OpEd: Stop animal abuse bill in its tracks

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The Tennessean. OpEd

images-40OUR VIEW

We are continually reminded of the vigilance that is required to eradicate a culture of violence in our state and our nation — violence against people foremost, we are reminded this week — but also against the most blameless of beings, the animals that mankind has domesticated for its utility and its entertainment.

Proposed legislation was advancing, quietly, in the Tennessee General Assembly that would make it harder to put a stop to animal abuse by setting unreasonable conditions on those who witness abuse. Senate Bill 1248/House Bill 1191 is very much viable, but some key lawmakers have raised questions about the intent of this bill.

And they should. It’s sponsored by Sen. Delores Gresham of Somerville, a partner in a West Tennessee livestock market, and Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, an industrial hog producer. For two individuals who have commercial interest in livestock to introduce a bill that, had it been law, would have prevented the 2011 undercover videotaping of walking horse abuse, is highly suspect.

If anything, Gresham and Holt, with their backgrounds, should be clearing obstacles to detection and prevention of abuse. Instead, SB 1248/HB 1191 would require anyone with evidence of abuse to turn it over to law enforcement within 48 hours or face misdemeanor charges. So … punish the person who is trying to stop abuse — why else photograph it — and not the perpetrator?

It’s clear to anyone to looks at how the Humane Society videotaped Jackie McConnell’s soring of walking horses, that the case would have unraveled if it had to be rushed, at risk to the safety of the person working undercover. This bill is no more than an attempt to intimidate animal-cruelty opponents.

Incidentally, Sen. Gresham voted against legislation this year that would have cockfighting a felony in Tennessee. That bloodsport of illegal gamblers and drug dealers continues to thrive in our state, thanks to minor penalties.

Her take on the abuse-reporting bill, in remarks this week, is telling: Assembling evidence, she said, “needs to be done by law enforcement, not by vigilantes.” But vigilantes use force, or threat of force, to achieve their ends. And they answer to an imagined, higher authority than the law of the land. The Humane Society and others who are fighting animal abuse in Tennessee every day have exhibited none of the characteristics of vigilantes.

Perhaps Sen. Gresham doesn’t grasp the meaning of the term; or perhaps her goal to mislead. Her bill would certainly take our state in the wrong direction, toward more senseless violence.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
3 Comments
  • Debbie Tracy

    Once again it show to me and so many how people in positions of Gov.. are NOT there to help us all make it a better world but indeed they are for their own purpose, own greed own selfishness….. This country better start turning around, becaue WE ARE ALL going down a very dangerous path, remember years ago how we all cared about honor, values, how we cared about every living thing WHAT the H-LL happened?? Our Gov is killing this country with the first most important intent for them is their own selfish power…. GOD HELP US ALL

    April 28, 2013
  • Valerie Wehmueller

    My idea is this, if any government, anywhere, tries to make it a “crime” to document, photograph, videotape/record, any animal abuse, regardless of where it’s committed, then those animal advocates should go undercover, go “underground”, if you will. Apply & get hired at various places, record secretly, out of sight, then post findings & proof, anonymously. They tried to make alcohol illegal, didn’t work, did it? Where there’s a will, there’s a way! They can not take away our rights, while granting the rights of abusers! This is OUR country too, they need to remember that. Or, we can just start another revolution, & take over. Our entire government & judicial system needs to be cleaned up & re-done. If they want to “play dirty”, then, instead of reporting the abuses, we can just stop them, ourselves! Sorry, I’m getting very angry, there for, a little radical, need to vent. I am getting sick & tired of a broken down government trying to tell us what we can or can not do, America is losing her freedom.

    April 29, 2013
  • Marcia

    Maybe if the lawmakers enacted good laws and enforced them, there would be no need for vigilantes. As long as legislatures are in the pockets of special interest groups, good laws benefiting the powerless are unlikely. In the West we have been fighting wolf slaughter but getting nowhere against the demands of the hunters and ranchers.

    April 29, 2013