In a quiet, rural Vermont town of Poultney, the small private liberal arts Green Mountain College is attracting national attention for Bill and Lou – a long-standing team of oxen who have helped to plow and cultivate the land at the college’s Cerridwen Farm for years, but who are soon destined to be slaughtered for their meat and pounded into a ton of oxen burgers for the college cafeteria.
The school prides itself on its environmental sustainability and providing an educational program for research in draft animal farming. For the last ten years, Bill and Lou not only have participated in the daily farming activities, but have also become extremely gentle favorites who respond to their names, obey commands, and often enjoy affectionate “scratches and rubs” from many of the students, farm workers, and neighbors.
The average life expectancy of these draft animals generally range from 12 to 20 years, but this past year Lou sustained an injury to his left rear hock. His caretakers and consulting veterinarians determined Lou could no longer work, and so the farm purchased a new team of oxen, thus putting the two older chaps out of work.
The college’s decision to slaughter the pair has been presented as a lesson in sustainability and tradition even though farm manager Kenneth Mulder states it has been a difficult decision. The pair, being very close and extremely bonded often can not be paired with another working companion.
Students, alumni, animal advocates, and an ever increasing list of humane organizations however, disagree and claim Lou and Bill are sentient and emotional animals who should be cared for in the future with compassion and humanity after having served humans for so many years and so well. Students contend these two animals are special and more like friends, and as to the environmental sustainability argument, it’s just about two animals who are not likely to be punishing the environment considering how much and how long they have worked to enrich the land.
And as a humane and kind alternative, in stepped VINE Sanctuary, a haven for animals rescued from meat, dairy and egg industries, with an invitation to provide the pair with a comfortable and monitored retirement where they would be able to socialize with other animals and live out their lives. That request has been denied.
Rumor has it that Bill and Lou are headed to slaughter by the end of the month, but through social media the voices of Lou and Bill are being heard. The Facebook page Save Bill and Lou continues to discuss more media intervention while Green Mountain Animal Defenders Facebook builds more public support.
An online petition called Spare Oxen Bill and Lou From Slaughter has over 9,000 signatures. Click here to show support.
What do you think? Have Bill and Lou reached the end of their useful lives and therefore should be slaughtered for their meat, or should two sentient animals who so many have called their friends for so many years be allowed to live peacefully grazing and enjoying their golden years? Don’t all species want to live? After all, every year the President of the United States gives a reprieve to one very lucky Thanksgiving turkey. Will Bill and Lou be that lucky?
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