Save That Steer: Strongsville woman launches campaign to rescue Bentley

Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that the Plain Dealer’s five-part series on a steer named Bentley could attract this much attention. After the first installment, which helpfully reminded us that Claudia Derov, the 15-year-old raising the steer for sale at the Great Geauga County Fair, “still likes hamburgers,” we figured there was no reason to keep reading. But at least one person was paying attention. Sarah Jones, of Strongsville, has spent years protesting what she sees as the cruelty of junior 4-H Club fairs. Having competed when she was young, and watched her friends cry over baby lambs and ducks sold for slaughter, she launched her own private crusade. Now 28, she’s been quietly rescuing pigs and sheep for years—buying them at fairs, promising that she’ll kill them, then passing them on to friends for safe-keeping. When Jones read about Bentley, she decided he’d be the perfect poster-cow to change the system. People don’t realize, she explains, that the cute little lambs they pet at the fair are “basically on death row.” Buyers should have the option of doing something other than killing the prize-winners, she says. She created a MySpace page asking for donations to save Bentley. So far, she’s raised $1,755 to buy him at the fair auction this Saturday, and send him to a sanctuary for farm animals. She’s not sure if the plan will work. Fair organizers might not let Bentley escape alive. Different fairs have different rules about which animals must be slaughtered after purchase. Sometimes it’s only certain classes of animals, or prize-winners. When we called to inquire about Geauga’s rules, the man who answered the phone wasn’t eager to explain these ins and outs. He didn’t want any more publicity for Jones’ cause, which he said is “not doing the fair any good.” So he probably wouldn’t be happy to hear about a benefit concert she’s holding Wednesday night at The Winchester in Lakewood, either. It starts at 8 p.m. Sadly, hamburgers will not be served. -- Lisa Rab
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