Just a few miles south of the Old North Church, where the American Revolution was sparked by the glint of two lanterns held high, stands a billboard with a message some hope will ignite a different sort of revolution.
Towering over 50 feet high, is a picture of two horses, one gray, and one bay brown; one nuzzling the other in typical equine affection. And besides that image, is written three words: STOP SLAUGHTERING US!
Erected Jan. 31 on Interstate 93, two miles south of downtown Boston, the billboard is the 25th to be placed around the nation by horse-welfare advocates. And the second placed in Massachusetts this month.
“Boston is one of our most important boards yet,” says horse-welfare advocate Jo Deibel, founder and director of Pennsylvania-based nonprofit Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, and initiator of the campaign.
“Many people are unaware that (over 100,000) horses are sent to slaughter each year. Our billboards are changing that, one person, once city, one state at a time.”
The Boston effort is especially important because the Massachusetts legislature is actively debating a bill that stands against horse slaughter, says Kathryn Webers, the Massachusetts coordinator for Americans Against Horse Slaughter.
Webers has raised the money to fund the placement of the Angel Acres billboard on the Interstate 93 location as lawmakers consider banning slaughter-bound horse trailers from its roads, as well as other restrictions on equine slaughter activities, she says.
Senate Bill 655, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, calls for a ban on equine slaughter for human consumption, as well as the sale, purchase, transport, delivery, receipt or export of equines for slaughter for human consumption.
On Jan. 24, the bill was referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, with a deadline of March 21st for further action.
Webers hopes that the billboard will spark enough concern in passersby that they will take a moment to call their representative to encourage passage of the bill.
“You never know what can happen if enough people see it,” Webers says. “We know horses are being transported through the state to slaughterhouses in the Quebec and Ontario provinces. If the bill passes, it would directly prohibit open-hold cattle trucks” filled with horses “from being transported on our roads.”
The grassroots campaign, which is funded by horse advocates who donate specifically to the billboard campaign, has elevated awareness beyond what Deibel first imagined.
Thousands of people across the country who have spotted the signs have since logged onto the campaign website, www.stopslaughteringus.com, offering words of encouragement to Deibel.
“I’m getting email from, literally, around the country. The majority of the emails begin by saying something like, ‘Oh my God! I had no idea.’ Most people don’t know about horse slaughter.”
As awareness grows, Deibel believes many more people will be encouraged to contact their elected representative and demand that they vote to end horse slaughter.
“We want to leverage public support to pressure our legislature,” says Deibel.
And if Massachusetts lawmakers vote in favor of the slaughter ban, Deibel says the message will be carried far and wide. Protection from tyranny has its roots in Boston; protection for our beloved equine companions could as well.