(Editor's Note: The following piece, which has not been edited, reflects the perspective of Dr. Doyle Meadows, chief executive officer for The Celebration. The T-G welcomes views from all sides of topics, and encourages readers to share their voice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Celebration Board of Directors and staff take exception to the article in the March 6 edition entitled "Much Soring Alleged" by Brian Mosely. It is a one sided advertorial for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Keith Dane causing serious harm to The Celebration and walking horse industry.
The headline "Much Soring Alleged" and the statement in the first paragraph "An undercover investigation into animal abuse in the walking horse industry is only 'the tip of the iceberg,' a spokesman for the HSUS told the T-G" is pure and simple sensationalism is not indicative of reality.
For the record, at last year's Celebration with a full crew of Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO) from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and our own enforcement Horse Industry Organization (HIO) SHOW inspecting all entries, 98.5% of the horses were in compliance with the Horse Protection Act. These horses were inspected prior to their class and the winner as well as second and third place horses were inspected after the class.
The percentage of horses in compliance at over 100 SHOW affiliated shows across the country during 2011 was over 98%. These are well-known statistics and it is a disgrace that it was not included in the article. Very few industries, animal breeds or humane organizations have a comparable record of compliance while not having to face the degree of scrutiny of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
By comparison, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. For both 2010 and 2011, their total inspections produced a 98.5% compliance rate. If 98.5% compliance is acceptable for our food supply, it is certainly acceptable for our horses.
There is no question that a few horses are able to violate the law without detection and if the criteria is 100% compliance, the industry is guilty. We believe our record is outstanding and are proud to host the World Grand Championship for this magnificent breed.
Your glowing description of HSUS is consistent with the lack of research indicated above. They have no relationship with the community humane society in Bedford County and others across the country and provide them no financing, even though they take in millions of dollars a year. According to HSUS' Consolidated Financials for 2009, they received revenue of over $150 million a year; they have a net worth of almost $200 million including almost $150 million in investments, with over $60 million in hedge funds; their land and buildings are worth almost $30 million.
HSUS spent $34.2 million on salaries and employee benefits. Its pension funds are valued at 18.5 million, which is still $8.8 million less than the $27.3 million in obligations it owes its employees who will retire in the future. HSUS's auditors report they collectively spent $25.3 million on fundraising (18.8% of their $134 million in total expenses). But Animal People News, the internal watchdog newspaper of the animal rights movement, has performed its own analysis that concludes HSUS spends fully 50% of every dollar on fundraising, a tidy $75 million.
Industry experts estimate that they spend less than 5% of their revenue on direct aid to animals, and they are under attack for the vast sums they spend lobbying at the state and national level. Because they are tax-free, there are stringent limits on lobbying and since this practice is now being scrutinized by legislators they have finally registered as a lobbyist as required by law... but only in the past year.
It is abundantly clear and widely known that very little of their money is spent on the animals they claim to be protecting, although it is obviously a wonderful place to work. This information is readily available and quickly establishes what HSUS truly does. It is unfortunate the T-G did not avail itself to it.
Closer to home, the article clearly puts a cloud over all training establishments in Bedford County when HSUS' Keith Dane was asked if there were any training establishments here that "they are trying to get an inside look at as to what is going on." He wisely said he "couldn't say at this time" and you unwisely printed it casting a suspicious cloud over all area horsemen. Your Celebration Special Edition sells a significant amount of advertising to these trainers, and you should be ashamed to ask for their business in the future.
On the local level, this community is proud to be associated with The Celebration and the horse it celebrates. It is a critical part of Shelbyville's fabric and economy. The 11 days of the Celebration brings in $24,742,800 according to research by Sports Insight Group. This does not count the other economic activity generated through home and farm ownership and incoming horse people all year long.
The horse show has generated between $2.5 and $3 million in charitable contributions in the last ten years and is the lifeblood of our civic clubs. The many programs they fund are too numerous to list but would make a wonderful article about the community and the horse in the T-G.
We have visited your offices several times in the past when you have printed articles that contained inaccuracies. It is most discouraging that our requests are not only being ignored, but articles such as the one you printed are causing even more harm.
The Times-Gazette has historically had a wonderful relationship with The Celebration and the horse industry and it is a shame what has happened since the paper was sold to the existing company. They know little about our community and apparently care even less. When it was purchased, the new publisher said he would be moving to Shelbyville from Murfreesboro and would become part of our community. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Regardless of where he lives, the publisher is responsible for what appears in the paper.
We would encourage you to read the article in the Nashville Tennessean by Larry Taft the day after yours appeared. He also quoted Mr. Dane but got input from the horse industry and wrote a balanced and fair article. We expected the same from our hometown newspaper.
In closing, we would also encourage you to do some research on another damaging article that appeared in the T-G on March 23 titled "Report cites substances." The HSUS news release that you quoted extensively had a sensationalized and untrue headline and was notable as much for what it didn't say as the misinformation it did.
The Celebration appreciates and stands proudly with the horse trainers, owners, fans and local supporters of our show. We have challenges economically and with pending regulations but are convinced our program at SHOW is the single best inspection program ever devised and is doing more than any other entity to eliminate non-compliant horses.
We have committed over $400,000 to this program in the past three years and turned management of SHOW over to an American Association of Equine Practitioner veterinarian, Dr. Steve Mullins. Our program is working regardless of what Mr. Dane or the Times Gazette says.
For the record, Dane did not attend the Celebration last year even though he was quoted extensively about it. He has attended on very few occasions and knows little about our inspection program and horse show. He was also identified by the T-G as a board member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association...and he is...he received two write-in votes with no other candidate running to become the director from Maryland.
We sincerely hope that our relationship with the Times-Gazette can be repaired and we can work together in the future for the betterment of the Celebration and the community that supports it.