Bill, Lou and friends
Bill and Lou have won friends around the world. Letters have arrived at the Herald, via email, from Portugal, Ireland, England and around the United States, mostly pleading for the lives of the two oxen. Green Mountain College has reportedly been flooded with angry messages.
It is safe to say that the college’s decision to send the two animals to slaughter has excited alarm around the globe precisely because it was a deliberate decision. Farm animals are sent to slaughter every day in every country. Veal calves are chained in confining little houses before they are dispatched. Chickens are crowded into cages. Pigs and beef cattle are maintained in squalid, crowded feedlots covered in their own waste, stuffed with grain then trucked to their demise.
But it is the fate of two animals whose end will be the result of a thoughtful, deliberative process that has produced an outcry. Probably it is because it puts the fact of animal slaughter squarely before us as a human choice. Yet that is precisely why Green Mountain College carried out its exercise in humane animal husbandry and thoughtful decision-making. It is part of an educational program about sustainable agriculture.
The cruelty involved in raising animals for slaughter is a fact of life — if you want to call it cruelty. The end to which Bill and Lou are headed is ordinary and common. Their lives are what have been consequential. They have allowed a college community to understand that agriculture is about cycles of life and death. That is a useful sort of education.