Walking horse defender BillyGoboy never slowed down in fight against the “Big Lickers”
OXFORD, Mississippi––Citizens Committee Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty founder Clant Seay, 76, remembered by fellow campaigner Marty Irby as “quite a character and in my opinion the greatest anti-soring advocate of all time,” died on March 6, 2023 in Oxford, Mississippi.
Hospitalized for eight weeks, spending his last three weeks in intensive care, Seay succumbed to a cardiac arrest attributed to complications of COVID-19.
Named after father
Born Clanton Jones McInnis Seay on April 4, 1946 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Clant was named after his father, Clant M. Seay Sr., an attorney and prominent insurance broker who for many years was secretary/manager of the Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents, also owning a share of his brothers’ men’s clothing store.
Graduating from Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1964, Clant Seay the younger was admitted to the University of Mississippi in Oxford, his home for most of the rest of his life, and was immediately made student manager for the Ole Miss football team, a position his father had also held.
Clant Seay the younger was later elected chair of the School Spirit Committee, in which role he was custodian of the Egg Bowl trophy awarded to the winner of the annual football game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State University. To protect the trophy from theft by fraternity members, a ritual of the rivalry, Clant Seay took the trophy home until after the bowl game.
Studying English and journalism, Clant Seay the younger was elected to the Student Senate as an “independent,” lacking endorsement from any fraternities or sororities. He also helped to elect a fellow “independent” to edit the student newspaper, The Daily Mississipian, and was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges in 1968.
Joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Ole Miss, which helped him to complete his education after his father died, Clant Seay the younger upon graduation entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant, at the height of the Vietnam War, but was not sent to fight.
Father died young
Clant Seay the younger’s life had taken a sudden turn in July 1965, just after he completed his freshman year at Ole Miss, when his father, Clant M. Seay Sr., while attending a managers’ meeting of the National Association of Insurance Agents, died in his motel room from a sudden heart attack at only 53 years of age.
Contending that the heart attack was triggered by work-related stress, the Seay family applied for death benefits from Workmen’s Compensation. The Mississippi State Workmen’s Compensation Commission upheld the claim, but Clant M. Seay Sr.’s employer appealed and overturned the award.
Finally, in January 1969, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the Seay family was entitled to receive 50% compensation, because the heart attack probably resulted 50% from work stress compounding a pre-existing condition.
Case kindled interest in law
Wrote Justice Henry Lee Rodgers in the majority opinion, “Mr. Seay was a perfectionist, easily upset, high-strung and nervous. He was a dedicated employee. He worked late at the office many nights, and did not take a vacation in the four years prior to his death. He was under constant physical and emotional stress. The strain of Mr. Seay’s employment was greater than the ordinary wear and tear of life to which everyone is subjected.”
The same description also applied in large part to Clant Seay the younger.
The court case, continuing from early in young Clant Seay’s sophomore year at Ole Miss until near the end of his U.S. Army service, kindled his interest in legal practice.
Upon discharge from the U.S. Army, Clant Seay worked as a reporter for the Kosciusko Star-Herald, tried tree farming, and studied law at Ole Miss, earning his law degree in 1971.
By May 1971 the Delta Democrat-Times had already identified Seay as a “rising politico.”
Clant Seay meanwhile persuaded the Mississippi Authority for Educational Television to broadcast a daily review of activity in the Mississippi legislature, with a preview of anticipated activity the following day. Clant Seay himself was to be moderator. But, though announced, the program never aired, killed by political pressure from then-governor William Waller, a segregationist Democrat.
Soon thereafter Clant Seay became administrative assistant public relations manager for then-Mississippi lieutenant governor Charles Sullivan, also a segregationist Democrat, in a failed gubernatorial campaign.
Though “being from Mississippi and having grown up during the racial unrest,” as Clant Seay acknowledged to ANIMALS 24-7, Clant had a somewhat different perspective on racial issues, largely through lifelong acquaintance with James Howard Meredith.
Thirteen years Clant Seay’s senior and a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, Meredith in 1962 became the first African-American student admitted to Ole Miss after a court battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and brought intervention from 540 federal agents to stop rioting on the campus.
“James Meredith and my family have been friends for generations. We owned land which adjoined,” Clant Seay told ANIMALS 24-7. “His father Cap worked for my grandfather in the lumber business.”
