The nation’s largest underground cockfighting network threatens to worsen the bird flu epidemic in OK

Two roosters fight to the death in a whirlwind of dust and feathers.

Outbreak could disrupt poultry industry and sicken countless other birds

Now that Oklahoma has confirmed HPAI in the state, the imperative for federal, state, and local authorities to take action to shut down the cockfighting industry is even greater.

— Dr. Jim Keen, DVM, Ph.D.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, USA, May 2, 2022 / — Illegal cockfighting in Oklahoma threatens to make an outbreak of bird flu (AI) even more threatening, according to Animal welfare action and the Center for a Human Economy. The main illegal cockfighting industry in Oklahoma can cause the disease to spread throughout Oklahoma and even to foreign countries. AWA has documented the shipment of thousands of Battlebirds to other states, nations and U.S. territories in violation of federal law
Just this weekend, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) h5:N1 in a breeder flock of commercial chickens in Sequoyah County in east-central Oklahoma, abutting the Arkansas border. This is the 161st US commercial herd infected with the H5:N1 HPAI epidemic strain, with 91 backyard (non-commercial) herds infected.

“Cockfighting has unique potential to make the avian flu epidemic even more deadly and far-reaching,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “The Cockfighters orchestrate illegal fights in one state that bring together people and their animals from multiple states, creating the perfect conditions for the birds to contract the disease and then spreading it back home once the derbies are over.”

A long-running investigation by Animal Wellness Action and its affiliates has documented 20 major cockfighting traffickers across the state, but concentrated in the eastern region of the state and circling the impact zone of the outbreak of Avian Flu. Work by animal welfare groups reveals that the state’s cockfighters stage fights at locations across the state, but also ship birds from Mexico to Guam in the Philippines. Law enforcement does little to interdict these illegal fights or transports.

“Animal movement by people is the most significant risk factor for the spread of infectious diseases from domestic animals,” said Dr. Jim Keen, DVM, Ph.D., director of veterinary programs for the Center for a Humane Economy and a 20-year-old former USDA infectious disease specialist. “If cockfighting birds are infected, they have the potential to spread the virus’s reach across Oklahoma and around the world.”

To date, 35.2 million poultry have been affected (dead or killed) by the 2022 HPAI poultry outbreak. At least one poultry worker has been infected with the virus. Wild migratory waterfowl are thought to have introduced the virus to US domestic poultry in late winter. Oklahoma is a major egg-laying state and sits at the western end of the so-called “broiler belt” in the southern United States, which produces over 8 billion broilers per year.

“Cockfighting poses a particular threat to the broiler and laying hen industries in Arkansas and Oklahoma due to the large movements of cockfighting birds between derbies and also shipped for sale to d ‘other cockfighters in the United States and abroad,’ added Dr. Keen. “Now that Oklahoma has confirmed HPAI in the state, the imperative for federal, state, and local authorities to take action to stop the cockfighting industry is even greater. We have a sheet of route that can guide them to illegal operators.

In big underworld cockfighting events called derbies, hundreds of birds and cock fighters compete for dozens to hundreds of knife fights to the death in these big game and fight tournaments. ” entertainment “. Gamecocks and their handlers mix intensely and intimately during fights, then disperse after fights, potentially spreading the highly contagious H5:N1 HPAI into new areas in flocks near and far.

So far, the HPAI outbreak has infected poultry in 30 states. Poultry in southeastern states have yet to be infected, including Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, home to billions of commercial broilers, layers and breeders. Iowa, home to the highest concentration of laying hens, has been hit hard by HPAI, which has more than doubled retail egg prices in recent months. If HPAI spreads to the massive commercial broiler (meat) flocks of the Southeast, a similar huge spike in retail chicken and turkey meat prices will follow.

“We could very well see the spread of disease from gamecocks to humans, as rooster fighters often stop fights when the roosters’ lungs have been punctured and suck blood from the roosters’ lungs themselves in a touch like a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation so gamecocks can keep fighting to the death – blood and feathers flying everywhere,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action.

There has been a disturbing tolerance among some political leaders and law enforcement for illegal cockfighting. Last week, a pro-cockfighting bill by state Rep. Justin Humphrey, who represents a district with a number of major cockfighting traffickers, failed to clear the House within a deadline. key. “If Oklahoma continues to tolerate a major cockfighting industry, it endangers its poultry flocks and is a potential launching pad for the virus around the world,” Pacelle added.


Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to help animals by promoting legal standards prohibiting cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of pets, farm animals and wildlife. We advocate for policies to end dog and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to combat factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we encourage good public policies and work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we need to elect good legislators, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our problems and which don’t. We believe that helping animals helps us all.

The Center for a Humane Economy is a non-profit organization that aims to influence business conduct to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal welfare movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and environmental degradation and embrace innovation as a means to eliminate both .

The Animal Wellness Foundation is a private, charitable organization based in Los Angeles whose mission is to help animals by making veterinary care available to everyone who has a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless animals find a loving caregiver. We believe in bringing veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promote responsible pet ownership; and vaccination of animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and alleviate suffering. We believe that helping animals helps us all.

William Irby
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