I am in Nashville today for the official opening of Animal Care Expo, which will host 2,000 people from all across the country and from 40 nations. It’s the animal welfare movement’s leading training, education and inspiration conference, and I am so pleased that The HSUS brings so many people together to learn about best practices, innovations in our field, and new strategies for helping dogs, cats, horses and other animals.
It’s very timely that we’ve assembled in Tennessee, since Governor Bill Haslam will be deciding in the next few days on whether he will sign or veto an “ag-gag” law that just narrowly made it through the state legislature. Yesterday, he announced that he’s waiting to see the analysis of the constitutionality of the proposed law by state Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr. This is an overbroad, overreaching measure, and there’s no reason for it to be enacted, and every reason it deserves a veto.
Ag-gag bills are part of a national effort by agribusiness groups to pass laws that make it difficult or impossible to expose inhumane and often illegal behavior at animal-use enterprises. But here in Tennessee, the only major investigation undertaken by The HSUS was an exposure of a corrupt, suspended Hall of Fame Tennessee walking horse trainer. His abusive, barbaric behavior, and that of his stable hands, was widely condemned and resulted in numerous criminal convictions. No sensible person has excused what he did.
So the effort to pass an ag-gag law strikes a particularly false note here in The Volunteer State, since that HSUS investigation provided such an important public service by exposing an abusive trainer in the walking horse industry.
It’s also triggered a national effort to bolster the federal Horse Protection Act. The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, HR 1518, would strengthen the federal law against soring and make it a crime to use stacks and chains on the feet of competition walking horses and horses of other related breeds that have been victims of soring abuse.
We’ll be hosting a press conference tomorrow at the Opryland Hotel to announce the outcome of an analysis of last year’s federal inspections of show horses. The results are deeply distressing, and that’s why we not only need the PAST Act, but also a new attitude within the industry to obey the law.
We’ll have an army of folks cheering on our efforts to treat animals with more kindness and decency.