JUPITER, Fla. - A provocative billboard along Florida's Turnpike is getting attention from drivers going through Palm Beach County's northern horse country.
The sign, which went up last week about a mile south of Indiantown Road, shows two horses nuzzling each other next to the words "Stop Slaughtering Us!" in red and white slash-style letters.
The billboard - which costs about $3,000 per month - has two goals, said Renee Paxton of Juno Beach, founder of the nonprofit Stop Shipping Horses to Slaughter.
One is to raise awareness that horse slaughter still exists. The other is to persuade people to help "pull horses out of the slaughter pipeline," Paxton said.
The billboard's appearance comes a month after Congress lifted a de facto ban on horse slaughter that has been in place since 2006.
That year, Congress banned the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using federal money to inspect meat plants that slaughter horses. Without USDA approval, the plants could not ship the meat across state lines.
Although there is no market for horse meat in the United States, where horses are bred as companion animals and not for food, the end of the ban potentially allows plants to process and ship meat to Europe and Asia, where some call it a delicacy. Some advocates also say it will help reduce the number of neglected and abandoned horses.
There have been no horse slaughterhouses in the United States since 2007, but Paxton said horses are still shipped to countries such as Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
Paxton formed her nonprofit in January. When she heard that another nonprofit, Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in Glenville, Pa., was working on an anti-slaughter billboard campaign, she contacted it about placing a sign in Palm Beach County.
Angel Acres worked with Paxton to choose a site and raised donations to pay the $3,000 cost of having the sign up for a month.
"This area is a well-traveled road in between areas with horse people and non-horse people," Jo Deibel, founder and president of Angel Acres, said of the Jupiter location.
She said her organization has two other billboards in Florida, both in Jacksonville, as well as billboards in 21 other states.
Paxton hopes Angel Acres will be able to raise enough money to keep the Jupiter billboard up for a second month.
Since the billboard campaign began a year ago, hits to the Angel Acres website, www.stopslaughteringus.com , has increased to 14,000 hits per week from about 80, Deibel said.
"This isn't really for donations for our rescue," Deibel said. "This is about spreading the word."