Senator Lamar Alexander, a 74-year-old Republican who is currently running for re-election, has shamefully and famously tried to derail the PAST Act, which is much-needed legislation in the Senate and the House that would help curb the rampant soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. Last December Alexander told the Editorial Board of the Nashville Tennessean, “I am not an expert on veterinary medicine, but I know of the inspections they have (at the National Celebration in Shelbyville.) Almost all of them are 96 percent to 98 percent successful.”
Anyone who knows, sees, or plans to vote for the senator should make him aware that he has horribly “misspoken.” It has just been learned the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors examined 389 horses at the 2014 show in August and found 199 to be in violation of rules outlined in the Horse Protection Act. In short, that’s 51 percent that the government agency found – as the senator might say – was “unsuccessful.”
Further, according to Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), in 2012 the USDA found 154 horses in violation after 719 were inspected (21 percent) and in 2013 found 77 of 702 horses in violation (11 percent).
The 2014 numbers are staggering – more horses were in violation than were tested by the USDA! The PAST Act, which calls for a much-greater presence of government inspectors and outlaws the padded hooves, pressure shoes and other hideous devices to make the horses dance a grotesque and unnatural dance, is long overdue. A number of trainers say the Big Lick can’t be produced without torturing a Walker.
As sad as Alexander’s stand for those who continue to abuse horses might be, it has been revealed the number of horses entered in the horse show has dwindled by 50 percent in the last two years. Let’s go ahead and admit it: the despicable “Big Lick” faction of the horse industry is dying and, when it does, the huge donations to charmers like Alexander, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Franklin) will dry up faster than a falling leaf.
It is widely known that Alexander’s State Finance Chairman is Steven B. Smith, who heads the “Breeder’s and Exhibitor’s Association for the increasing unpopular “Big Lick” crowd. Steven B. has personally been cited for violating the Horse Protection Act but … he has also raised hundreds of thousands to elect the Big Lick’s Republican “operatives.”
Allow me to explain: Right now in Congress there are 304 cosponsors of the PAST (“Prevent All Soring Tactics”) Act -- 190 Democrats and 114 Republicans. But eight of nine Republican members of Congress from Tennessee aren’t among them. No, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Jimmy Duncan, Steven Fincher, and Phil Roe are instead among 11 cosponsors of a badly watered-down alternative bill that would better benefit the Big Lickers.
Alexander sponsored a similar “saliva” bill in the Senate, so called because it is as lukewarm as spit. Out of 100 U.S. Senators, there are today a majority of 58 who are cosponsors of the PAST Act (called S. 1406) but neither of Tennessee’s Republican senators is among them. Alexander is the alternate bill’s sponsor and – to date – there are only three cosponsors.
I do not believe any living person can condone scientific evidence that over half the horses tested at this year’s National Sore-abration were held from competition and their owners, riders and/or trainers were ticketed. As the Horse Protection Act now stands, all that happens is these people are sent a citation which they dutifully ignore. I am told more horses would have been caught but, without the PAST Act, the USDA cannot get the funding to do things right.
The most damning fact? In the state of Tennessee, horse abuse is now a felony, punishable with one to five years in jail. Of the 199 horses withheld from competition due to obvious signs of soring, not one arrest was made, not one civil summons was given, and all the miscreants simply went their way, trying to devise a new way not to get caught.
Lamar Alexander had a deep and rich history as a notable Tennessean, I’ll give him that, but when he is viewed at his worst, his best comes in at second place. I am told there is legally a way Alexander and his “Big Lick” buddy in Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, can successful tie up the PAST Act in committee forever. Forget that a majority of Senators and members of Congress are co-sponsoring it.
The only good news is that the Big Lick is dying, all because of its self-inflicted wounds.