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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / A Tennessee walking horse and its rider cast a shadow on the walls around the competition arena during the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration in 2019 in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

"Rather than "We Serve," the motto of the Woodbury Lions Club sadly should be: "We Shame."

The Woodbury Lions Club has definitely shamed the wonderful Woodbury, Tennessee, community in Cannon County, and Chicago-based Lions Clubs International based in Chicago when it hosted its annual horse show fundraiser last month which featured 24 classes of "Big Lick" Tennessee Walking Horses.

Apparently, the Woodbury Lions were not paying attention two years ago when a majority of both Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in a bipartisan landslide — 333 to 96 — to declare the "Big Lick" torture inflicted upon Tennessee Walking Horses as animal cruelty.

Among those voting to abolish the Big Lick, which features nearly eight-pound stack shoes and chains to create the "high stepping gait" was Tennessee Republican Rep. Tim Burchett, who represents the Knoxville area.

The Woodbury Lions also ignored the stand taken by Lions Clubs International in 2016 against the use of animals for entertainment, urging its 46,000-plus clubs and more than 1.4 million members around the world to "refrain from fundraising activities that exploit or cause harm to animals."

Closer to home just 17 miles away at Middle Tennessee State University, native Tennessean and horse science professor/equine vet Dr. John Haffner says the Big Lick is animal cruelty: "It is a pain-induced gait — if horses have not been 'sored' they do not learn it. The Big Lick is a business built on the suffering and pain of horses."

The Woodbury Lions Club main fundraising event is an annual horse show, and the Lions apparently justify the cruelty to Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses because the club does good things with the money they raise.

When confronted with a similar situation in 2015 by the Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty, the University of Mississippi Medical Center severed all ties with the Jackson, Mississippi, Big Lick Horse Show, which was making an annual $50,000 donation to the Blair Batson Childrens Hospital. No charitable donation is worth animal cruelty.

Award-wining investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell wrote the story in The Clarion-Ledger newspaper. "UMMC won't accept Charity Horse Show donations."

Just before this year's Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, the grassroots Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty started a Change.Org Petition — Lions Clubs International: Sever All Ties With "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty TN Walking Horses.

The petition to Lions Clubs International now has more than 10,445 signatures from people all over America and throughout the world. The Citizens Campaign is hoping to garner 15,000 and become one of the top-signed petitions on Change.org.

Its statement is simple: "Lions Clubs International needs to sever all ties with 'Big Lick' Animal Cruelty perpetrated upon Tennessee Walking Horses, and forbid any Lions Club anywhere from having anything whatsoever to do with 'Big Lick' Animal Cruelty horse shows which are akin to dog fighting and cock fighting."

On July 3, 2021, animal welfare advocates with the Citizens Campaign protested outside the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show. Spectator attendance was off by 80% from the 2018 show.

Videos obtained of the "Big Lick" animal cruelty at the horse show, and posted on the BillyGoBoy.Com website and Facebook page have now reached over 250,000 persons. You can see it here: https://youtu.be/PIrCG-pUCL4

To cap it all off, the Woodbury Lions Club embraced and rewarded previous acts of animal cruelty by hiring two people — one as horse show judge and the other as a horse show farrier. Both had pleaded guilty to horse soring charges, violations of the Horse Protection Act of 1970. Each was sentenced by U.S. District Court judges, one in Nashville and the other in Chattanooga.

Horse Show judge Chris Zahnd was caught placing a "nerve cord" (a zip tie) in a Tennessee Walking Horse's mouth along the upper gum line at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show on July 4, 2009. The "nerve cord" causes the horse to be distracted and not react to digital palpation by a USDA vet inspector who is examining the horse to detect pain or soreness in his front feet. It is that pain or soreness which causes the high-stepping show gait.

Horse Show farrier Joseph Abernathy, along with Jackie McConnell, pleaded guilty on May 22, 2012, for conspiring to violate the Horse Protection Act by "applying prohibited substances, such as mustard oil, to the pastern area of Tennessee Walking Horses to sore them in order to produce an exaggerated gait in the show ring."

If you care about horses and about the reputation of Tennessee and of Lions clubs anywhere, please sign the Change.org petition and persuade the Woodbury club to find another, more humane way to raise money.

Clant M. Seay, founder of the grassroots Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty, raised Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champions and contenders from 1981 to 2005.

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Contributed photo / Clant Seay
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