Tennessee's dreaded “AgGag” bill, which make those who covertly film or expose acts of animal abuse into criminals, was delayed in the Tennessee Legislature last week but if proponents have their way, a vote on House Bill 1191 will be taken tomorrow in Nashville. The bill, widely criticized by animal rights activists but causing the sickening “Big Lick” segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry to urge for its approval, would charge any whistle-blowers with a state misdemeanor if they don’t turn over all evidence to police authorities within 24 to 48 hours.
The very fact the Shelbyville-centered “performance horse” crowd supports the bill is enough to give millions of horsemen around the world the cold shivers but now comes the notion the bill is in blatant discord with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) will try to block the bill in House Committee and said, “This is the first time I have ever seen a bill requiring media to report what they see to police.”
Obviously, Rep Lundberg has smelled the very conspicuous rat. Often it takes longer than 48 hours to build a case. And in Shelbyville, where there have been hundreds of violations of the federal Horse Protection Act at the National Celebration in recent years, law enforcement is so cozy (and dependent) on the Big Lick you’d think the two were country cousins. It’s a fact -- there has not been one local arrest in over 40 years of widespread horse abuse in Bedford County.
Deloris Grisham (R-Somerville) has sponsored the AgGag bill in the state Senate but Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) knows the bill is a sham. “Obviously this is a Catch-22 bill,” he said last week after getting Grisham to postpone the bill until tomorrow. Further, Norris has indicated he has no choice but to oppose the bill.
Senator Grisham is fooling no one when she piously cries, “This is not an anti-whistle blower bill … we’re just saying, whistle blower, blow your whistle. Take what you have to law enforcement so the abuse will stop.”
Oh, please, Deloris! Like your fellow sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), you viciously and publicly call those who filmed the award-winning tape of Jackie McConnell sadistically torturing horses as “vigilantes” while some whacko private-interest group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, calls the same people “terrorists.” Believe it or not -- the ALEC wants those who decry animal abuse to be included in some type of a “terrorist registry.” Deloris, please give them my name because horse lovers are well aware what Tennessee has allowed the real criminals to do to Tennessee Walkers. Why do you want to be the “Big Lick” poster girl?
What Grisham, Holt and others on the Tennessee Legislature fail to comprehend is that the state leads the entire world in horse abuse. It is so shameful and glaringly wrong that just last week in Washington a new bill was proposed in Congress that makes Tennessee lawmakers appear as crazed buffoons. This whole defense of those who main and torture horses is beyond my comprehension.
On Friday the 2013 Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST) H.R. 1518, was introduced by lead sponsors U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., along with Reps. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Jim Moran, D-Va., as original cosponsors. It strengthens the Horse Protection Act, originally passed in 1970.
In short, the American people are fed up with what is happening to Tennessee Walking Horses and, if that makes all those across the nation as well as the world who are continually nauseated over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s lack of enforcement of these “vigilanties,” I’ll guarantee you the twisted ALEC group is going to need a much-larger computer.
Tennessee legislators like Grisham and Holt are an embarrassment but – get this – the Tennessee Farm Bureau is even supporting the bill, which is inexcusable. Why would the Farm Bureau openly try to shield animal abuse? Why would anybody even worry about a 24-hour window “to comply with the law” if there wasn’t something that thugs were trying to hide? Any and all attempts to block the eradication of horse soring are laughable and should be exposed – excuse me -- without the help of a stopwatch.
Just as a fun little exercise, here is a partial list of those already in support of the Congressional PAST Act, which was just introduced on Friday:
* * *
1. American Veterinary Medical Association
2. American Association of Equine Practitioners
3. Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
4. Veterinarians for Equine Welfare
5. Donna Preston Moore, DVM, former head of USDA’s Horse Protection Program
6. Michelle Abraham (Resident) New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary
7. Susan Botts, DVM
8. Angela M. Dion, DVM
9. Judith L. Ford, Veterinary Technician
10. Hanna Galantino-Homer, VMD, PHD
11. Alicia Grossman, DVM
12. Midge Leitch, VMD, former head of Radiology, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School
Of Veterinary Medicine
13. Sue Lindborg, CVT Research Specialist New Bolton Center
14. Benson B. Martin, DVM, Associate Professor Sports Medicine, New Bolton Center, University of
Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
15. Nat Messer, DVM, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
16. Mary A. Robinson, VMD, PhD
17. Mary Lynn Stanton, DVM
18. Joy Tomlinson, DVM
19. Harry Werner VMD , past president, American Association of Equine Practitioners
* * *
ANIMAL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
1. Humane Society of the United States
2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
3. Animal Law Coalition
4. Animal Legal Defense Fund
5. Animal Welfare Institute
6. Equine Welfare Alliance
7. Homes for Horses Coalition
8. Humane Society Legislative Fund
* * *
1. American Horse Council
2. American Morgan Horse Association
3. American Paint Horse Association
4. Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH)
5. Gaitway Walking Horse Association (Missouri)
6. Mountain Pleasure Horse Association (Kentucky)
7. National Plantation Walking Horse Association
8. National Walking Horse Association
9. New York State Plantation Walking Horse Club
10. Northern California Walking Horse Association
11. Pennsylvania Pleasure Walking Horse Association
12. Pinto Horse Association of America
13. Plantation Walking Horse Association of California
14. Plantation Walking Horses of Maryland
15. Pure Pleasure Gaited Horse Association (Oklahoma)
16. Tennessee Walking Horse Association of Oklahoma
17. Yankee Walkers/Gaited Horse of New England (Maine)
* * *
That’s right, not many Tennesseans are listed. Imagine that. It is time for the Tennessee State Legislature to grasp the fact the overwhelming number of people who they represent are disgusted and embarrassed to live in the very state that leads the world in the abuse of its horses.