A proposed grant to study the development of testing to detect evidence of soring is drawing criticism from animal cruelty activists, The Tennessean reports.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association has proposed “an independent study to develop objective, science-based testing to detect any evidence of soring,” according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, which is considering awarding the grant.

No formal agreement has been reached since talks were initiated this past summer between the breeders association and Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton. Agriculture spokeswoman Corinne Gould told The Tennessean that the grant falls well within the TDA’s mission to support and promote agriculture in the state.

“Assisting the walking horse industry to develop a solution to a challenge is no different than what we do when there are challenges within the cattle, dairy, poultry, pork or other livestock industries,” Gould says.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed a number of amendments to the Horse Protection Act (HPA) with the aim of ending the practice of soring. Earlier bipartisan bids by members of Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (HR 3268/S. 1121) have failed to gain traction.

Teresa Bippen, president of the anti-soring group Friends of Sound Horses, told The Tennessean that objective tests already are in place and said the study would be a waste of taxpayer money.

“A major step forward for TWHBEA should be to refuse to register any horse that is written up for soring,” Bippen says.

Anti-soring activist Clant Seay presented the TDA with a petition of 6,000 signatures opposing the grant and said the study would amount to “state-subsidized animal cruelty.”

“The state of Tennessee will own this if they give them that money,” he says. “This is badly wrong to support something the rest of the world has turned away from. The answer to all of this is just to let the horse go natural.”