’s spokesperson, Abegail Cave, sought to clarify Stitt’s position, emphatically dismissing any insinuation that the Governor condones animal cruelty. She maintained that his allegiance lies with the broader agricultural sphere of Oklahoma, highlighting that Governor Stitt has neither encountered nor advocated any legislative measures regarding the contentious issue of cockfighting.