October 31, 2012

To hell with your sustainable meat. Have a heart.

There are few things lately, aside from maybe the election, that really make me doubt that as a whole humans are generally good.

There are some bad apples, no doubt. And I won’t pretend I love everyone. As a rule, however, I like most people I meet and though I am realistic about the negative, I consider myself an optimist.

But the past few days, news surrounding two oxen has given me a feeling of hopelessness that has been hard to shake.

I first heard about Bill and Lou late last week when a post from one of the dozen animal rights groups I follow on Facebook urged me to sign a petition to save two oxen, Bill and Lou, facing slaughter in some town in Vermont.

As I often do, I signed the petition and followed up with the suggested polite but forceful email without really doing much research into the situation.

Thinking there was little more that I could realistically do, I put the oxen and the petition out of my mind, day dreaming as I always do that my one-line email was the tipping point for the person in charge to have a change of heart.

Monday night I came home from work, however, to find my mom reading a New York Times article about none other than Bill and Lou! Excited that the situation was getting some media attention, I eagerly grabbed for the paper, wholeheartedly expecting a feel-good story about how thanks to a handful of activists, the animals were saved and are now living their lives peacefully on some fantastic Vermont farm.

What I read, instead, made me want to first cry and second travel to Poultney, Vermont to find and slap some of the people quoted in the article.

First, a little background. Bill and Lou are a pair of oxen that have spent their lives working the fields at the farm at Green Mountain University, helping to further the school’s mission to be free of fossil fuels. Now too old and feeble to work, they are scheduled to be slaughtered at the end of the month and fed to students in the college’s dining halls.

The oxen are fairly well known in the town, however, and several townspeople—supported by animal activists from around the country—are fighting to save them. A farm sanctuary in Springfield, Vermont has already agreed to take them.

The environmentally-conscious university has refused, however, arguing that using the animals for meat is the most sustainable option to dispose of them. The farm was established on campus, administrators argue, to promote sustainabilty through grass-roots gardening.

“Our choice is either to eat the animals that we know have been cared for and lived good lives or serve the bodies of nameless animals we do not know,” William Throop, the college’s provost, was quoted in the New York Times article.

Now, I am all for sustainable farming and local food, but these people are acting like they only have the option of eating Bill and Lou or sacrificing their environmental ethics by getting meat from a factory farm. Well, what about the option of not eating that meat at all?

I am not naive. I know most people’s food politics do not align with my veganism. However, it is hard for me to accept that here are smart, socially-concious, educated people facing a shit storm of bad media attention because they refuse to sacrifice a few hamburgers?

Here are a few other quotes:

“It’s about sustainability, and I’ve been a vegetarian for three years, but I’m excited to eat Bill and Lou,” said Lisa Wilson, a senior. “I eat meat when I know where it comes from.”

“Why aren’t you at factory farms right now?” Ms. Hardiman said to a group of protesters. “They’re going to taste delicious!”

These are animals that many of these professors and students have interacted with on a daily basis for close to a decade, and the majority of the student body supports killing them. These people are not detached from their food. They cannot play the ignorance card.  They gave these animals names and now that they no longer have a direct use they are not only quick to get rid of them, but are actually excited about killing and eating them. Even if you eat meat and would never consider yourself an animal activist, that should disturb you.

To Help Save Bill and Lou sign on of the several petitions online and send a polite email to:

Kenneth Mulder
Farm Manager, Research Associate and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Green Moutain College
[email protected]

Bill Throop
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Green Mountain College
[email protected]


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

Like elephant journal for animal rights on Facebook.

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