“Media wanted to know who the hell I was”
Ole Miss on October 1, 2006 unveiled a statue of Meredith in front of the Lyceum, the oldest academic building on campus, built in 1848 by slave labor.
“I went up and spoke to him at the statue,” Clant Seay remembered to ANIMALS 24-7, “and we started reminiscing about Attala County, and his father, and he went into a zone like that statue thing wasn’t even happening. The national news media present couldn’t understand why he was talking to this white guy at such length, and wanted to know who the hell I was.”
Befriended John Brittain
While an Ole Miss law student, Seay befriended John Brittain, who in 1970 as a recent graduate of the Howard University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee, defended 89 members and supporters of the newly formed Black Student Union at Ole Miss.
Recounted author W. Ralph Eubanks for The New Yorker in 2020, “Late in the afternoon of February 24, 1970, in the University of Mississippi cafeteria, forty students of the recently chartered Black Student Union lined up in front of the cafeteria before it opened for dinner. The forty protesters grabbed their food, and each of them took over a separate table as the white students stared back at them silently, or left their seats, or placed their trays on the cafeteria’s conveyor belt and walked out.”
27 Black Student Union demands
The Black Student Union had already “presented a list of twenty-seven demands to the university’s chancellor, Porter L. Fortune, Jr.,” Eubanks wrote. “The demands included hiring black faculty, forming a black studies program, establishing more scholarships for black students, and eliminating Confederate imagery at official university gatherings.”
After burning a Confederate flag, then illegal to do in Mississippi, the Black Student Union members and others stormed an “Up With People” concert, where they were welcomed on stage to join in the singing.
Brittain won a settlement including that all criminal charges against the protesters were dropped, 81 of them received one-day suspensions from classes, and eight were expelled, two of whom later became doctors, four became lawyers, one of those four became a judge, and one, Donald Cole, “returned to Ole Miss to attain his Ph.D. in mathematics and went on to become a math professor and administrator at the university,” recounted Eubanks.
Befriended Ralph Eubanks, too
Eubanks entered Ole Miss himself in 1974, graduating in 1978.
During those years Clant Seay befriended him, too.
Brittain, meanwhile, was on the legal team who in 1972 won a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals verdict ordering Mississippi school districts, specifically the Greenwood Elementary School, to provide bus service to African-American children transferring from formerly segregated schools to schools newly integrated under a previous court order.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals order on bussing became the hot-button issue in Mississippi during the 1972 election campaign, when James Meredith ran for a U.S. Senate seat as a Republican, while Clant Seay ran for the Mississippi 5th district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat.
Both Meredith and Clant Seay tried to find middle ground and lost.
Lost election with 10.5% of the vote
Clant Seay, according to the Hattiesburg American, called the Fifth Circuit decision “absurd” for “making the school board come up with $30,000 to $40,000 for buses in the middle of the school year,” but also said he was “not in favor of having 190 black students walk two miles through heavy traffic areas to classes, either.”
Despite spending $52,000 on his campaign, while raising just $29,000 in campaign contributions, Clant Seay drew only 10.5% of the vote and finished fifth in a nine-candidate field in the primary election.
That ended Clant Seay’s political ambitions. In April 1973 he accepted a position on the staff of Mississippi attorney general A.F. Summer.
Friend of KKK foe Jerry Mitchell
Summer’s major accomplishment, before his death in 1981 at age 60, was winning federal approval of a reapportionment plan that gave African-Americans a better chance of winning political office in elections, having previously been gerrymandered out of having much political influence despite being more than a third of the state population.
Clant Seay quietly pursued his legal career, served as “spotter” for Ole Miss football radio broadcasts alongside play-by-play announcer Stan Torgerson, and bred and exhibited walking horses.
During these years Clant Seay also became acquainted with and sometimes assisted Jackson Clarion-Ledger court reporter Jerry Mitchell, whose work to re-open the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan member Byron de la Beckwith, the assassin of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, led to Beckwith’s eventual conviction and informed the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi.
From dove shooter to “animal rights activist”
The Kosciusko Star-Herald on September 15, 1994 noted Clant Seay’s participation in a mourning dove shoot at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman––the notorious Parchman Farm. No one would have imagined, as Clant Seay himself acknowledged, that at his death he would be remembered primarily by almost every obituarist as an “animal rights activist.”
