Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Passing a bill in the United States Congress is not exactly a walk in the park. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act was introduced in response to a 2010 Report of the Inspector General at the United States Department of Agriculture. In that report, the Inspector General concluded that the current program for inspecting Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) for soring abuse is not adequate because the inspectors are hired from participants in the shows and therefore have a conflict of interest.
The PAST Act seeks to ban any artificial devices aimed at changing a horse’s natural gait, including caustic chemicals, stacked shoes, and weights and chains, and is apparently stalled, despite widespread support. We can lay the blame for this directly at the feet of the scurrilous crowd trying to halt this national effort to eradicate the abuse of TWH horses. This abuse has been illegal under federal law for more than 40 years. It’s also illegal under the state laws of Kentucky and Tennessee to intentionally injure the hooves and legs of horses to cause them to exaggerate their gait during “Big Lick” horse shows, all for the purpose of winning ribbons. In the meantime, horses are still being subjected to stacked shoes, caustic chemicals, and chains while we wait for Congress.
Wayne Pacelle, (CEO) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently compared horse sorers to cockfighters:
“ These people, like the cockfighters, are scofflaws. They are actively working in the political domain – in this case, lobbying against pending federal legislation, H.R. 1518 and S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act — to protect their criminal enterprise.”
Passing the Bill, which would eliminate the corrupt self-policing system while strengthening penalties for violators, is the only way to save the TWH breed. Americans need to demand that Congress pass this Bill, with its overwhelming support, and not let a minority of self-interested animal abusers block a vote.
For all the efforts of horse advocates, there is no shortage of crazily-unethical supporters of continued abuse….
- Ed Whitfield, ( R-KY) is the lead sponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would strengthen federal protections for TWH in order to make them step higher in competitions. Whitfield’s legislation would require that inspections of Tennessee Walking Horses for signs of soring be performed by USDA certified inspectors. Whitfield recently released a redacted document Tuesday showing how a complaint filed against him with the House Ethics Committee appeared to involve major players in the TWH industry, despite denials from some of them. Whitfield denied that his wife had lobbied him on the issue, saying his interest in curtailing soring predated her involvement with the Humane Society of the United States, Connie Whitfield is a “policy adviser” with the group.
- Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) who are co-sponsors of the Bill.
- Marty Irby, a reformed “Big Licker” who is now a evangelic “Flatter.” Marty was also 2 time president of the TWHBEA (2010 – 2012) and is presently the International Walking Horse Association Legislative Counsel advocating for passing of the PAST Act. His decision to become an anti-soring advocate cost him his marriage and his contracting business, His father, William Irby, a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, no longer speaks to him. A former world champion TWH competitor, Irby said he finally grew disgusted with pretending that soring wasn’t an integral part of creating the “Big Lick.” Irby says the ongoing practice of soring is perpetuated by a system of “corrupt animal welfare inspections, corrupt judging, corrupt training methods, corrupt business practices … corrupt horse shows, and corrupt titles.”
- Bill Harlin, a man The Tennessean describes as “synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses,” and the owner of Harlinsdale Farm where some of the most famous grand champions in the breed originated. He acknowledges that
- Clay Harlin, son of Bill Harlin, who also acknowledges that the soring cult of the “Big Lick” are unwilling to stop the abuse of show horses. He, too, called on Congress to pass the bill.
- Veterinarian John C. Haffner, who recently related that his increasing exposure to ever more blatant abuse of horses compelled him to sell his veterinary practice. After years of witnessing trainers’ efforts to make sure their horses were in enough pain to perform the “Big Lick” but not so much that they’d fail inspections, he found the corruption to be unendurable.
- American Veterinary Medical Association Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director for the AVMA, scoffed at Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN-7) Bill, H.R. 4098 saying, “In fact (it) will do nothing to protect gaited horses and stop the egregious practice of soring. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes.”
- American Association of Equine Practitioners
- National Sheriffs Association
- Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
- The American Horse Council, along with The American Quarter Horse Association, the American Paint Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association, the Pinto Horse Association of America, the Arabian Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, Maryland Horse Council, and other groups.
