Many of us have been following the saga of Bill and Lou, two gentle oxen at Green Mountain College in Vermont who were yoked together for ten years
laboring for the college.
Bill and Lou were bonded companions until the dark morning hours of November 11, when Lou was awakened, taken somewhere, and killed.
The college says Lou was “euthanized” by a farm veterinarian during those early morning hours of secrecy, then buried in an undisclosed
location. This account has not been verified and may well be a lie designed to silence critics of the college’s decision to kill Bill and Lou
after Lou developed a hock (ankle) injury in the course of plow-pulling earlier this year.
Photo of Lou and Bill by Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
Learning of the plan to truck Bill and Lou to a slaughterhouse, VINE sanctuary in Vermont offered to give them a permanent home, but the college
refused, insisting that Bill and Lou must be “processed” and served to its students as hamburger as part of the school’s
“sustainability” program. The college public relations department wrote: “Bill and Lou, when processed for meat, will yield over
one ton of beef. If this meat doesn’t come from our animals, it likely will come from a factory farm setting which carries with it a
significant amount of ecological impact. . . . If sent to a sanctuary, Bill and Lou would continue to consume resources at a significant
rate.” The PR department also asserted that “transition” to a sanctuary would be harder on Bill and Lou than being loaded on a
truck, unloaded at a slaughter house, and butchered.
To justify slaughtering Bill and Lou (Bill has no reported injury), the college said the American agricultural system uses 5 million gallons of
water to produce the same amount of beef, not to mention greenhouse gas production, soil erosion, and water pollution. But where are the actual
comparisons laid out? In Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Richard Oppenlander says smaller farms don’t alter the total amount of resources
that are required to raise, transport and slaughter hundreds of billions of animals. And I can’t recall anything the school said anywhere
about consuming fewer animals for the good of the earth.
In any case, Lou is dead and the means of his death are undisclosed, and Bill is bereft of his one true friend and comfort while the school decides
how to dispose of him as euphemistically as possible. Some people ask, why spend so much time on Bill and Lou when millions of farm animals are
living and dying every day under conditions that are worse than those at Green Mountain College? First of all, Bill and Lou matter in their own
right and were brought to public attention. They could have been saved if the school had let them. Maybe Bill will get a second chance after all.
Second, these oxen personify the billions of anonymous animals whom nobody thinks about or grieves for apart from the few (maybe many) who do. This
Green Mountain College episode reminds us poignantly that when it comes to animal farming, there is no essential difference in attitude between
so-called sustainable practitioners and industrial producers. For them, farm animals are expendable, disposable “resources” that
“consume resources,” and if someone is going to pay for humanity’s planetary havoc and be blamed for it, it will be them and not
What Can I Do?
VINE sanctuary’s co-director Pattrice Jones posted this request: “We know that Lou was walking easily and grazing at 2 or 3 in the
afternoon of what would be his last day. Given that data, the late-night timing of the so-called "euthanasia," and the absence of his body on
campus, I have grave concerns about the manner of his death. While VINE's official statement will be forthcoming, I urge people to join me in
demanding that the college produce a statement from a veterinarian, attesting that he or she recommended and implemented euthanasia for humane
reasons and by humane methods. Otherwise, the college must explain to the students and neighbors of the college who loved Lou exactly why and how
Bill Throop, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Green Mountain College
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copy to Kenneth Mulder, Farm Manager, Research Associate and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies via email: email@example.com
Pattrice Jones of VINE sanctuary wrote this blog upon learning that Lou had been killed:
Yesterday’s New York Times article can be read here:
A Casualty Amid Battle to Save College Oxen