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


The Environmental Impact Of The Proposed Walden Grocery Store

Improperly Installed Fire Hydrant Causing Damage At N. Crest Road, Colyar Drive

Why Reduce Traffic Into Northgate To One Lane?


The proposed grocery store in Walden on Signal Mountain is to be built over the Sewanee coal seam with 20 feet of mountain top removal and gas storage tanks dug even further into the ground. ... (click for more)

A fire hydrant that was installed just six weeks ago left an eight-foot-deep hole in the sidewalk. It is washing out under the street and larger limestone pillar and wall at the corner of North ... (click for more)

What brainiac traffic engineer decided it was a good idea to reduce traffic flow into Northgate from northbound Highway 153 to one lane? Must be affiliated with a front end alignment business. ... (click for more)


Opinion

The Environmental Impact Of The Proposed Walden Grocery Store

The proposed grocery store in Walden on Signal Mountain is to be built over the Sewanee coal seam with 20 feet of mountain top removal and gas storage tanks dug even further into the ground. Signal Mountain is covered with old mines and sinkholes that expose 20 million tons of coal in the Sewanee coal seam. The environmental hazards (wastewater, stormwater, acid damaged creeks ... (click for more)

Improperly Installed Fire Hydrant Causing Damage At N. Crest Road, Colyar Drive

A fire hydrant that was installed just six weeks ago left an eight-foot-deep hole in the sidewalk. It is washing out under the street and larger limestone pillar and wall at the corner of North Crest Road and Colyar Drive, Missionary Ridge. An 8' x 6' part of the sidewalk has already collapsed into the hole. It will all collapse if not repaired soon (very soon). There are already ... (click for more)

Breaking News

MTAS Report On Collegedale Police Close To Being Finished; Commissioners To Hear It In Closed Session

The report concerning Collegedale’s police department that MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) was asked to do, is close to being finished. Honna Rogers, the city’s liaison with MTAS, has told Mayor Katie Lamb that she will be notified when it is ready. The mayor asked the commissioners how they would like to proceed when it is complete. City Attorney Sam Elliott said ... (click for more)

Information Sought Following Suspicious Weekend Fires

Investigators have determined that two fires that occurred right down the street from one another were intentionally set. The Chattanooga Fire Department was called to a shed fire in the 4000 block of Dodds Avenue around 4:20 a.m. on Sunday. They found the burning shed and as they started working to extinguish the blaze, Chattanooga Police officers alerted the ... (click for more)

Sports

Bryan Falls In Hoops Opener at University of Cumberlands

– Bryan men’s basketball paid a visit to Mid-South Conference opponent University of the Cumberlands on Monday night for their season-opener and came up just shy in a 77-70 decision that went the Patriots’ way. The early test for the Lions was no small challenge, considering the Patriots are coming off a 2018-19 campaign that included four upsets over NAIA top-25 programs and an ... (click for more)

Vols Focused On South Carolina After Holding Alabama To Its Lowest Point Total

After a hard-fought battle in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Vols held the top-ranked Crimson Tide to its lowest point total of the season in a 35-13 loss, Tennessee is looking forward to returning to Neyland Stadium to host a late afternoon matchup with South Carolina on Saturday at 4 p.m. (ET). "Neyland Stadium has been really an electric atmosphere this whole season," head ... (click for more)