"Animal-Death Profiteering State Lawmaker Suggests Animal Rights Activists Are Like Rapists"
A Tennessee lawmaker sponsoring a new bill shutting down animal cruelty investigations suggested animal rights activists were engaging in “tape and rape” tactics, and were “intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.” The representative in question, Andy Holt (R-Dresden), owns and operates a facility that raises pigs, cows, and goats for slaughter.
Holt’s outburst came in response to an email from Humane Society Public Policy Coordinator Kayci McCloud, in which McCloud asked Holt to reconsider his support for Tennessee’s recently passed “ag-gag” law. Ag-gag laws contain a variety of provisions (varying from law to law) designed to make it impossible for undercover investigators to document animal cruelty or unsafe farming conditions on farms like Holt’s. The Tennessee law Holt sponsored and pushed through the legislature accomplishes this end by forcing groups to turn over any documentary evidence of illegal activity on farms to the authorities within 48 hours, making it functionally impossible for them to put together a comprehensive case that could lead to arrests.
Holt responded viciously to McCloud’s inquiry, accusing the Humane Society of America — the country’s leading animal welfare organization, whose investigations have repeatedly led to pro-animal prosecutions and legislation — of functionally supporting the sexual abuse of animals:
I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 [the ag-gag law] 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 [sic] true intent.
Holt’s outburst is unusual for reasons beyond the vicious smears: while ag-gag supporters typically sell the laws as a means to help animal rights investigations, Holt admits that the law’s true purpose is to limit the ability of pro-animal groups to expose cruelty. It’s also unclear how “suffering months of needless investigation,” which mostly means being videotaped, is worse for farm animals than being crammed into crates so tight that they are forced to stand in their own feces and acquire bleeding sores from attempting to move even slightly — a common fate for pigs in American factory farms.
In addition to his work in the state legislature, Holt owns and operates Holt Family Farms with his wife. Because Holt’s operation raises animals for slaughter (though they are not killed on premises), it’s exactly the sort of farm that might be subject to the type of investigation Holt is attempting to outlaw. Human Society President Wayne Pacelle describes Holt Family Farms as an “industrial hog” farm. Holt, who recently took a vacation to Hawaii paid for by the American Farm Bureau Federation, is taking a lead role in the effort to legalize horse meat production in Tennessee.
Tennessee, which is ahead of the national curve with respect passing ag-gag laws, is also in the midst of a controversy about the endemic abuse of horses as part of the Tennessee Walking Horse show “tradition.”