Cockfighting Proponents Map Out Action Plan To Stop Vote On Their Sport

Monday, October 18th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Cockfighters are talking about opening up their sport, to keep from being shut down. A petition drive could lead to Oklahomans voting on whether cockfighting should be banned. The Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association supports cockfighting and at their annual meeting Sunday in McAlester, they talked to KOTV about ways to win over the public and keep the sport legal. Kelly Barger, a cockfighter says "there are thousands of families in Oklahoma that do this." This is a sport that has been handed down from generation to generation. But critics call it barbaric, with specially bred roosters outfitted with blades. That's why the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting is circulating a petition that could bring the issue before voters.
Steven Eberle, who opposes cockfighting, says "it's senseless cruelty at the cost of these roosters. No one in Oklahoma should make a living off of this." Folks who make a living off of cockfighting are fighting back. Cockfighters attending their annual meeting say they may have to open up their private sport. They've hired a public relations firm because they say everytime they've let the media in, they've been burned. Barger says "most of the time, it was driven by a desire to do a way from us, so we kept to ourselves, now we have to change that."
They stress nobody is hurt by their sport. They say their opponents have never been around cockfighting that's why they don't understand. Cockfighters meeting in McAlester believe people will honor their freedom. Critics welcome openness, because they believe the public is against the barbaric sport where roosters many times fight to the death. Those against cockfighting say they have collected 50,000 of the 70,000 signatures needed TO get the vote on the ballot. A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association says at Sunday's meeting, members elected new officers and board members who will decide what steps to take to try to win over the public.