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:
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.