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Donna Benefield - Expert or Hypocrite?



Donna Benefield has now teamed up with Congressman Ed Whitfield, HSUS’ Keith Dane, Marty Irby and Clant Seay (BillyGoBoy) to launch a concerted attack on the padded Tennessee Walking Horse, the Celebration and certain individuals.  Benefield has testified in front of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and made wild accusations such as witnessing horses standing in blood in the ring, making it seem that this is a common occurrence.  

Although providing no evidence of her accusations, her being called to testify as an “expert” was damaging enough.  Benefield has also stated that all padded performance horses are sore and stands in support of a bill introduced by Whitfield that would eliminate all pads, weighted shoes, and action devices and would eliminate the HIOs and turn over complete enforcement to the USDA.


Even more recently, Benefield has been extremely critical of the Celebration’s inspection program, the SHOW HIO.  Few people have had more access to the SHOW HIO than her.  She recently stated that she witnessed an industry veterinarian give a “nerve block” to a horse at the 2010 Celebration to help mask the pain when he went through inspection.  

It’s difficult to understand why she didn’t release the name of the veterinarian, the trainer involved or even the name of the horse because Donna was hired that year by the Celebration to monitor the grounds. She had the authority to stop the horse from coming to inspection and turn over to SHOW the information and have appropriate charges brought against the individuals involved.  What possible excuse is there to allow that to happen when she was being paid to stop exactly that kind of violation?
 
With her ego sufficiently stroked by her Celebration job Benefield did an interview at the end of that year on What A Horse where she spoke of her experience at Celebration and her opinions of the SHOW HIO.  Here are some excerpts from that interview.

When asked about what her role at the 2010 Celebration was, Benefield answered, “My job was the oversight of the Celebration in the inspection area, in the barns, working with the trainers and observing the horses in the warm-up ring, in the show ring and also out in the barns to make sure things were compliant.  And if they weren’t, then to address it and take care of it.”  

Either Benefield was not truthful in her accusation of the nerve block or she purposely allowed a horse to show in violation of the law and failed to perform her job as outlined by the Celebration.  You can’t have it both ways!

When Benefield was asked about her thoughts on the performance of the SHOW HIO and how it had done Benefield answered, “So based on January to now (November 2010), there has been significant change in the operation of inspections and the procedures, and they’ve gained, I think, a lot of credibility with both the public and the department.”

She further answered, “SHOW has really stepped up to the plate and improved the compliance and the inspection process.  And in my opinion, it’s probably the only inspection process at this juncture of the large ones that will probably save the performance horse for this industry.”

It makes you wonder if her opinion during that time was influenced by her pay from The Celebration or by her active interest in obtaining a job with the SHOW HIO.  And maybe her change in opinion regarding the SHOW HIO is influenced by some other entity’s pay or by a promise of employment from HSUS or Congressman Whitfield.  Remember, an unemployed Irby’s change of opinion landed him a job on Congressman Whitfield’s staff.

When asked about the difference in the USDA and SHOW inspection process, Benefield answered, “From what I have observed lately, SHOW is more thorough in their inspections, and their inspections are more in-depth.” 

She went further in supporting SHOW, “SHOW is significantly different.  I am willing to support any organization and inspection program that is moving towards reform.  And I see SHOW as being right now the leader in stepping forward, because their inspections are very thorough.”

It makes you wonder why then does Benefield support legislation that would do away with the SHOW HIO.  On that point, Benefield answered a question about the validity and effectiveness of one HIO.  “I think in an ideal world, one HIO makes the most sense.  But as long as we have a number of inspection programs that are as corrupt as some of them are, I think we’re going to need more than one HIO, because you do need to have at least one credible HIO.”

Benefield also supports the ban of the pad and action device which would eliminate the padded, performance Tennessee Walking Horse.  Is this a change or has Benefield always felt this way?  Well, she answered that as well, “That rumor has been out for a long time, and I don’t know where it came from, because I had padded horses.  And no, I’m not against the performance horse.”

Benefield is in favor of keeping the current subjective inspection process and not advancing the protocol with the use of science-based, objective testing.  Benefield also applauds the increase of penalties in the Whitfield bill for violations of the subjective protocol.  However, this too is a change in opinion for Benefield.  “Well, I’m pretty much on the record with the USDA that I’m opposed to that one-year suspension (for scar rule violations).  As I told Dr. Gipson with the USDA that until we solve the inconsistency in the interpretation of a scar, I don’t feel that it’s fair to put somebody out of business for an entire year.”  Benefield was so against this penalty, that her own HIO only issued a penalty of “back to the truck” when violations were found.

Now you realize that everything the industry is fighting for and all of the legislation by Congressman Blackburn and Senator Alexander once was supported by Benefield herself, who is now the champion for opposition to those thoughts and ideas.

And for good measure she had a strong opinion on the one thing killing the industry.  She stated for What A Horse on what is hurting the industry, “I would say—probably the thing that causes the most damage is some of these chat sites, because they spew out misinformation.  They mislead people.  They smear people.  They attack people and never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Everyone agrees with that but Benefield’s close personal relationship with Clant Seay and BillyGoBoy obviously has changed her opinion on that topic as well.  

When someone has views that are polar opposite depending on who is stroking them at the time of those comments makes you wonder if “expert” is an accurate way to describe them.  Hypocrite would be far more accurate.

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