At age 58, in 2004, Clant Seay met a 23-year-old woman from Kherson, Ukraine. Relocatiung to Kherson for a time, Clant Seay married her, brought her back to Mississippi, and helped her to earn Ole Miss degrees in education, journalism, and law.
Clant Seay later brought her younger brother and mother to the U.S. as well, also helping the brother to earn an Ole Miss degree.
The marriage was relatively brief, however. Divorced circa 2011, the ex-wife remarried and became a U.S. attorney in Washington D.C.
Football program critic as “jhvaught”
Clant Seay, by then 65 years old and retired from active law practice, focused on Ole Miss football for several years. Under the online pseudonym “jhvaught,” Seay defended head coach Ed Orgeron, despite Orgeron’s 10-23 won/loss record, which led to his firing after 2007.
(Better thought of by football experts than by the Ole Miss fans, Orgeron went from that debacle to a job with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.)
Seay more critically observed the recruiting violations under succeeding head coaches Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze, especially Freeze, which in 2019 caused the National Collegiate Athletic Association to vacate 33 Ole Miss football victories between 2010 and 2016 for using ineligible players.
Seay in 2017 attended the NCAA Committee on Infractions hearings about the case, held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Excluded from the hearing room, along with other media, recalled Antonio Morales of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, Clant Seay “worked on his Macbook, taking pictures of individuals as they entered the hearing room at the start of the day or as they exited.
“He acted professionally. He didn’t attempt to interact with any of the involved parties. He was there to document and observe what he felt like was a historic event.”
Joined fight against the “Big Lick”
By then, though, Clant Seay had refocused on trying to stop the soring of walking horses’ hoofs and legs to induce the equine “goose step” called the “Big Lick.”
Clant Seay no longer owned horses or participated in horse shows himself. He told ANIMALS 24-7 that several years of distancing had helped to open his eyes.
Others had already been campaigning against what Clant Seay himself usually called “Big Lick Animal Cruelty” since he was in grade school, leading to the passage of the Horse Protection Act of 1970, prohibiting soring but lacking effective enforcement mechanisms.
Keith Dane & Marty Irby
The Humane Society of the U.S. in 2007 hired former Friends of Sound Horses executive director Keith Dane to seek passage of legislation enabling more effective Horse Protection Act enforcement.
Dane had considerable walking horse industry bona fides, including having previously been president of the International Plantation Walking Horse Association, the New York State Plantation Walking Horse Club, and Plantation Walking Horses of Maryland.
Marty Irby joined the fight as president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association from 2010 to 2012.
Nominated for a second term, to begin in 2014, Irby was instead drummed out, his nomination canceled, after he spoke out in favor of “rigorous but fair enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.”
“It’s a southern problem”
Clant Seay was at first just an interested spectator.
Before becoming actively involved in protest, recalled Hotty Toddy news editor Alyssa Schnugg, “Seay conducted a national survey of 7,000 members of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breed Registry in 2013. He asked if they support the end of the ‘Big Lick.’ While most breeders around the country answered ‘Yes,’ several southern states replied with a majority ‘No’ response.”
Concluded Seay, “It’s a southern problem.”
“I met Clant at a press conference in Franklin, Tennessee in 2013,” recalled Irby.
Clant Seay met Dane at about the same time.
Priscilla Presley, retired actress and former wife of the late entertainer Elvis Presley, also became involved around then.
(See How the ghosts of Elvis Presley & Tom Parker help to fight “Big Lick” soring.)
Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association financially collapsed
By the May 24, 2014 Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association international board of directors meeting in Lewisburg, Tennessee, the walking horse industry was already in a dither.
According to the meeting minutes, the association “lost $116,573 in fiscal year 2013 and had only $240,000 cash on hand as of December 5, 2013.”
Walking horse registrations had tumbled from more than 15,000 in 2004 to 4,000 in 2013.
“Membership has declined from 18,543 in 2005 to 7,189 in 2013,” the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association admitted.
Retaliation brought Seay into the fight in earnest
Three members, Clant Seay, Pat Stout, and Fran Cole, all of whom had participated in polling the membership about the ‘Big Lick,’ were expelled. Stout later successfully sued the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association, winning reinstatement.
