Roy Exum: Horse Reform Threatened

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It is being said that “bureaucratic bungling” is what is causing the United States Department of Agriculture to withdraw some new rules for the scandalous Tennessee Walking Horse industry. That is untrue; it is being threatened by a pair of devious United State Senators. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander have taken so much in “campaign contributions” from the seedy “Big Lick” that it is alleged President Donald Trump slashed the national effort before he even danced at the Inaugural Ball.

According to one source, McConnell has pocketed over $750,000 that the despicable Shelbyville crowd has spurred his way and Alexander, whose state campaign chairman and the Dirty Lick’s top villain are one in the same – Steven B. Smith – has led every elected Republican from Tennessee in Washington to share in the dirty money.

The Lickers are desperate for the state USDA to give them a $100,000 allocation of taxpayer money “to do a study” –when insiders say it is more to stay afloat. Membership dues and contributions have plummeted since the public became aware of the sadistic savagery used to inflict pain on the animal’s forelegs. This causes the anguished animals to do a dance called “the Big Lick” that is now being increasingly banned from horse shows.

Curiously, Trump has appointed former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as the new Secretary of Agriculture and Perdue obtained his veterinarian’s license from the University of Georgia. Every veterinary group in the United States has decried the soring of Walkers, as well as the Humane Society of the United States and animal welfare groups the world over.

The new rules, which call for the removal of action devices and the ungainly pads on the front hooves, were approved on the last day of Barack Obama’s administration but had the support of 224 Senators and members of Congress, as well as over 100,000 public comments. Efforts to eliminate the cheating have gone on for almost a century but not until recent years has the public become aware of the rampant torture by walking horse trainers. Several trainers have testified the only way to achieve the unnatural Big Lick gait is with soring.

According to the USDA’s own records, somewhere between 67 and 95 percent of horses that were shown at the Shelbyville complex tested positive for chemicals and irritants that might be used for soring. This is why the Dirty Lick wants to use its own inspectors and judges. Another reason is that between 1988 and 2014, there have been over 4,000 violations of the Federal Horse Protection Act but not one person has ever been in jail.

The USDA knows its biggest black eye is the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. For the past three years different members of Congress and the Senate have pushed for the PAST Act (Prevent All Soring Tactics) and, while the bill has enjoyed a majority of co-sponsors, the sway McConnell and Alexander hold over the two chambers is appalling.

Last fall 42 Senators and 182 members of Congress called on outgoing USDA secretary Tom Vilsac to push the rule change but since Purdue has not been approved, there is a slim hope he could revive the changes. Keith Dane, the Senior Advisor for Equine Protection in the Humane Society, told one reporter, “Our hope is that either he, once he is confirmed, or someone else in a position to move the rule forward will do that swiftly and that it will be published in the Federal Register and become final.”

The noted horseman said that the Humane Society is not giving up. “We don’t really know for sure what happened,” he said. “We know at the end of the administration, as with many administrations in the past, there is an effort to get final regulations published late in the game. Whether that was the cause of the delay that prevented the rule from getting published before Obama left office or if there was some other behind-the-scenes action is really impossible for us to know.

“What all of us do know is this is something the USDA clearly wanted to happen and I can speak for sound horse owners and riders too – We all want this to happen.”

With Perdue’s confirmation all but assured, he could revive the rules changes but, with McConnell’s position in the Senate and the fact Trump picked McConnell’s wife, the Taiwan-born Elaine Chao as his Secretary of Transportation, there is reason to believe the new rules effort could be blocked.

“Right now it is wait-and-see,” said Dane. “We need to clean this part of the horse industry up once and for all.”

Click here for video of horses abused.

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