PepsiCo. Withdraws TWH National Celebration Sponsorship

PepsiCo., makers of Pepsi Cola, Mountain Dew, and other beverages, as well as food products including Quaker Oats, Doritos and Lays Potato Chips, has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is a high-profile exhibition event during which the breed's World Grand Champion and other champion horses are chosen. Pepsi initially announced its withdrawal of support following a report on horse soring aired on May 16 on the ABC News program "Nightline."

Wednesday's "Nightline" broadcast included a segment about soring, featuring graphic video images of soring techniques applied to Tennessee Walking Horses. Keith Dane, director of Equine Welfare for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said that the video images were obtained during HSUS's undercover investigation at a Tennessee Walking Horse training barn operated by Jackie L. McConnell. In February, a federal grand jury in Tennessee handed down a 52-count indictment accusing McConnell, along with three other individuals, of conspiring to violate the Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA), which prohibits soring. The case remains pending.

PepsiCo's Celebration sponsorship withdrawal was announced at the conclusion of the "Nightline" segment. PepsiCo spokesman Vincent Bozek later confirmed that the company had ended its relationship with the event. He declined to comment further.

Celebration Chief Executive Officer Doyle Meadows, PhD, said that PepsiCo., had been a corporate sponsor of the event. However, Meadows said the relationship between the company and the Celebration was "a two-way street."

"They give us $25,000, but we also give them thousands," Meadows said. "This means we won't be getting $25,000 from them, but they won't be getting thousands from us in purchases this year either."

Meadows also said that video images contained in the "Nightline" report were connected to McConnell as an individual. "What's that got to do with the Celebration?" Meadows asked.

Steve Mullins, DVM, president of Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, Winning Fairly (SHOW), the horse-industry organization that trains and hires designated qualified persons to perform HPA compliance inspections at the Celebration and other events declined comment on PepsiCo's decision. However Mullins said that the individual behavior depicted in the "Nightline" segment was not representative of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry as a whole.

"This is not acceptable or condoned on any level by anyone within the Tennessee Walking Horse industry," Mullins said. "SHOW has diligently worked to end any type of abuse of horses, and we find the behavior of this individual to be deplorable."

The "Nightline" segment is available for viewing online at abcnews.go.com/nightline.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More