Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring. HSUS image.

Walking Horse Celebration war of words, soring and slaughter

Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring. HSUS image.
Dr. Clem Dussault of the Office of Inspector General and veterinarian Angie Lingl investigate for evidence of soring at the stables of well-known Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell in Fayette County, Tenn. The undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments against McConnell, for multiple violations of the federal Horse Protection Act.

What do horse soring and horse slaughter have in common? It may not be the first thing that springs to mind, or even the second. I am referring to the Horse Protection Act.

I just read the article about the continuing war of words among the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry following the conclusion of the 11-day National Celebration in Shelbyville published by The Tennesseean columnists who have covered it diligently before, during and now after the event.

No matter what is said by whom, against or in defense of horse soring inspections, what seems pretty clear to me is that the only statements of true relevance were spoken by convicted Walking Horse sorer Brad Davis who said that the Big Lick cannot be accomplished unless soring has taken place. I concur. So, eliminate the Big Lick and you eliminate soring. Right? Well, not exactly. Inspections reveal that even flat shod Walking Horses have proven to be sored.

Horse soring is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s feet, ankles and legs to the extent they lift their legs freakishly high in an exaggerated gait, in some instances called the “Big Lick”. The Big Lick is what wins the big prizes.

So where do we go from here? The bottom line seems to be this.

The USDA historically has not had the necessary funding to inspect for soring. So, they have allowed certain Walking Horse industry groups to help conduct inspections for signs of soring. According to published reports, allowing these groups to do so has not worked out well at all for the horses, and in some cases benefited certain owners and trainers. Harsh words full of accusations on this point are flying here and there, but soring does not end.

So what if the federal government were to increase funding for the USDA inspectors needed to enforce the Horse Protection Act, the law enacted to end horse soring.

The HSUS comes into play here too — with a twist.

“We’re calling for congress to strengthen the Horse Protection Act as a result of all that has come to light this year,” Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS, told The Tennessean.

By strengthen I believe Dane refers to an increase in federal funding for the USDA for more horse soring inspections.

Legislation banning the slaughter and export for slaughter of U.S. horses H.R. 2966 and S. 1176 is an amendment to The Horse Protection Act, and referred to as the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011.

Right at the very bottom of the text of these bills is this language:

(e) Authorization of Appropriations- Section 12 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1831) is amended by striking `$500,000′ and inserting `$5,000,000′.

Section 12 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1831) reads:

Section 12.

There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act $125,000 for the period beginning July 1, 1976, and ending September 30, 1976; and for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 1976, and for each fiscal year thereafter there are authorized to be appropriated such sums, not to exceed $500,000, as may be necessary to carry out this Act.

(15 U.S.C. § 1831.) (P.L. 91-540 § 12, Dec. 9, 1970, 84 Stat. 1407; P.L. 94-360 § 10, July 13, 1976, 90 Stat. 921 [effective July 1, 1976].)

As you can see, the sum requested is not for the enforcement of the American Horse Slaughter Prevent Act, but the Horse Protection Act.

Dear readers, most of you know that the USDA has suffered numerous cuts in funding as many other federal agencies have. Can you imagine that the U.S. government is going to increase funding for horse soring inspections from up to $500,000 to $5M? No, we cannot either, and neither can the Congressional staff who our lobbyists speak with on a regular basis while working to move the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act along. So the bill has long seemed doomed as long as it contains this increase in federal funding language.

The following does not look good for increased USDA inspections.

“Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann wrote a letter Friday to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry asking the chairman to look into accusations of “retaliatory” and overzealous inspections by the USDA”, reports The Tennessean.

Sceptics in Washington say that the HSUS, in an attempt to get increased spending for horse soring inspections are leveraging public pressure to end horse slaughter to acquire it. To accomplish this, the mega animal rights group is using its considerable resources and media clout to expose the cruel and sordid horse soring cruelties that are occurring to demonstrate just how vital extra funding is to enforce the Horse Protection Act.

The current Administration and its Congress have not cast a friendly eye on any issue concerning the welfare of horses, whether it be horse slaughter or the zeroing out of our American wild horse and burro herds on public lands. It therefore seems highly unlikely they are going to change course and award up to $5M for the enforcement of a horse welfare law.

The war of words among the HSUS, USDA and the Walking Horse industry continues, keeping the issue of horse soring in the spotlight. In the meantime, members of Congress and their staff tell us the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is stuck right where it is as long as it contains the funding increase language laid out above. They also add, with some smirk, that we will have to fight the HSUS to get it removed.

On the other hand, if HSUS is successful in lobbying for the added USDA funding for horse soring inspections, who is to say equally that they cannot help shift the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 out of Committee, to a vote and signed into law as is.

