As the midterm elections were being held across America on Tuesday, I wondered about the horses. It has been proven that the hideous soring of Tennessee Walkers continues in unabated fashion but absolutely nothing changed this week in the very state where it is the worst in the world. Every incumbent in Tennessee has just been reelected to Congress and now the disgraceful phalanx our so-called “representatives” will return to Washington.
Think about this: There are now 58 of 100 United States senators who are co-sponsors of the “Prevent All Soring Practices Act” that is currently log-jammed in Washington. In Congress, there are 304 of 435 members of Congress who are co-sponsoring a similar bill that would definitely strengthen the Horse Protection Act. While you would think “the majority rules,” the better belief is that neither bill now has much of a chance because Tennessee’s elected officials are actively blocking it.
To understand that, you need to know that only one person in Tennessee’s entire delegation to Washington supports the anti-soring legislation – Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Memphis. All the others have sided with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander in a disgusting, watered-down legislation that benefits the disreputable “Big Lick” segment of the horse industry and casts a sadistic pall over the entire state.
Lamar Alexander’s state campaign chairman is Steven B. Smith, a known violator of the Horse Protection Act who heads the Breeders and Exhibitors Association for the “Big Lick.” Smith, also a prominent activist in state Republican circles, has allegedly used his influence and checkbook to coddle the state’s politicians who claim they work for “all the people” in Washington when, in fact, the great majority of Tennesseans are nauseated with the “Big Lick” and its shady followers.
The salvation, if it can be called that, is that soring and documented abuse is eating away at the walking horse industry like the most insidious cancer. The World “Celebration” in Shelbyville is now a money-losing joke, plagued by small crowds, no-show exhibitors and a scathing public perception. Walking horse owners are fleeing the “Big Lick” to the flat-shod movement and the number of horse shows that won’t allow horses with padded front hooves is growing.
Farms are for sale in “walking horse country” and trainers, who claim they can’t produce the grotesque unnatural gait without resorting to soring, are going out of business. At a time when the public is clamoring for Washington to produce jobs, lawmakers from Tennessee seem oblivious there is even a problem in what was once the state’s most-treasured industry. While it is abundantly clear that those who would defile an animal have no qualms about doing exactly the same to the breed, you can rest assured that jobs will continue to dry up in the once-teeming horse industry.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who famously once wrote the Secretary of the Dept. of Agriculture a letter threatening to withhold funding unless the department refrained from upholding the Horse Protection Act, was not only reelected in Kentucky on Tuesday but in January is destined to become Senate Majority Leader. Talk about a fox guarding the hen house!
McConnell, a longtime “friend” of the “Big Lick,” is one of four senators who are co-sponsoring Alexander’s alternate bill to the PAST Act (this opposed to 58) but as the Senate Majority Leader it is believed he will use his clout to quash any new legislation against soring. As the Horse Protection Act now stands, a violation usually means little more than a form letter from the USDA and it is said, if you can imagine the poisons used to sore the majestic animals, a greater number of Walkers die from “colic” than any other horse breed in the world.
In the State of Tennessee, horse abuse is now a felony – punishable by a prison term – but not one sheriff in the state has issued a summons at a horse show since the new law came into being 16 months ago. Oh, there is ample proof, produced by trained inspectors and licensed veterinarians, but no arrests, much to the chagrin of advocates all over the globe. Horsemen in foreign countries don’t understand torturing horses, much less for some cheap ribbon. Really.
So think about this: The PAST Act has been endorsed by virtually every animal health and equine group in the United States but is opposed 100-percent by the Republican representatives from Tennessee. Yes, that is absolutely outrageous but – mind you -- every one of them was just reelected.
How did our horses fair at the polls?