Roy Exum: The Genesis Awards Really Matter

Sunday, March 17, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There will be a huge Hollywood gala at the Beverly Hilton this Saturday night and I’m told that if I want to show up and mix with some of the most famous people in the country, there is a seat for me at the table. My complimentary tickets will be waiting at the door.

The Genesis Awards brings out the best of the film makers, TV personalities and other media types to mix with Hollywood stars, all who are intent to raise the public’s awareness of animal issues. It’s an A-list deal. One of the feature films that is a finalist is “Big Miracle,” a stunning story from Universal Pictures about whales, but a far bigger miracle is that I am included for a series of columns I have written on the ongoing plight of Tennessee Walking Horses the world over.

Normally I would not dare mention the fact I am a finalist, along with the great New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof, who this year wrote a lively piece entitled, “Is An Egg For Breakfast Worth This?” But today I do because if the Tennessee State Legislature has its way, there may not be any more Genesis winners from Tennessee and animals in our state will once again suffer.

Our state Legislature has on its calendar a bill that will prohibit undercover cameras or surveillance devices on farms across the state. Obviously an undercover tape like the one that showed Jackie McConnell on ABC’s Nightline would now be outlawed by our lawmakers and the vile men who torture and sadistically abuse animals would have a new and decided edge against getting caught.

State lawmakers in Indiana, Nebraska, California, Arkansas and Pennsylvania are also considering ”farm privacy acts” in a loathsome testimony against those who would abuse all animals. Unlike the Oscars, there are some award-winning films at the Genesis Awards that will make you sick and – what’s this? – in Tennessee there are some of our elected officials who want to blame the cameras instead of the criminals.

The “privacy bill” is being promoted by the very ones who have gotten caught and is backed by the “Shelbyville slime,” a pocket of sleazy operators who appear intent to continue soring horses and defying the federal Horse Protection Act as they have done for half a century. Shelbyville is home to the walking horse world’s annual Celebration and is now infamously recognized around the country for its role in horse abuse.

The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s top veterinary groups and many other animal-watch organizations are convinced that horse abuse is still rampant in Tennessee – a fact best evidenced by an actual legislative bill to ban undercover cameras for farms. The bill’s sponsors say something like, “No …  it’s not like that. We just feel the public can’t understand why some animal husbandry might appear cruel when it really isn’t.”

Oh, please! For the first time in history, federal prosecutors brought criminals into the court in 2012 who quickly admitted guilt, got their wrists slapped and were set loose. There is now a state law that makes horse abuse a felony with sentencing between one and five years but, unbelievably, when violations of the law were found at the National Celebration in Shelbyville in August, not one arrest was made.

To date, there has not been one arrest under the new state law but, with the show season starting, the same scofflaws are back in place. Last year in Federal Court several who pleaded guilty explained how soring an animal works and one said that if a trainer doesn’t use sadistic methods, the gentle horses cannot be trained to do the desired “Big Lick,” a gait that is unnatural and nauseating.

Believe it or not, the tightly-knit Shelbyville group could easily win a Genesis Award and become a great advocate of the horse but, instead, the now-repugnant leadership had rather fight the Humane Society, the Department of Agriculture and anybody else who threatens to expose the tortured horses that – quite mysteriously – seem to die of “colic” at a young age.

While I am humbled and flattered to be among those invited to the Genesis Awards, I’ve already been awarded far too much in an endless stream of emails from all over the country. While my voice is a small one, the Internet search engines have caused a simple drop to become a great wave of good and decent horse people from across the country. That is all I could ever want.

But if I hadn’t seen the Jackie McConnell tape, and hadn’t read somewhere the same lout was coming to Chattanooga for sentencing, I would have never written the first article that asked all of my friends not to be nice to such a lout. McConnell, I quickly discovered, has a history of violations for over 30 years and the Trainer’s Hall of Fame is filled with those who have openly violated the Horse Protection Act.

And as I delved into the seedy side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, it was unfathomable to me that people have turned a blind eye towards the cruelty and the scurrilous thugs for over half a century. This summer the onslaught will continue and today there are bills in Congress specifically targeted at the “Big Lickers” who have so sullied one of our nation’s greatest animals.

Again, I am flattered to be a finalist for a prestigious Genesis Award this Saturday night but what I really want is for the Tennessee State Legislature to throw out the “Farm Privacy Act,”  or whatever it is, and for Congress to back laws against animal abuse.

Who would have ever thought we would have to create a bill not to hurt a horse?

royexum@aol.com


Help The Signal Mountain Robertson Police And Fire Christmas Fund

Over the last year and a half, there have been terrorist attacks on two Chattanooga military facilities, multiple shootings, a horrific bus accident, and out of control wildfires. During these moments, police, fire, and emergency personnel, typically the first responders, courageously run towards these tragedies to save, protect, and defend the people impacted. In the last year, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why Our Schools Stink

Cheryl Roddy has spent her lifetime, for the biggest part, as a teacher for the Hamilton County Department of Education and, more specifically, at East Ridge High School. She has loved teaching there for nearly 40 years and is hardly “average;” she has her master's degree in education, was twice East Ridge’s teacher of the year, was the first teacher at East Ridge to reach the first ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Looking Into Taking Over Schools

A new group of Signal Mountain Town Council members is looking into taking over county schools within the town boundaries.   Two newly elected board members, Amy Speek and Dan Landrum, joined the council Friday afternoon at the first work session after the election. The election of mayor and vice mayor for the next two years came first on the agenda. Dick Gee, mayor ... (click for more)

East Ridge Meth Dealer Gets 168 Months In Federal Prison

A man that agents said was dealing large quantities of meth from his East Ridge residence has been sentenced to serve 168 months in federal prison. Kenneth Lemons appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. Agents said they made several controlled drugs buys from Lemons at his residence in 2015. On Oct. 27, 2015, he drove up to a residence where DEA agents were making a controlled ... (click for more)

Bradley Totally Dominates Ooltewah Invitational

We’re just now through the second week of the high school wrestling season, but the Bradley Bears appear to already be in mid-season form. The Bears, defending state champs for the duals and the traditional tournament, won the Heritage Duals last weekend and they added the Ooltewah Invitational this week as they claimed 10 champions and won going away with 268.5 points. The ... (click for more)

UTC Wrestling: Mocs, Bryce Carr Host Virginia Today

Former Minnesota All-American wrestler Gerald Carr has stood on the podium His son, UTC junior Bryce Carr has a goal of standing on that same podium. “Bryce can be an All-American this year and stand on that podium,” said Gerald who was sixth in 1996 for the Golden Gophers. “He just needs to maintain that killer instinct and continue to dictate the pace of the matches.” ... (click for more)