Roy Exum: What Is Rep. DesJarlais Doing?

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Scott DesJarlais, the Republican Congressman from Jasper who tonight will be feted with a gala reception by “The Big Lick” crowd at the 74th Annual National Walking Horse Celebration, is apparently no friend to animals. It has been learned that last month DesJarlais unexplainably voted against a bill in Congress that would enhance the current federal anti-animal fighting laws.

Never mind that the infamous Michael Vick dogfighting case in 2008 spawned national outrage, resulting in a sharp-toothed felony for possession and/or training fighting animals, and forget that 208 members of Congress just co-sponsored the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2011 – what is alarming is that the Jasper physician voted against making it a crime to willfully attend a chicken or a dog fight.

Animal rights activists believe that prosecuting spectators at “blood sport” events will greatly reduce the number who atttend the now-outlawed fights -- eliminate the crowds and soon the admission revenue, the betting and even the participation dries up. Under the proposed law, spectators would be charged with misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison.

But DesJarlais, who is in his first term, raised considerable eyebrows when he voted against the bill in July and now, as he is honored with a reception at the much-maligned Walking Horse Celebration tonight, there are those who are taking an increasingly hard look at the Conservative who moved to Tennessee after studying medicine in South Dakota.

Tonight’s reception for DesJarlais at the Shelbyville arena offers three tiers of stewarding to the Congressman’s campaign. A Patron will give $2,500, a Host is $1,000 and a door invitation is $250. The reception is being given by David Howard, who is identified as the kingpin of “The Big Lick” crowd, and his son.

“The Big Lick,” which came to light when a shocking video was shown in May of former Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell brutally beating and abusing animals, has been under constant fire from an enraged public and, while it is believed that 98 percent of those who own and love Tennessee Walking Horses neither sore nor torture the animals, the high-stepping gait that scurrilous trainers sinisterly develop has been found to be unnatural and – in a better word – criminal over the summer.

The 74th annual Celebration, which began its 11-day run yesterday, is under an intense microscope this week and the Shelbyville insiders are so eager to put a happy face on the festivities they instituted unprecedented swab tests and public reporting of violations just days ago. The hasty decision has rocked the horse industry with more questions than answers – What’s outlawed? Who does the testing? Where is the lab? Who decides the fine? Where is due process?

According to many who had planned to show, the swabbing initiatives are ill-defined and the fear of getting caught or mistakenly maligned – plus the heavy presence of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Humane Society of the United States – has made every horseman in the tiny Tennessee town nervous and leery. Public perception, understandably, is at an all-time low and many owners of Walkers are already abandoning the “stacks” and performance devices in favor of showing only flat-shod horses.

So the question of the hour in Shelbyville is why is Congressman DesJarlais aligning himself with the quite controversial “Big Lick” crowd? Yes, as the representative in the state’s 4th District he depends on Shelbyville for votes but David Howard has told his followers that DesJarlais has already approached the USDA on behalf of the “Big Lick” crowd.

Ironically, one Shelbyville group known as SHOW has a lawsuit pending in a Texas court against the USDA and DesJarlais, in a recent letter that he wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (which also appeared on the Walking Horse Chat website Wednesday), said he didn’t want to talk about the litigation but, instead, was more keen on “fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the USDA and the industry to ensure a successful ‘Celebration’ in Shelbyville is my chief concern.”

DesJarlais then wrote: “However, a few recent USDA actions have concerned me and my constituents. Some, but not all, are listed below:

* -- Twelve times more violations have been issued than were issued prior to the filing of the lawsuit;

* -- The leading performance (Horse Industry Organization) was notified it would be audited and a day later that audit was rescinded;

* -- A directive was issued to the industry that leaders should not talk to their representatives in Congress about their concerns;

* -- The industry was allegedly told that if it went above the Deputy Administrator’s head, APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) would shut down their world championship event;

* -- The videotaping of USDA inspections was prohibited even though the videotaping is done to ensure that the horses are not sored;

* -- The Industry was informed that the scar rule would now be interpreted differently despite the fact that the law has not changed. When industry representatives asked the USDA officials what had changed and why, they were allegedly told, ‘It’s a new day.’

“Individually, these actions or directives may not seem overtly onerous. Collectively, however, they are unacceptable and create great uncertainty for the industry and this upcoming ‘Celebration,’” wrote the Congressman before affixing his signature.

The “Big Lick” reception for Scott DesJarlais will begin at 5:30 p.m. (CDT) in the Calsconic Conference Room. “Casual attire but no ball caps, please.”

royexum@aol.com



Good Riddance Of Mayor As Trustee Of The Confederate Cemetery

After reading the news piece titled, City Files Petition to Turn Confederate Cemetery Over To Sons Of The Confederacy, and prior articles quoting Mayor Berke on the subject of the historic cemetery, it is appropriate for the city to withdraw as trustee.  The public position statements of the mayor regarding the cemetery demonstrate that he is completely unfit to serve as ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

Signal Facing Decisions On Expanding Commercial Area Past Albert Road, Mountain Community Center And Water Service

The design review committee (DRC) of the town of Signal Mountain is in the process of establishing standards for commercial buildings. In the meantime, developer Bob Elliott would like to buy property at the corner of Taft Highway and Albert Road. Albert Road has traditionally been where the commercial property ends. A number of residents in the neighborhood around that area are ... (click for more)

Initiative Launches In Support Of Signal Mountain’s Water System; Tennessee-American Says It Has Long Provided Clean Water To Signal

A citizen committee is urging Signal Mountain "to be vocal and choose local" in the imminent water department sale. The local group formed “Be Vocal. Choose Local.” after the town of Signal Mountain voted last May to initiate a Request for Proposals for the acquisition of its water department.  The committee urges the town to sell its water system to Walden’s Ridge Utility ... (click for more)

Bearettes Wallop Warren, 87-22, In Region 3-3A For 61st Win In 62 Games

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Bradley Central is the state’s No. 2-ranked girls’ team, according to MaxPreps. The Bearettes (29-0) is the District 5-3A tournament champion. Visiting Warren County has a sub-.500 record and is the No. 4 team out of District 6-3A. So, on Friday night at Jim Smiddy Arena, the Bearettes played the favorite’s role perfectly and humbled the Lady Pioneers, ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Teams Avoid Upset Bids By Sequoyah

Both Sequoyah basketball teams came to Signal Mountain Friday night for Region 3-AA quarterfinal games as fourth-place finishers in District 5-AA and both with losing records. Apparently, they weren’t ready to turn in their equipment just yet as they played like there was no tomorrow against the host teams. Both teams from Madisonville ended up on the short end of the final ... (click for more)