Roy Exum: Congress 261, Tennessee 1

Saturday, February 8, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It is most despicable and demeaning to me that while now there are 261 members of the United States House of Representatives who are co-sponsors of a pending bill that would greatly hamper horse abuse, there are eight of nine members in Congress from the state of Tennessee who have thus far refused to endorse the same bill. I believe Tennessee’s Republican delegation should sternly be held accountable by the people of Tennessee because to abuse any defenseless animal is very wrong.

House Bill 1518, called the PAST Act or “Prevent All Soring Tactics,” is a much-needed improvement on a federal law passed in 1970 called the Horse Protection Act. In the Senate the pending legislation is known as S1406, yet neither of Tennessee’s two Senators are among 43 other bipartisan Senators from around the country who have currently cosponsored the bill.

I can’t begin to convey my sadness and disappointment in two men I have always believed in – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – and they too should be held accountable to those they vowed to represent, the people of Tennessee. It is plainly clear the overwhelming number of citizens of Tennessee abhor animal abuse, much less slathering a horse’s forelegs with a terrifying wrap of mustard oil, acid and other caustic materials, but that both Alexander and Corker are silent is mystifying and tragic.

Let’s face it; Tennessee is the epicenter for horse abuse in the world, not just the United States, and were it not for a pocket of cancer centered in Shelbyville that promotes the sadistic and horrible method called soring to produce an unnatural gait among Tennessee Walking Horses, there would be absolutely no need to encumber our nation’s governing body with such a pointed measure directed at much less than one percent of our country’s horse owners.

Sadly, soring Tennessee Walkers has flourished for a half-century and today’s generation of scofflaws has become so blatant that just in the past two years felony convictions and a pending trial in Maryville have not only sickened the nation but have created such an outcry that Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield and Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen pushed a bill that will not only prosecute those who apply caustic substances to “sore” horses but also prohibit the grotesque stacks, or pads, painful pressure bands, and other so-called “action devices.”

A scurrilous group of Tennessee Walking Horse owners and trainers, collectively known as “Big Lickers” who are centered in Shelbyville, has openly defied the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Humane Society of the United States, and a lengthy list of other equine organizations for years. The “Lickers” are now at the forefront of defiantly opposing the USDA, the American Association of Veterinary Medicine and dozens of similar groups in what is akin to some radical blood-lust group that is roundly reviled by horsemen the world over.

But the Lickers have lobbied the state’s Republican representatives in a sick but effective way, using influence and campaign dollars in a manner that is horrifying in any democracy and loathsome to the majority of Tennesseans who have elected them into office. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Franklin) makes no effort to hide the fact she was feted by the Big Lick in August and was given a reported $70,000 for her campaign coffers. She has since openly opposed the Prevent All Soring Tactics bill and has used her sway in Congressional corridors in an attempt to derail it.

Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) was similarly hosted the year before and notoriously confronted Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on behalf of the Shelbyville crowd, allegedly demanding Vilsack alter the manner his department’s inspectors upheld sanctions at horse shows. DesJarlais was recently named among the “most corrupt” members of Congress by the Citizens for Responsibility of Ethics group, which had cited the ever-contentious Blackburn previously.

But the most worrisome of all allegations is that Steven B. Smith, the state campaign finance chairman in Senator’s Alexander’s current campaign, is also the president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Smith has been actually ticketed by the USDA for violating the federal Horse Protection Act and is believed to have considerable influence in the state’s Republican Party.

The current Breeds and Exhibitors board of directors is riddled with previous violators of the Horse Protection Act and its compliance arm, called SHOW, is currently being decertified by the USDA due to persistent violations. Membership has plummeted, down by over 10,000 in the past few years, and a huge group, the Back Country Horsemen of America that represents 13,000 riders, has just left the TWHBEA in disgust.

Tennessee’s Republicans in Congress include Blackburn, DesJarlais, Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), Jimmy Duncan (R-Knoxville), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump). Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Knoxville, has also not endorsed the PAST Act.

I believe the people of Tennessee should hold any and all accountable who would promote or allow an animal to be abused. Larry Joe Wheelon, a trainer in Maryville, and three other men are currently awaiting trial for horse abuse. According to eyewitness accounts, animals under Wheelon’s care that were seized could hardly walk. How long must this go on?

For our senators and Congressional representatives to condone horse abuse with their deafening silence and marked inaction is, to me, every bit as inexcusable as the soring that has cursed the state of Tennessee for a half-century. After all, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke -- 1729-1797)

Let’s finally put an end to the evil of horse abuse in Tennessee. Or else do away with those who do nothing.

royexum@aol.com


Wine And Gun Laws On July 1

Yay! We can buy wine at Wal-Mart! That's a huge step forward in the Tennessee vice world and we are all looking forward to 8 a.m. tomorrow when we don't have to go to a store where we might be seen by someone with whom we will share a pew on Sunday. Now you can buy your bubbly with your groceries, which truly makes July 1 like the New Years of the summer. Like it's January's counterpart, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Story You Won’t See

In a puzzling time when the big daily newspapers have veered strongly away from “all the news that is fit to print,” allow me to share a story that you very likely will not see on CNN, ABC News, or in the big media conglomerates that influence the way you think, the way you react and – as a result – easily warp our common senses. This story is very true. Late last Sunday afternoon, ... (click for more)

Spiegel Says Walker County Could Make Payments On $8,705,000 Hutcheson Debt; James Says Letter is Heavy-Handed

Erlanger Health System CEO Kevin Spiegel has written Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell to say that Erlanger would consider taking payments on the $8,705,000 Hutcheson debt. Stuart James, special counsel for Walker County, called the overture "heavy-handed." Walker County earlier offered a $1.3 million "global settlement" that was rejected by Erlanger. Catoosa County ... (click for more)

Customer At East Ridge Gas Station Shoots And Kills Robber; He Had Been Trying To Take Female Clerk With Him

East Ridge Police said a customer at an East Ridge gas station early Thursday morning shot a robber, who was then found by police lying outside the station and was arrested.  The robber has died.  His name is being withheld pending the notification of next of kin. At 1:47 a.m., East Ridge Police responded to 4011 Ringgold Road, the Marathon Service Station, on ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Whips Dalton For Top Spot In Blue

The Signal Mountain Green Giants have the upper hand in the Chattanooga Area Swim League’s highly-competitive Blue division and the clinched at least a tie for first place with Thursday’s win over Dalton, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday before the championship celebration can officially begin. The Green Giants lost to Dalton by 15 points at Dalton in the first week of ... (click for more)

Travis Hale New Softball Coach At Soddy-Daisy

Travis Hale, who spent one year under being groomed for the job, has been named the new softball coach at Soddy-Daisy High School. Hale, who previously was an assistant coach at Hixson and head coach at Loftis Middle School, was groomed for the job last season working under coach Wes Skiles, who has stepped down after four seasons. “I focused on paying attention to what ... (click for more)