Then-Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association board member Keith Dane’s motion to have them re-admitted was defeated, leading to his exit from the organization soon afterward.
But Seay as yet had barely even joined the anti-“Big Lick” campaign.
After political chicanery killed the 2014 edition of the federal Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, Seay started his “Billygoboy” Facebook page and web site, incorporated the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty, and set about further knocking the economic props out from under the “Big Lickers” by picketing “Big Lick” horse shows.
Gen’s Ice Glimmer
“We’re working hard on it and we’re not far away,” Clant Seay told Alyssa Schugg of Hotty Toddy. “We’re fighting organizations who pay lobbyists $12,000 a month with a few newspaper ads, a MacBook Pro and a bunch of ladies that put on blue T-shirts and grab signs and fight, and we’re doing it.”
Horse Plus Humane Society president Tawnee Preisner brought Clant Seay into even more personally intense involvement when on July 28, 2015 she spotted a sored, registered Tennessee walking horse named Gen’s Ice Glimmer at a public auction in Cookeville, Tennessee.
Gen’s Ice Glimmer was up for auction after failing to sell for $757 when offered on Craigslist.
“Killer buyers were waiting to bid”
“Killer buyers were waiting to bid on him and load him on a waiting trailer to head to a slaughter plant in Mexico,” Clant Seay remembered.
Preisner called Clant Seay, who offered to help cover the costs of acquiring and treating Gen’s Ice Glimmer.
Extensively sored during years of exhibition, with painful fungal infection in his ears, Gen’s Ice Glimmer had been pulled from a 2013 show at Middle Tennessee State University after a USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service agent found that he had been sored. His trainer was fined.
Gen’s Ice Glimmer became the “poster child” for the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty.
Alleged assaults, & a conviction
“Big Lickers”––some of whom had already targeted Irby for several years––meanwhile repeatedly threatened and assaulted Clant Seay and other Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty protesters.
Clant Seay recalled that in 2015 a warrant was issued for the arrest of “Big Licker” Todd Fisher for attempting to assault him while he videotaped a “Big Lick” show in Hinds County, Mississippi.
That was just the beginning. “Big Licker” Jamie Brandon Lawrence was on February 3, 2016 convicted of misdemeanor assault for allegedly turning his truck toward a Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty protester on May 30, 2015 at the Spring Jubilee Horse Show in Columbia, Tennessee.
Protester won lawsuit
At the 2016 Tunica Fall Classic Horse Show in Mississippi, held on November 3, 2016, “Big Licker” Richard Mitch, of Pleasant Grove, Missouri, allegedly drove a pickup truck at a Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty demonstrator Sandra Culbertson of Clarksville, Tennessee.
On February 4, 2018, Clant Seay reported that Mitch had paid $25,000 to settle a personal injury lawsuit brought by Culbertson.
(See Driving at demonstrators costs “Big Lick” champ’s insurers $50,000.)
Confronted “Protect the Harvest”
Only fifteen days after the Tunica incident, “at the Equus Film Festival [in New York City] during a panel discussion of horse welfare issues sponsored by Protect the Harvest,” an anti-animal advocacy organization founded by Lucas Cattle Company and Lucas Oil Company owner Forrest Lucas, Clant Seay “was assaulted and the microphone violently ripped from his hand in mid-sentence,” he wrote, after he “asked Duke Thoreson, owner of Thorsport Farms, if he was pro-slaughter.”
Thorsport Farms, of Murfreesboro, Tennesseee, is a walking horse breeding and training facility.
Clant Seay said the microphone grabber was “Dave Duquette, an employee of Protect the Harvest, wearing a Lucas Cattle Company jacket.”
(See Is Protect the Harvest behind USDA purge of Animal Welfare Act data?)
“You’re a dead man”
At the Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show in April 2017, Brady Calhoun of MyPandhandle.com reported, “Seay provided a video to News 13 and to the Panama City Beach Police of an interaction he had with show employee Todd Fisher,” his second confrontation with Fisher.
“On the video, the two men are seen arguing,” Calhoun summarized. “As the argument concludes, Fisher gets on a golf cart and leaves. Moments after he is out of frame, someone is heard to say, ‘You’re a dead man.’
