A Congressional hearing is scheduled in Washington next week for a federal bill (HR 1518) that is aimed in a very direct way at the scandalous Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The bill, along with one called S 1406 in the Senate, seeks to strongly curb the rampant soring and sadistic abuse of animals that has made Tennessee the epicenter of horse abuse in the world and will hopefully strengthen the now-toothless federal Horse Protection Act of 1971.
Thus far a whopping 216 members of Congress – 152 Democrats and 64 Republicans -- have stepped forward to co-sponsor the bill, called the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act, that was introduced By Ed Whitfield (R-Ky) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). The Senate bill, sponsored by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), now has 26 co-sponsors but what is unfathomable is the lack of Tennessee politicians who have come forward to support the bills.
Perhaps they are ashamed that there is even a need for federal legislation but the better notion is that the “Dirty Lick” crowd in Shelbyville has used its political sway to make such men as our two Senators – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – join those wretched souls who turn a blind eye on animal abuse in order to win a blue ribbon. Why else wouldn’t Lamar and Bob jump at the chance to rid their own state of such a hideous cancer?
Further, a check on a government website shows that of Tennessee’s nine members of the House, only Rep. Cohen has had the courage to stand up for the bill. The other state representatives are David “Phil” Roe (R-Johnson City), John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-Knoxville), Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper), Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Diane Black (R-Gallatin), Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), and Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump, in Crockett County).
It is widely-known that Rep. DesJarlais has deep ties to the seedy Shelbyville-based crowd. He was given a fundraising party at last year’s world Celebration and has hounded the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, on behalf of the Dirty Lickers who are responsible for the now-sullied reputation of a breed that was once considered among Tennessee’s greatest treasures.
It is also widely known the Dirty Lickers have been lobbying in Washington since the bipartisan bill was introduced but with an all-star cast of over 100 veterinary, equine and other animal advocates in solid support of the legislation, even the dumbest politicians can recognize those who elect them are overwhelmingly in favor of eradicating horse abuse in Tennessee and neighboring states where soring takes place.
An informal but carefully conducted poll of the Breeders Association recently revealed that 65 percent of its active members supported the PAST Act, this despite a Board of Directors that includes some who have actually been cited for soring their horses with abrasive chemicals in hopes of an unnatural high-stepping gait that is, in a word, “grotesque” to true horsemen around the world.
Since an undercover tape of former Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell viciously beating and torturing horses appeared in 2011, the Walking Horse industry – and the state of Tennessee – has been put under a microscope for its indifference to horse abuse. Both senators and every member of the state’s Congressional delegation are well aware that the notoriety gave way to the fact the state’s horse industry is a national embarrassment that badly reflects on their constituency. The vast majority of Tennesseans are not amused by the Dirty Lickers and their ongoing misdeeds.
But now that Congress is on the brink of passing the bill – only 240 votes are needed – where are Tennessee’s representatives? All are up for reelection in 2014, along with Senator Alexander, and only a fool wouldn’t realize how they vote on the PAST Act will carry over to the polls. People will not only notice how the state’s representatives will vote but they will also be reminded by opposing candidates during next year’s campaigning for votes.
It is curious that in the one state of America where leadership to stop horse abuse is most needed, it is discovered to be most lacking. Curious indeed.