In a vitriol-laced email, Tennessee lawmaker Andy Holt (R-Dresden) accused the Humane Society of the United States of “using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.” and referred to undercover animal cruelty investigations as “tape and rape”.
Rep. Holt made the comments to Kayci McLeod of the Humane Society of the United States after McLeod sent him an email asking him to reconsider his position on supporting HB 1191, a bill which he sponsored. Both emails are below:
“From: Kayci McLeod [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:44 PM
To: Andy Holt
Subject: Please Oppose HB 1191
Dear Representative Holt,
Have you seen the editorial in the Tennessean today opposing HB 1191, the whistleblower suppression bill intended to cover up animal cruelty?
The Tennessean editorial board condemns the bill, noting that the “bill would certainly take our state in the wrong direction, toward more senseless violence.”
We very much hope you’ll agree with the Tennessean and oppose this dangerous bill. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Public Policy Coordinator
Farm Animal Protection Campaign
The Humane Society of the United States
T: 301 258 1564″
To which Rep. Holt responded:
“From: Andy Holt [email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:26 PM
To: Kayci McLeod
Cc: Andy Holt
Subject: RE: Please Oppose HB 1191
I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s true intent.
State Representative – District 76
Weakley & Northern Carroll Counties
205 War Memorial Building
301 6th Ave. North
Nashville, TN 37243
H.B.1191, dubbed “the Livestock Cruelty Prevention Act”, is referred to by opponents as the “Ag-Gag Bill” for its focus on shutting down animal cruelty investigations in the state.
The bill requires that:
Any person who records by photograph or video a violation of subsection (a)
as committed against livestock shall, within twenty-four (24) hours of the photograph’s or
(1) Report such violation to law enforcement authorities; and
(2) Submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to law
Under the bill those who do not follow the 24-hour stipulation can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. Other, similar “Ag Gag” bills have included criminal penalties up to to a felony for not reporting livestock abuse.
Animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, have criticized Ag Gag legislation saying that the short reporting time makes it impossible for a pattern of animal abuse to be clearly documented as part of a larger investigation.
And animal activists are not the only ones concerned. The Tennessee Press Association is also against the legislation, saying the bill creates a slippery slope towards repealing Tennessee’s Reporters Shield Law, and that it would have “a chilling effect” on investigating cases of suspected animal abuse.
The issues of whether the bill would hinder investigations of alleged livestock abuse is particularly pertinent to Tennessee right now. Last year, an 2011 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, led to the conviction of noted Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, Jackie McConnell, on federal charges.
In April, McConnell was indicted by a Tennessee Grand Jury with a further on 38 counts of animal cruelty for illegally soring and torturing horses as documented through the same investigation.
On Thursday, another Tennessee Walking Horse horse trainer, Larry Wheelon, was arrested at his barn in Maryville and charged with aggravated animal abuse after investigators determined that he was abusing the horses under his care.
Under HB 1191, the type of investigation that led to the arrest of McConnell and Wheelon would be illegal, and the evidence not admissible in court.
Rep. Holt also recently came under fire when it was discovered that he took a week’s vacation from the legislature for an all-expenses paid vacation in, paid for by the Farm Bureau. Holt, who is a commercial hog producer, also received a new pickup truck from the Farm Bureau.
Drew Rawlins, director of the State Bureau of Ethics, said Holt can accept gifts from the Farm Bureau as long as the gifts are because he’s a pig farmer and not because the Farm Bureau seeks favor with him as a legislator. The Farm Bureau was in favor of passing HB 1191.
The bill is now on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s desk, where it waits for his signature to pass into law.