- The more than 300 co-sponsors of the PAST Act – a majority of the Congress (45 Senators and 264 House members at the time of writing)
- The Veterinary Medical Associations from 50 states that have helped create vast support for this Bill
- The Performance Show Horse Association that brought the complaint against Whitfield. The printed names of the following 13 individuals appear on the bottom of the document (these individuals have a cumulative total of 53 violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), and a number of those have occurred this year following the filing of the complaint) The PSHA and its lobbyist Jeff Speaks developed the strategy of filing an ethics complaint as an effort to stop passage of H.R. 1518, because ethics complaints take time to respond to:
- Jim Cortner
- Jamie Hankins
- Mike Inman (CEO of The Celebration)
- Doyle Meadows (Former CEO of The Celebration)
- Duke Thorson
- Terry Dotson (Former Chairman of the Performance Show Horse Association)
- Gayle Holcomb
- Bruce MacDonald
- Mickey McCormick (President of the Walking Horse Trainers Association)
- James Linton Griffith
- Jeffrey Howard (Editor of the Walking Horse Report)
- Lee Wall McGartland
- and Buddy Stasney
- Chip Weddington, a TWH trainer who threatened Marty Irby less than 24 hours after Irby testified on Capitol Hill about the horrifying abuse of championship Tennessee Walking Horses. Irby received threatening message which came from the Facebook account of Weddington, who wrote, “I don’t associate myself with bitch made mother fuckers who sing like little fucking birds to the fucking [Humane Society of the United States] and everybody else … I hope your gay ass gets what’s coming to you soon!!!” If Irby ever approached him, Weddington said he would “knock ur ass smooth out!!!” According to USDA animal welfare reports, in 2011 Weddington was suspended from Walking Horse shows for a year after inspectors cited him for violating the Horse Protection Act.
- The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association who canned Marty Irby and selected soring proponent Stephen B. Smith to replace him. The group also sent a letter to Congress detailing its opposition to the PAST Act. Signed by current president Rob Cornelius, the letter states that due to “budgetary costs and resulting economic damage, the PAST Act is simply not something our country needs at this time.”
- Stephen Smith, the newly minted TWHBEA President, is an avid “Big Licker” enthusiast and a powerful Republican political donor. According to forms listing violators of the Horse Protection Act, Smith was cited numerous times for soring violations at a TWH show in the late 1980’s. Smith and his family are major donors to GOP lawmakers in Tennessee, including Rep. Blackburn, the chief opponent of the PAST Act. Since 1989, Smith, his wife Denise, and their son Stephen B. Smith, Jr., have donated more than $270,000 to Republican political campaigns, most of them in Tennessee.
- The discreditable crowd who are desperately trying to halt a national effort to eradicate horse abuse of TWH horses with their own Bill. Not shockingly, 7 of the 10 are from Tennessee, the epi-center of this sadistic method of “training.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) recently introduced an alternative bill, HR 4098, that would greatly reduce the measures being sought by Whitfield’s PAST Act. Blackburn’s Bill would not only allow the grotesque stacks but would also virtually eliminate inspection efforts called for in the PAST Act that are necessary to stop this torture.
- The rest of the ethically challenged co-sponsors of Blackburn’s Bill are:
- Diane Black (R-TN-6)
- Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4)
- John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-2)
- Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8)
- Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-TN-3)
- David “Phil” Roe (R-TN-1)
- The three others who have endorsed Blackburn’s bill are Garland “Andy” Barr (R-KY-6)
- Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)
- and Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY-5)
- Virgina TWHBEA Director Pam McKinney who was escorted from the Capitol Hill’s Walk on Washington by U.S. Capitol Police for improper conduct, which included the utterance of F-bombs and flipping the middle-finger salute.
- The misguided attempt by random pro-slaughters, urban carriage people, and puppymillers, who had to get on the “ethics complaint bandwagon” against Whitfield with their own Change.org petition that has garnered only 244 signatures.
- And finally, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, currently refuses to bring the PAST Act to the floor for a vote. His decision is inconsistent with leadership’s stated preference for adhering to regular order. Furthermore, it is too late in the year to resort to a discharge petition according to House rules.