I have this thought going around my head…”it’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about playing the game…”
I spent the morning watching democracy (I think) on capitol hill. Rep. Janice Sontany introduced HB 3386 to the agriculture committee. Actually I don’t know how she and others do this kind of work because it’s like watching paint dry. The first few hours waiting for her bill to come up, we heard about a bill to ban “Terminator seed” corn. Representatives spoke from big companies like Monsanto and Dupont. A long free exchange took place with committee members asking questions, making comments etc. Then it was time for HB3386.
The bill would make it a felony to starve or withhold water from horses and other farm animals. Seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? Who would want to stand in the way of protecting these innocent animals and why? The case of the 84 starving horses from cannon county brought media attention to a problem in Tennessee. A state representative, Janis Sontany, went down to see the horses when they were at the fairgrounds. She met with the humane society folks and promised to try and help. She wrote a bill to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for anyone doing such things to their animals.
Farm Bureau Insurance is against her bill and packed the room with agents from around the state. So here’s the picture: a bunch of guys sitting in all the chairs in the room and all the women including me (& a few men) supporting the bill, left standing in the aisles. The committee for the most part is against the bill too. 3 outside people spoke in favor of it (very eloquently) and were told before they walked up to the podium to “keep it brief.” (a sheriff, a rescue person & a rancher) In an effort to discredit one of the speakers a committee member asked one guy if he supported horse slaughter. (I guess if you don’t that makes you an “animal rights activist.” Is that a bad thing BTW? Oh a straw man question was also thrown out…”would you like to protect farm animals or children?” Well sir, I’d like to do BOTH! Standing silent through all this was quite a challenge. After the 3 speakers the bill was put off until next week.
It’s going to take people to get involved in this fight to help stop abuse of horses in Tennessee.
So why is Farm Bureau so opposed to the bill? I spoke with several agents outside in the hallway and here’s what I heard. One guy said he owns a backhoe and buries dead horses “all the time,” that people couldn’t afford to feed. He doesn’t think those people should be made criminals. It should be noted that the Farm Bureau Ins company does support horse slaughter and that was banned in Tennessee last year. Apparently that issue “isn’t dead” and a new bill may be coming up again for that too. I’d love to see if anybody connected with any new horse slaughter bills would stand to gain $$$ by a bill like that passing again. Follow the money…money and horses in Tennessee have a shady history. That’s true when there’s a lot of money involved anywhere. No different in this case.
Another Farm Bureau agent said he thinks farmers are being threatened by animal lovers that never stepped foot on a farm. Almost everyone I saw there supporting HB3386 have horses and farms. Most of the people I met at the fairgrounds volunteering to help with the rescued horses were horse owners themselves, owned farms and/or worked in the horse industry. We don’t want to stop farmers from earning a living. We want to stop greedy horse brokers that buy dozens of horses cheap in the hope they can make money on the best of the lot. The rest, too weak, skinny or sick to sell get put on private acreage to die. There are a few ignorant back yard horse owners but the main problem i think are these brokers, traders if you will. Horses are a thing to sell like a car. Well, they are not a “thing.” They are a living being and they feel pain and suffer. Tennessee law looks the other way and at the most will slap an occasional wrist. That’s wrong and if that stays the case, then Tennessee is not the “horse country” I thought it was.
We can do better. Rep. Sontany can’t go up against these guys alone. She’s offered to step in front of the parade but it’s up to all of us to fall in and march. If you make a living in the Tennessee horse industry now would be a good time to call Janis Sontany’s office and offer to help. Anyone else too…Farm Bureau associate members speak out. The Farm Bureau Ins company is saying “they represent thousands of members.” Have they ask you how you feel about this issue? These magnificent animals have no voice unless we lend them ours. Call the people on the agriculture committee and tell them to support HB3386. Call the Farm Bureau Insurance Company and tell them (if you’re a member) that they don’t represent your views on this issue.
Pass this along to everyone you know.
Thanks, Val Reynolds/Avalonfarms@hughes.net
The members of the House Agriculture Committee are: Committee OfficersStratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 firstname.lastname@example.orgDale Ford, Vice Chair (615) 741-1717 email@example.comWillie Butch Borchert, Secretary (615) 741-6804 firstname.lastname@example.org MembersEddie Bass (615) 741-1864 email@example.comChad Faulkner (615) 741-3335 firstname.lastname@example.orgCurits ;Halford (615) 741-7478 email@example.comJohn Litz (615) 741-6877 firstname.lastname@example.orgSteve McDaniel (615) 741-0750 email@example.comFrank Niceley (615) 741-4419 firstname.lastname@example.orgJohnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 email@example.comTerri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192 firstname.lastname@example.orgJohn Mark Windle (615) 741-1260 email@example.com