“In a police report, Seay and his cameraman, Justa Granberg, stated that Fisher made the comment. Fisher told police he did not make the comment.”
Columbia Spring Jubilee Horse Show
Bucky Rowland, sheriff of Maury County, Tennessee, in May and August 2017 agreed to federal court orders to not interfere with Clant Seay’s First Amendment rights at the Columbia Spring Jubilee Horse Show, but balked in May 2018, Seay reported, after Seay publicized the orders.
On June 2, 2018, Seay complained to Rowland, “Five Below, Inc. district manager Kent McGary allegedly intentionally and maliciously drove his 2017 Ford Escape SUV, owned by Five Below, Inc., on the wrong side of the road at 11 persons” who were protesting against the “Big Lick” exhibition at the Columbia Spring Jubilee Horse Show.”
Rowland apparently took no action.
“Like they came out of Mississippi Burning“
Similar incidents continued. Clant Seay on October 24, 2022 sued Chris and Deborah Fulcher, managers of Red Fox Stables, over alleged “multiple physical contact assaults” on Seay at a “Big Lick” show on October 9, 2021, during a riding performance by their daughter, Chastity Fulcher. Seay at the time was videotaping the condition of her horse.
The Fulchers, mentioned Seay, “are also principals of Fulcher’s Point Pride Seafood,” of Oriental, North Carolina.
“Based on what I have seen during the last seven years doing this,” Clant Seay told ANIMALS 24-7 later in 2021, “I see all the same signs of resistance from the perps that there were in the civil rights days of the 1960s. Some of the Lickers look like they came out of Mississippi Burning.”
Helmets for children not required
The Fulcher incident came about six weeks after Clant Seay on August 16, 2021 wrote to the seven directors of the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee with a simple request which should not have been controversial: that children participating be required to wear protective helmets, as is required by all riders of any age at U.S. Pony Club events.
“Children being unnecessarily put at risk is just as unacceptable as is the ‘Big Lick’ Animal Cruelty perpetrated upon Tennessee Walking Horses,” Clant Seay said.
His request appears to have been ignored.
Citizens Campaign outdrew Walking Horse National Celebration
By the 2021 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty had more Facebook followers than actually attended the multi-day “Big Lick” show.
(See Walking Horse National Celebration: don’t bet on the numbers.)
That was far from the only embarrassment the National Celebration suffered in 2021.
Back in May 2012 the Humane Society of the U.S. released undercover video showing then-Tennessee Walking Horse Hall of Fame member Jackie McConnell soring a horse at his stable in Collierville, Tennessee.
McConnell and two of his employees, John Mays and Jeff Dockery, were eventually convicted of federal Horse Protection Act violations.
McConnell was expelled from the Tennessee Walking Horse Hall of Fame, fined $75,000, and barred from keeping horses for 20 years.
National Celebration ignored own disciplinary action
According to a May 22, 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration media release, the Celebration board of directors “suspended McConnell for life from entering the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration grounds for any and all events, regardless of the event’s affiliation or ownership.”
Yet Clant Seay photographed McConnell at ringside on September 3, 2021, presenting a trophy McConnell donated for the winner of the Three Year Old World Grand Championship horse class.
Trump froze Horse Protection Act reinforcement
On the regulatory front, reinforcements to the Horse Protection Act enforcement rules were issued by the USDA in 2016, but were not y
et published in the Congressional Record when Donald Trump took office as U.S. president and immediately froze all federal rule making.
Two weeks after that, walking horse industry influence appeared to be responsible for the USDA deleting web site access to Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement reports.
(See Did Trump kill rules to protect walking horses? and Could soring horses leave top Republicans limping in red-state Tennessee?)
Animal advocacy organizations and Congressional action eventually obliged the USDA to restore the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement reports to the web.
Tom Vilsack put rules on hold again
Six years later, the Humane Society of the U.S. on July 22, 2022 won a ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the 2016 rule should have taken effect, and should therefore have had the force of law sixty days after the verdict.
U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, however, appealed the verdict, putting enforcement of the 2016 regulations on hold pending a further ruling from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and perhaps then an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Wrong Side of History Award”
Clant Seay in the interim on September 14, 2017 “honored” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a prominent “Big Lick” defender, with a “Wrong Side of History Award,” consisting of statue of a flat-shod walking horse, looking as walking horses normally look when not forced to goose-step.
