Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and several organizations dedicated to fighting animal abuse are calling for county and federal investigations into rooster shipments to Guam for cockfighting activities, the groups announced Tuesday.
Animal Wellness Action and Animal Wellness Foundation conducted a three-year investigation of 2,500 pages of shipping records obtained from Guam between 2017 and 2019. They found three of the top five shippers reside in eastern Oklahoma.
State voters approved State Question 687 in 2002 to outlaw cockfighting, making Oklahoma one of the last states in the country to do so. That ban was upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2004.
The practice is illegal in Guam, a U.S. territory, as well. Edmondson said it’s also illegal to ship fighting birds to any state or territory.
“These shipments reveal the fact that of the top five shippers of fighting roosters, three of those are in Oklahoma,” Edmondson said during a Zoom press conference. “This has been a remarkable investigation with remarkable results that are very important for the state of Oklahoma if we want to say we follow the rule of law.”
John and Brenda Bottoms of Gunner Gamefowl Farm in Heavener shipped 1,719 male roosters over the three year period, said Wayne Pacelle founder of Animal Wellness Action.
Pacelle said Bill McNatt, operator of Cherokee Game Farm in Stigler shipped 839 roosters and Darrell Trammel of Moody Farm in Tahlequah shipped 564, according to Pacelle, who has called himself “the highest-profile opponent” of cockfighting.
A message left on the voicemail at a number listed as McNatt’s was not returned by the publication of this article. A call to a number listed online as belonging to Trammel’s farm rang more than 20 times, but no voicemail or person picked up.
“The overarching conclusion is that Oklahoma is the number one state that was shipping birds to Guam, and it’s almost certainly the case the people shipping birds to Guam were also shipping them to other jurisdictions illegally,” Pacelle said. “Those are probably just a fraction of the total birds shipped.”
Pacelle: ‘Guam doesn’t have a show bird industry’
For his part, John Bottoms told Clifton Adcock of The Frontier that he and his wife only ship birds to Guam, and elsewhere, for breeding purposes.
“I still raise them just for breeding purposes only,” he said. “We quit fighting them and started shipping brood fowl only, for show purposes only,” John Bottoms said. “That’s what it (the shipping certificate) says.”
But Pacelle said that claim doesn’t add up.
“They said they were raising show fowl,” he said. “Well, Guam doesn’t have a show bird industry. There would be no reason for these birds to come in for agricultural purposes, nor would the people of Guam, many of whom live on a pretty limited income, pay $1,000 for three birds.”
As a result of the investigation, Edmondson has written a letter to U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester (embedded below) asking that his office investigate the individuals named in the organizations’ report. Additionally, Edmondson said letters have been sent to district attorneys in the three counties where the sellers reside.
“It is a felony under state and federal law to buy, sell, deliver or own any bird with the intent that such bird shall engage in a cockfight, and that’s clearly what we’re seeing,” Edmondson said. “The three individuals identified in this investigation brazenly defy law enforcement officers. This deserves the attention of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and that’s what we’re asking for.”
The investigation also includes satellite images of the three farms, social media posts and photos in a cockfighting magazine featuring one of those named in the investigation, along with the shipping records, paint a clear picture, Pacelle said.
“There can be no doubt with a serious examination of the data and information that has been assembled that these people aren’t knee deep, but neck deep in the business of cockfighting and we hope law enforcement authorities will take appropriate action,” he said.