Politics is very like a mental chess match. You have to think many moves ahead, calculate the consequences, and try to outwit your opponent and predict theirs.

We are watching to see who makes the next move before we make ours. However, the clock is ticking, and time is running out, not simply for us, but for the horses and they are all who really matter.

9 thoughts on “Walking Horse Celebration war of words, soring and slaughter”

  1. During the mule race @ the 108th Lincoln Co Fair this weekend, the announcer trying to be humorous, took a stab at the abuse issue when he shouted “Whip that mule, there ain’t no PETA or HSUS idiots here today”. Nice eh?


  2. Taxpayers subsidize billions to big oil&gas, millions to wealthy corporations w/ cattle on PUBLIC lands (like Barrick Gold), millions on deadly/unecessary wild horse/burro stampedes to blm “buddy” contractors, $41 million this fiscal year on “fertility control” for endangered – below genetic viability- supposed to be “protected” by law wild horses, millions on killing wildlife in preserves & national forests – YES WE CAN AFFORD TO ALLOCATE MORE FUNDS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT. In the long run, this should not come under USDA regulation and horses should be COMPANION ANIMALS.


  3. I understand both opinions above, but truly feel that our only permanent solution is to get the slaughter bills passed in the Senate and in the House and have President Obama sign them. To fight state by state is more exhausting and costly. I know that 50 Anti-slaughter Advocates showed up in Austin (I was one), while only 5 Pro-slaughter speakers showed up, and 4 of them had the big bucks and were very cozy with the Ag committee. If only one state allows slaughter, we have lost. Maybe, there will be new heads of the Federal committees that have not allowed the Anti-slaughter Bill to get out of committee, and we can have some influence with them. Allowing Horse Slaughter costs the American Tax Payer more, and the industry, were it to open, is in danger of closely quickly because of the drug problems in American Horse Meat being served in Europe. I do not want to give up on the full Bill being passed.


  4. Excellent article and the clever insight behind the situation.

    It will be interesting to see what comes of this and how it will impact the horse, particularly from the slaughter aspect.


  5. You keep going on about the ineffectiveness of State law, but it was State law that shut down Cavel in Illinois and Dallas Crown / Beltex in Texas in 2007. This was not done at the federal level.

    The federal provision that was recently reversed re funding of USDA inspections of horse meat for export is done year by year. It acts as a defense against horse slaughter plants from opening on U.S. soil and does nothing to stop horses from being exported for that purpose. This provision gets acted on year after year because it is in a federal budget bill.

    Washington has failed to pass a federal law banning horse slaughter “on and off the hook” one Congress after another for over decade. The “do nothing” Congresses began in the Geo W Bush era. Parties are not only split against each other, but also within their parties. It is a corporate manipulated, bureaucratic mess.

    These are the facts. We need facts, not opinions, if we are going to go forward and achieve any kind of success. Thank you!


    1. You are SO right! It seems like every session of Congress becomes more dysfunctional and subject to outside influence than the last. Has everyone read the latest from Jerry Finch? http://habitatforhorses.org/horse-slaughter-money-trail/ This is not only shocking in regard to horse slaughter, it paints a frightening picture of a government that is ruled by special interests and the will, of the citizens is completely ignored.

      I know we still have the vote, but, frankly, I don’t see anyone any better to vote in. At lease not here in Indiana.


  6. Good post.

    Taxpayers would have a rightful question to ask: why are they paying 5 million to take care of somebody’s horses in TN? Those who live in TN are likely aware and likely opposed if they know the truth. (Same for Texans.)

    This is exactly why individual states cannot be trusted to enforce anything within their own borders. We all know this already. Look at Ohio. 1 in 4 are on food stamps here due to our incompetent and irrational Governor put in office by outside funds. (Raise our taxes to pay for “some horses in TN”? Imagine the response from financially pressed Ohioans.)

    If we want to address enforcement costs, the first ones to be forced to contribute to that effort should come from those who get the cash from the industry. Make them pay first. They have the assets to spare, obviously. When are these wealthy operators in that industry held accountable for their own actions? Enforcement with no law to back it up is more than a challenge–it’s impossible.

    The average voter has no clue about horses, why they matter or why they need tax dollars spent to save their lives. Uneducated voters who do not know their own government’s processes are the reason we don’t see faster change. I have read posters who think the President is King and can wave a wand and make magic happen overnight, blame everybody else and then give up. Nothing could be more counterproductive to this effort. Until voters can comprehend the need for being informed with facts, comprehensive education about specific issues has to wait.

    Public pressure can bring about change but that is not happening. The voting public is not even aware of these issues.