This, other acts of street theater, and the frequent Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty demonstrations at “Big Lick” horse shows kept the soring issue in the public eye throughout the hostile Trump administration and the COVID-19 years.
Last stand was “United We Stand” horse show
Clant Seay’s last Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty protest decoyed “Big Lick” lobbyists’ attention to the United We Stand Horse Show in Tunica, Mississippi over the Veterans’ Day weekend in November 2022.
The PAST Act had by then been renamed the Joseph Tydings Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, after the late U.S. Senator from Maryland, 1928-2018, who during his single Senate term pushed the Horse Protection Act of 1970 through to passage.
While the “Big Lickers” watched Clant Seay, who had promised them a weekend to remember, Joseph Tydings PAST Act supporters scrambled to win last-minute votes sufficient for the House of Representatives to waive customary procedure by sending the Act straight to the floor.
Second big win in House, again blocked in Senate
Repeatedly introduced in Congress, the PAST Act had already “passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming 333-96 vote in 2019, passed the Senate Commerce Committee by voice vote in 2014, and passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee by a vote of 22-0 in June 2022,” recited Keith Dane.
The margin of House victory for the 2022 PAST Act, 304 to 111, was slightly less than the 333-96 margin won in 2019, but was again overwhelming. Nonetheless, it was again blocked from coming up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Clant Seay celebrated a second accomplishment over the Veterans’ Day 2022 weekend when, “Thanks to almost 5,000 persons who signed our petition urging agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to send USDA veterinary inspectors to the “Big Lick United We Sore” horse show in Tunica, Mississippi, USDA administrator Kevin Shea reports that 35% of Tennessee walking horses inspected violated the Horse Protection Act.”
“Health failing from effects of attack”
“Clant’s health seemed to be failing from the effects of the attack he endured at the Asheville, North Carolina ‘Big Lick’ walking horse show in 2021,” wrote Marty Irby in memoriam.
“I saw him in person a few times following that incident and he was in steady decline.
“Clant and I had our differences at times,” Irby acknowledged, “but were always able to work through them. Our late mutual friend, U.S. Senator Joe Tydings, entrusted me and Clant to secure his legacy and continue that work after he passed.
“Soon after Tydings’ passing, Clant came up to Maryland to the Senator’s memorial service,” Irby wrote. “There Clant met Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer,” then the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
This meeting led to the July 2019 PAST Act passage through the House of Representatives, with 308 cosponsors.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker
“Clant was probably more proud of that vote than anything he’d ever accomplished and there is absolutely no way that would have occurred without him,” Irby recalled. “He was the ‘whip,’ always after me to get more cosponsors faster, and he kept me and Wayne Pacelle,” president of Animal Wellness Action, “focused on that goal.
“Clant had always told me he had been friends with Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker for nearly 50 years. I wasn’t really certain I believed him,” Irby remembered, “until he took me to meet with the Senator,” who like Clant Seay was an Ole Miss law school graduate, “and I saw that friendship first-hand.
“For nearly an hour,” Irby said, “Clant talked passionately about the issue and even though Senator Wicker’s staff came in three times to take him to his next meeting, he waved them away, and said he was going to continue sitting and listening to Clant. It was actually quite endearing and somewhat of a comical meeting. Everyone would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall in that discussion.”
Died broke but had friends
Having invested practically everything he had in fighting “Big Lick Animal Cruelty,” Clant Seay died nearly penniless, evicted from his Oxford apartment while hospitalized.
His landlord, ANIMALS 24-7 was told, paid for his possessions––mostly papers pertaining to his work and activism––to be put in storage for a year, to give his survivors time to sort everything out.
Tributes poured in from former colleagues.
Wrote longtime Chattanooga journalist Roy Exum, named the Humane Society of the U.S. “Horseman of the Year” in 2012 for his many columns and editorials written in support of legislation to abolish soring, “So sorry to hear Clant is in heaven with the Lord who created the magnificent horses that Clant so heroically championed. Clant was a man of passion and I am lucky enough to embrace the love he had for God’s animals.
“He was a warrior against the sadistic soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and without question made a difference. Clant was a ‘real’ deal.
