Cruel Practice Damages Entire Equine Industry’s Image
Branding is not just for public figures or businesses.
We all have a brand.
What we say and do, how we appear to others, what people remember about us, identifies us and is our own personal brand.
Committing cruelty against animals can brand a person, an industry and even a country.
Animal cruelty creates a stigma that once etched in the public’s mind takes a great deal of change and hard work to remove, if it ever really goes away entirely.
A case in point is the act of horse soring.
Soring is the practice of inflicting pain to legs and hooves so excruciating that a horse snatches his legs up in an exaggerated, high-stepping gait prized in competitions. The more people learn about about the practice of horse soring the more appalled they become.
And it is not simply impacting the Tennessee Walking Horse industry brand but other segments of the horse industry. This is the subject of a remarkably good Editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader posted online at Kentucky.com.
This week’s Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show is at risk of guilt by association.
No less than U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R- Lexington, during a recent meeting with the editorial board, cited the 77-year-old show as an example of our state’s Tennessee walking horse tradition.
“Oh, no, absolutely not,” a staffer at the American Saddlebred Horse Association assured us. The Lexington-based association represents riders and horses now competing at The Red Mile in the world’s largest outdoor Saddlebred show, the first leg of their sport’s triple crown.
The distinction between the breeds is especially relevant now as the barbaric practice of soring comes under fire from the mainstream equine and veterinary worlds and many in Congress.
Unlike walking horses, American Saddlebreds are not routinely subjected to soring and must pass legitimate soundness tests to compete.
If the congressman from the Horse Capital of the World doesn’t know the difference, why wouldn’t the average person assume that all high-stepping horses — indeed, all performance horses — are subject to the same kind of intentional cruelty as Tennessee walking horses?
The Editorial continues:
Even if Barr and some of his fellow Republicans don’t care about the horses, they should care about collateral damage to the image of the horse industry, which employs many Kentuckians and must attract new owners and riders to thrive.
Barr, Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Rep. Hal Rogers have lined up with several lawmakers from Tennessee behind a bill that would provide just new cover for the same old abuses.
The bill mentioned was introduced in retaliation against The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act), sponsored by Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield, and cited as “the best chance for finally ending soring by outlawing the instruments of torture, the chains and padded shoes.”
Padded shoes can be used to hide devices that irritate the hoof. But this is just the beginning. Learn more at the AVMA document prepared in support of the PAST Act (I encourage you to read it).
The Editorial highlights a couple of groups lobbying against the PAST Act, who are no surprise to us. But they do so at some risk.
The American and Kentucky Farm Bureaus, which oppose the PAST Act, no doubt think they are defending the rights of livestock and poultry farmers and other animal owners against advances by animal-rights activists. In fact, by appearing to defend an indefensible practice, they give ammunition to the animal-rights movement.
A person commenting on the Editorial states:
As a farmer and former exhibitor of TWH, I find it appalling that the Farm Bureau would not want the PAST Act. It is also sad that HSUS had to get involved because this is the first time I’ve ever thought they had any credibility. This will hurt farmers across the board.
Imagine that? The American and Kentucky Farm Bureaus inadvertently improving the brand of animal-right activists while sullying theirs by supporting the heinous cruelties associated with horse soring.
The 76th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration® takes place this year August 20 – August 30 in Shelbyville, Tennessee where the breed’s World Grand Champion is crowned.
At least one sponsor appears all too aware how it affects their brand although this is not the reason they give for withdrawing their support. See Regions Bank Out as Walking Horse Celebration Sponsor, Heidi Hall, The Tennessean, June 25, 2014 »