Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, does you and your readers a disservice by comparing those of us in the Tennessee walking horse industry with unlawful cockfighting in Kentucky.
Cockfighting is illegal. The provision within the farm bill merely suggests that it should further be illegal at the federal level to take a child to an illegal event. No brainer.
The bigger issue that Pacelle tries to tie into the discussion is the political rhetoric surrounding the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act — House Resoluton 1518 — and the practice of "soring" horses to exaggerate the natural gait our breed is known for. Just as with cockfighting, the practice of soring has been outlawed since passage of the Horse Protection Act in 1974.
Did the federal action totally eliminate the practice? No, just as other animal cruelty measures haven't eliminated the bad actors in other industries.
But where the walking horse industry is different is that we have steadily reduced abuse with a successful self-policing policy that has resulted in a compliance rate of more than 96 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own data. H. R. 1518 would alter that drastically by actually eliminating a complete sector of equine competitors — effectively wiping out the industry, which employs some 20,000 men and women and pumps $3.2 billion into the nation's economy.
What Pacelle chose to omit from his column is that the sponsor of H.R. 1518 is Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield, who happens to be married to a lobbyist for the HSUS.
He also failed to mention that the Nov. 13 hearing on the measure was replete with theatrics, including the congressman himself repeatedly dropping a chain onto a table in front of his microphone for effect. What the congressman failed to apprise his colleagues of at the time was that the action device he was using was outlawed decades ago.
Pacelle cites the support of veterinarian associations without disclosing that major vet associations have also published documents that plainly state that pads and action devices do no harm to the horse. In fact, pads are often prescribed by veterinarians for even non-walking horse breeds as a means of deterring laminitis.
Now let's look at the alternative sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee with a list of co-sponsors, including Kentucky Reps. Hal Rogers and Andy Barr. H.R. 4098 would bring objectivity and science into the inspection of horses before and after being shown in the ring replacing today's subjective testing.
USDA officials themselves will admit they sometimes disagree with each other on inspections and test results.
House Resoluton 4098 would also create one independent Horse Inspection Organization replacing today's multi-HIO system that sometimes leads to conflicts of interest between inspectors and those involved in breeding, riding or showing these magnificent animals.
H.R. 4098 eliminates soring. H.R. 1518 eliminates the horse. It's that simple.
I heard an analogy recently that puts it in graphic detail. If 3.5 percent of drivers are operating vehicles while drunk, you go after the drunk driver — not the 96.5 percent that are following the "rule of law" that Pacelle cited. That's exactly what Blackburn's bill does. The Whitfield bill goes after everyone with the only thing being accomplished is the ruination of a $3.2 billion economy.
Let's allow common sense to carry as much weight as emotion, rhetoric and theatrics. Our industry makes no apologies for bad actors. We want them out of our barns and show rings as much as anyone. But don't allow an organization with a radical agenda to punish the entire industry for the sins of a few.