Roy Exum: AgGag Sponsor Goes Ballistic

Sunday, April 28, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

State legislator Andy Holt (Dresden-R), a pig farmer who sponsored a controversial Ag-Gag bill that was approved in the last session but may be vetoed, showed a colorful stripe after the bill was passed. Governor Bill Haslam is under heavy pressure from across the country to nullify the bill, especially after notorious trainer Larry Wheelon was arrested at his barn in Maryville on Thursday and charged with aggravated animal abuse, but the bill will become law this week if Governor Haslam does not intervene.

Holt, who has drawn heavy criticism, sent a raging email to Kayci McLeod, who works for the Humane Society of the United States, in which the Farm Bureau’s 2012 “Excellence in Agriculture Award” winner ripped the employee after she had sent an email to all legislators asking they help defeat the bill which calls for anyone who does not report animal abuse within 48 hours to be charged with a misdemeanor.

It is widely feared the controversial bill will greatly impede whistleblowers, the news media and animal control efforts, as well as hide large agriculture companies who mistreat animals being processed for food, according to over 100 stories that have been written since the legislation was hastily passed by one vote 10 days ago. In Indiana the legislature just defeated a similar bill.

The Humane Society, which used undercover methods to expose and convict vicious horse trainer Jackie McConnell last year, has railed about the bill’s passage and is spending up to $100,000 in television advertising to beg for the governor’s veto. McLeod’s email to all state legislators read:

* * *

“Have you seen the editorial in the Tennessean today opposing HB 1191, the whistleblower suppression bill intended to cover up animal cruelty?

“The Tennessean editorial board condemns the bill, noting that the “bill would certainly take our state in the wrong direction, toward more senseless violence.”

“We very much hope you’ll agree with the Tennessean and oppose this dangerous bill. Thank you for your time and consideration.”

* * *

Rep. Holt sponsored the bill in the House while Deloris Grisham (R-Somerville) sponsored the bill in the state Senate. It has since been learned that Grisham owns a stockyard and her district includes the farm of felon trainer Jackie McConnell, who infamously starred in an undercover video that shows him beating and abusing animals and has now been seen all over the world. McConnell is still awaiting trial in Grisham’s home town after being charged with 22 counts of animal abuse which was exposed by the video.

Here is what Holt e-mailed to the Humane Society:

* * *

Ms. McLeod,

“I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.

“You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s true intent.

Andy Holt

State Representative – District 76

Weakley & Northern Carroll Counties

* * *

The fiery Holt also got into a Tweeter fight with singer Carrie Underwood after she angrily tweeted, “Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who's with me?”

Obviously one will not be Holt, who quickly responded, “I would say that Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I'll stick to lawmaking.”

Underwood countered, “I should stick to singing? Wow...sorry, I'm just a tax paying citizen concerned for the safety of my family.”

* * *

This January Holt and his wife took a week’s vacation from the legislature to go to Hawaii in an all-expenses paid junket by the Farm Bureau after he was given the “Excellence in Agriculture Award” and also presented the keys to a new pickup truck.

One of his constituents called him out on it in a blog called “Blue Girl in a Red State,” where she wrote, “Mr. Holt has returned my call, from Hawaii, answering all of my questions in a typical know-it-all can't be wrong fashion. He kept reiterating the fact that since he is in the majority party in the Legislature, and that he was given blessings from Speaker Harwell to miss this week.

“When I asked about redistricting and other votes this week he said that his vote didn't really matter (not something I want to hear from my Rep) because the minority party would not be getting any changes that they want in terms of redistricting. ...

“Frankly, I don't care who you received blessings from. You were voted in, stupidly in my opinion, by the residents of the 76th and your concern is competing for a 2012 Chevy Silverado or 2012 GMC Sierra as well as fully paid registration for next year's convention in Grand Rapids.”

* * *

Drew Rawlins, who is the director of the State Bureau of Ethics, said Holt can accept gifts from the Farm Bureau as long as he's receiving it because he's a pig farmer and not because the Farm Bureau seeks favor with him as a legislator.

* * *

Larry Wheelon, the Maryville horse trainer who has been charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty after 19 horses were seized by animal control officers on Thursday, “vociferously denied” any wrongdoing in an exclusive interview with the Maryville Daily Times. “That’s sickening,” he told the newspaper’s Iva Butler. “If those horses were sored, somebody came in the barn the night before (the April 18 raid) and did it.”

Wheelon also said his vet checked the horses while testing for Coggan’s Disease “and they all looked fine.”

Gino Bachman, president and cruelty investigator for the Blount County Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), disagreed, saying that in the initial search by agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “(The horses) were so sore that they would just shake when you touched them,” Bachman told The Horse magazine. “Investigators couldn't finish examining one horse because it was so sore, and one horse laid down in its stall and just moaned.”

Wheelon will appear in Blount County Sessions Court on Tuesday.

* * *

The Humane Society of the United States updated a video explaining horse soring on Friday following the arrest of Wheelon. Be warned – it is quite graphic. Click here to view.

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: Our Insult To Israel

I am deeply saddened that over two dozen members of Congress – all Democrats – will be boycotting a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, when he speaks in Washington tonight. I am also offended that the President of the United States will not receive Netanyahu prior to the speech – a customary gesture on such occasions – because he claims it is too close to ... (click for more)

Remembering Dr. Jack Willke - And Response

When I first became active as a Right-to-Life leader in 1975, Dr. Jack Willke (and his wife, Barbara) were the preeminent leaders at the National level.  Rarely did you see one without the other. They literally wrote the book used by Pro-Life activists everywhere, The Handbook on Abortion . I carried it everywhere and studied it over and over. Their books sold ... (click for more)

Winter Weather Advisory Goes Into Effect At 4 A.M. On Thursday

Temperatures were mild on Wednesday, but they were set to drop as the day goes on - leading to a winter weather advisory. The advisory goes into effect at 4 a.m. on Thursday and is to continue until 4 p.m. The forecast is for freezing rain, sleet and snow with accumulations of two inches or less. Some events are already being called off due to the possibility of unsafe ... (click for more)

County Commission Votes 5-4 In Favor of Middle Valley Neighborhood Walmart

The County Commission on Wednesday voted 5-4 to allow a Walmart Neighborhood Center at Middle Valley Road and Thrasher Pike. Voting in favor were Jim Fields, Chester Bankston, Greg Beck, Warren Mackey and Joe Graham. Opposed were Marty Haynes, Sabrena Smedley, Tim Boyd and Randy Fairbanks. Commissioner Haynes, the District 3 representative where the project is located, ... (click for more)

Double Overtime Thriller: Central Boys Going To State

For all the folks who came to Chattanooga State Tuesday night for the Class AA sectional battle between Livingston Academy and Region 3-AA champ Central, they got their money's worth and more. And they even got some free basketball to boot. Needing a couple of overtimes, the Purple Pounders will be heading to Murfreesboro and MTSU's Murphy Center next week for the TSSAA State ... (click for more)

Blackman Blazes A Trail To State By Bashing Bradley, 55-35

(Story will be updated) MUFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Class AAA state champions are still alive and well. Blackman raced past outmanned Bradley Central, 55-35, Tuesday night in a Class AAA sectional victory that blazed a path right to the boys state tournament at nearby Middle Tennessee State University starting on March 11. The Blaze (24-5) will be making their fourth ... (click for more)