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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R) has introduced an amendment to HB 1191 that would make it a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $10,000 fine to videotape animal cruelty and not hand it over to the authorities within 48 hours. This legislation sounds as if it’s designed to prevent profiting from or celebrating cruel dog- or cock-fighting.

But Holt, a pig farmer, has identified the real goal of the bill — making it easier to abuse animals.

At a hearing he said, “radical animal activist groups” have spent months taking videos of alleged animal abuse, likely referencing a case in 2012 when the Humane Society released footage of a trainer abusing a horse.

“I think this is something that we need to be doing, not only to protect our animal industries here in the state against these animal activists that have caused great economic harm to some, but also to protect the animals themselves. That is the ultimate intention of this bill,” Holt said.

So he wants to protect animals?

“Baloney,” writes the editorial board of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Its transparent purpose is to prevent animal-rights advocates from quietly accumulating sufficient documentation to show a court that animal cruelty is wrongly and deliberately used in some slaughterhouses and animal training facilities.”

The editorial goes on to describe how a reporter from the Times Free Press documented the process of “regularly soring” Tennessee Walking horses—soring involves “chemicals, chains around the front hooves, and screws pressed into the top of the thick shoe pads that are strapped and chained to the horses’ front feet”—to compel the animal to perform a high-stepping movement called “the big lick.” Documenting this cruelty requires a case to be built over weeks.

So where did Holt get the idea — nay! — the exact language for his bill?

The Times Free Press blames the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing organization behind the carbon-copied, NRA-approved “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Koch brothers-supported group’s fingerprints were all over the anti-union legislation that was rammed through Michigan’s legislature at the end of 2012 in the form of language that was literally cut and pasted from one of their model bills.

“Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: It gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding,” The Nation‘s Lisa Graves reported in 2011.

If you paste a sentence from Holt’s bill into a search engine, you’ll find identical wording was submitted in a bill before New Hampshire’s state legislature earlier this year. So called “Ag-Gag” bills have also been considered in Arkansas, Nebraska and Wyoming.

And it isn’t just the horse-training industry interested in making it difficult to film animal cruelty, of course.