“Saddle up, partner,” Exum finished. “Your best ride ever is ready and waiting! And astride a walker, the champagne in that crystal glass you hold will not spill a drop! I’ll guarantee it!”
Posted Horse Plus Humane Society humane society president Tawnee Preisner, who has received custody of Gen’s Ice Glimmer, “Clant worked absolutely tirelessly. He organized protests at every ‘Big Lick’ show he could. He made a huge citizens campaign against the abuse. He met the ‘Big Lickers’ on their turf and went head-to-head against them. He was harassed, threatened, and assaulted because of his work, but he kept right on.”
Said Clant Seay himself in his final posting as Billygoboy, on February 19, 2023, “The Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty enters year nine with the ‘Big Lick’ on the ropes. It has been a tough long haul, and the end is now in sight.”
Jamaka Petzak says
Sharing with gratitude and the eternal hope that our species will progress beyond brutish violence, intolerance, and ignorance.
“Brutish”? “Animals don’t behave like men,’ he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.” ― Richard Adams, “Watership Down”
Man’s contempt for animals precludes him from accepting the validity of primate studies in relation to himself, and he shies at any inferences that can be drawn from them. Unfortunately nearly every human is subject to the relentless propaganda of language. It is with us from our earliest years and leaves an indelible weal on our psyche. The very words as we learn them conspire to defraud us of our judgement. Bestial, Beastly, Brutish, Brutal, can be compared to Humane, Manly, etc. There are hundreds of idioms in the English language which refer to animals. Nearly all of them are derogatory or pejorative in implication. To say that a man ‘behaves like an animal’ is to imply mindless violence, and is often used by judges when summing up in a criminal trial. The ‘law of the jungle—red in tooth and claw’ suggests shameless chaos and ferocity. The reality is very different. Mindless violence and shameless chaos are most in evidence among humans. I have spent many months in jungles and have always been impressed by the beauty and justice of the forest regimen. Violence if it does surface is mindful and infrequent, and chaos unknown—that is until man’s incursion, when of course all is changed….
Merritt Clifton says
Clant Seay, to return to the topic from which this digresses, told ANIMALS 24-7 that to be called a horse’s ass by the “Big Lickers” was a compliment.
Joyce Whittinggon says
Clant was very proud of that comment!
Cherie Beatty says
Thank you for giving Clant not only the obituary he deserved but also the credit he deserved for working so tirelessly to end the abuse of Tennessee Walking Show Horses. Although he often got up the backs of others who had been involved in the cause for many , many years because he was obsessive in believing that he alone had the keys to stop the business in its tracks, in retrospect, he was often more right than wrong. Some of what he did was also co-opted by others who took credit for what he had accomplished, but his attitude was that if that was what it took to keep them in the game, he’ll play along with them. His my way or the highway approach did turn off some of his supporters in the walking horse community who might have helped him share the burden that he assumed, but he never looked back when he lost the people whom he described as “not getting what it took to win”. When others walked away from him and continued with their own efforts, he mobilized new supporters from around the world , many of them not even from the horse community, because they recognized, through his videos, that there was something terribly wrong with what they were seeing and reading about. In the end, we will not see Clant’s like again on this issue, nor will we see his videos, his confrontations with Big Lick enthusiasts that showed them for what they really are as they assaulted the guy armed only with his mind, a strategy, a video camera and a protest sign. Putting himself at personal risk, then representing himself, he saw them in court or settled cases, putting the monetary awards back into his Citizens’ Campaign.
Clant was a rarity in today’s world; when he believed in something he believed in it 1000%. He didn’t know the meaning of the words back off or quit. He said what he meant and believed and damn the consequences.
The empty stands at this year’s current Trainers’s Show being held in Shelbyville, Tennessee, proved that while his decade long campaign may not have stopped the abuse through legislation, it has stopped the general public from coming out to view the spectacle of an exaggerated gait built on ridiculous shoeing, chemistry, inhumane training techniques, and the Big Lie, Thanks to his public outreach, his editorials appearing in the papers of record in Tennessee , Florida and other locations, and his constant presence on YouTube, his website, and Facebook, what he defined as a “southern problem” now has a national audience. Rest in peace, Clant. You’ve more than earned it and your presence will be irreplaceable as the rest of us continue to go forward on this issue– You’re gone but no one is giving up.