    Agreed on national priorities for this country’s immediate future are: health care for all Americans so that the 51 million of us who work, pay taxes and live at risk are allowed to buy medical coverage which might save our lives. 45,000 Americans, including children, die per year for lack of adequate health care. We have one of the worst longterm records in the entire world re adequate health care and for our own residents–working, taxpaying Americans. Working families live at risk every single day due to the market meltdown (2000-2008). The casualties mount every day as long as this single national priority goes on as is. We all pay for health care if we can obtain it anywhere.

    In questions about life vs death, things are made very clear instantly. Health care and crucial issues like continuing and essential financial market reforms, banking and tax legislation are vital to our national future, immediate and longterm.

    Congress is the sole source of obstruction re any productive solutions. Their track record for the past two years has been abominable. The House has focused on attacking women who work and lying about health care for working Americans, so half of Congress is deeply involved in ways to justify harming women who work and pay taxes. How does anything get done via law when the House is unable to function at all? The Senate can’t work alone.

    Until voters get informed and vote for intelligent, productive state administrations, representatives and senators, we will go on seeing the criminal activities in these niche industries supported by Congress and state reps.

    Until we end horse slaughter, no hyped reform effort can ever be a permanent solution. As long as the evidence of violation can be destroyed with a sale to Mexico or Canada, it will never impact the most egregious violators in any equine industry.

    We are losing 123 million federal taxpayer dollars a year right now to our notorious petty criminals in horse slaughter in western states, per the most recent White House numbers.The supporters of that national offense live off of our tax dollars in Congress. It’s up to voters to find out what is going on and vote out the worst of the bunch. Voters themselves have to check on records of votes and to make sure that any candidate is responsible and concerned about the same issues as voters are. (www.Congress.org)

    Reforms and calling out corruption do not happen overnight. Great example–I called the White House for a two years daily during the Bush (TX–Dallas Crown kill plant era) administration and advocated an end to horse slaughter. I wrote and called horse organizations and others for years. No one bothered to act. (I admit I am old and date back to the Wild Horse Annie campaign in the late 60’s and early 70’s.) The expectation that any one sector can accomplish an end to abuses and slaughter acting alone is naive and unrealistic at best. As long as corrupt state officials and some in Congress are paid off to allow abuses and killing, this can’t change.

    When outside federal enforcement is mandated due to incompetent and/or corrupt state administrations, everyone’s debt rises. Here’s where the hypothetical goes: If all of us would be forced to pay for TN horses, it would be natural to assume that racing also needs federal dollars to continue operating. How much do we raise taxes to accommodate racing’s complete dysfunctions? What about the constant abuses in the AQHA? How much would enforcement cost all of us for that wealthy industry? What does it tell us that WY Rep Sue Wallis is permitted to remain in office while attempting business fraud in a handful of states? Do the feds come into WY and do federal taxpayers then pick a rep for WY? Local support for that taxpayer sponsored effort? Nil. Just another example.

    At a time when Americans are dying and/or being made homeless from a lack of health care reforms, the idea that these states can be trusted to administer any horse industry reforms is ludicrous. They have proven that they can’t. To expect Congress to be able to function as it was intended to has been proven wrong. Voters listened to misinformation from outside funders and voted in corrupt reps and senators with long histories of notorious special interest connections. Why?

    The Ag Committee in Congress operated in secret and reinstituted the chance of domestic horse slaughter and we are timidly hoping for some these corrupt niche industries to start policing themselves? Ending these niche wealthy specialized industries means an increase in slaughter. Halfhearted “reforms” are useless as long as that exists.

    Slaughter destroys incriminating evidence quickly and gives everybody who is guilty a pass. The easy answer is still available as long as it exists.

    Money is at the basis of any corrupt activity. Reforms interfere with that. Anyone who opposing reforms likes corruption. It is that simple.

    Congress is solely responsible for making national law and has the power of the purse (enforcement funds) http://www.Congress.org


    1. Writting from Canada, at our Equine Canada shows, we have to pay a fee for every horse entered to cover the cost of drug testing. The money goes into a pot, and shows are selected at random, with random horses selected at these shows to have urine or blood taken. Could not a similar system be put into place in the states – or do you already have something similar? The people showing pay for the testing, not the tax payer.

      And as to the new laws that are being suggested – why limit it to being illegial to sore a horse for show or selling? Make all soring illegial unless it is an APPROVED vet procedure. And as for the stacking, don’t just eliminate adding material, set limits as to the length of toe for natural hooves. Remember, the beating that we saw was to teach horses not to move or react to pain. This was the way around the old law. With this new law I had visions of horses walking around on 12 inch hooves and being allowed out of a stall for fear of breaking a hoof….

      I wish you the best with this. I really do. May it always be about the horse…


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