The Columbus Dispatch

Akron woman pays for five billboards

Sunday, December 28, 2003
NEWS   06C

By Kathy Lynn Gray

Terry Torreance sponsored this billboard on Sullivant Avenue to push for a nationwide ban on the sale of horses for consumption.

When a chance conversation at an Oklahoma restaurant in 1996 turned to horse meat, Akron truck driver Terry Torreance felt queasy.

"I'd always heard they were turned into dog food or glue after they died, but this woman from Quebec said her sister ate horse meat,'' Torreance said. "I never knew they slaughtered horses for that.''

She wondered whether Charlie, the horse she lovingly brushed and rode through her teenage years, ended up on someone's dinner plate.

After researching the issue for several years, Torreance acted this month. She took extra trucking jobs until she scraped together $1,000 to pay for billboards with a simple message: Keep America's Horses In the Stable . . . And Off the Table!

The five billboards she's paid for in Ohio are part of a national campaign to keep horses in the United States from being slaughtered for food elsewhere.

The Equine Protection Network, based in Pennsylvania, is asking volunteers to sponsor the signs.

"We want the average American to know what's going on,'' said Chris Berry, the network's founder and president.

Lamar Outdoor Advertising in Blacklick donated the billboard space, which normally would cost about $800 each for a month, said sales manager Rueban Blankenship.

"We felt it was a nice message so we helped them out,'' he said.

Torreance's money paid to produce and erect the signs, which went up Dec. 1.

Three are in Columbus: on W. Broad Street west of Cole Road; at 2777 Sullivant Ave.; and at 4100 Fisher Rd. The other two are in Licking and Marion counties.

At least two U.S. facilities slaughter horses for meat. Other horses are shipped to Canada for slaughter. Although there is virtually no domestic market for horse meat, it is served in Belgium, France and Italy as cheval, a low-fat, high-protein alternative to beef.

Ohio's only horse slaughterhouse, Prairie Meats, closed its Cardington plant in Morrow County several years ago. Although company officials and an agriculture inspector said the operation was clean and humane, neighbors never took to it.

Residents signed petitions and demanded that the Village Council take action; one night, someone cut the locks on the gates and set the horses free.

In the early 1990s, Prairie was among about 11 U.S. horse slaughterhouses. Virtually all of the meat, even then, went out of the country. Prairie initially was owned by a financially troubled Canadian company, which sold it to a food company based in Japan. The market for horse meat there always was big, a former Prairie official said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show more than 50,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States in 2000.

"If it were left up to the American people, I don't think they would approve of it,'' Torreance said. "It's the ultimate betrayal of an animal.''

Because California outlawed the sale of horses for consumption in 1998, Torreance said she hopes the billboards will prompt people to urge legislators to do the same nationwide.

The Ohio billboards will stay up at least through Wednesday, Blankenship said.

Torreance, 49, hasn't owned a horse since she sold Charlie 30 years ago, but she has recently returned to riding.

"I'm not involved in any other animal issues,'' she said. "I don't say people in Europe shouldn't eat horse, but it's not in our culture here.''

By March, Torreance hopes to have enough money to put up more anti-slaughter billboards in Ohio. She's also planning to install a reproduction of the billboard on the cab of her truck.

"I'll just have to work a little harder and do a couple of extra runs,'' she said. "I don't have a lot of money, but I'm like my mother who always said: 'You can't take it with you.' ''

Terry Torreance sponsored this billboard on Sullivant Avenue to push for a nationwide ban on the sale of horses for consumption.

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