Subscribe!

 Subscribe to this blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

home

An Open Letter to the Students of Green Mountain College

by Cheryl Wylie

I grew up on a beef farm. The herd was small, only about a dozen or so cows and one bull that I could virtually walk under as a child. I often watched them throughout the summers and sat in the pasture with them any time that I could. My weekends were consumed by 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and summer vacation didn’t begin until the County Fair ended in July. It was not always the easiest life, but it truly shaped who I am today.

Who am I today? I am a veterinary technician and the full time caregiver at VINE Sanctuary. Living in the middle of one of five pastures, I am surrounded by and ultimately responsible for the health and care of the cows of VINE. Currently VINE cares for 27 cows ranging from 5 months to 12 years of age. Some of our residents came from cruelty cases; some were pets; some were retired from farms; and others were saved from slaughter by a friend, relative or a stranger who made a personal connection with them. Regardless of their background, they all find their place in the herd and a personal peace that is seldom present at “production-based farms.” On occasion we have welcomed a resident who had more challenges adjusting, but inevitably they find a companion who makes the transition easier.

Cheryl and Norman at VINE

Cheryl with Norman at VINE (photo: Selena Salfen)

Thankfully—since seven of the steers weigh over a ton!—cows are true herd animals and demonstrate respect towards the older members. They save the pushing and shoving for play. The larger elders also help us by instructing the adolescents in proper cow etiquette. They often can be seen leading a group of younger calves across the pasture to better grass.

The story of Bill and Lou has proven to be far-reaching. The offer from VINE was made in the same spirit that all of our offers are made when we are contacted regarding an animal who needs placement. VINE simply wishes to offer a place for Bill and Lou to live out their lives, however long that may be, in peace and with the opportunity to form new friendships.

Our multiple pastures allow us to ensure that our cattle are not only matched with others whose company they enjoy but also that they are in pastures that best match their physical abilities. Our goal at VINE is to ensure that our residents enjoy their lives. Various “surprise” plants are seeded in the spring in out-of-the-way corners of our pastures to encourage exploration and offer a special taste treat. We have several animals on supplements to help maintain joint health, and we do administer NSAIDs for those who have arthritis or pain associated with past injuries.

We understand that death is inevitable and that cattle do grieve when a herd member is lost, but they also support each other. Members of the herd say their goodbyes and are able to move on. When the time comes that quality of life dictates euthanasia at a sanctuary, the animal dies peacefully in their home, surrounded by things that are comforting and familiar. If that happened for Lou or Bill, the survivor would have the strength and comfort of the herd on which to rely.

If retired to VINE, Lou and Bill will be together, receive veterinary care as needed, and be monitored to ensure their quality of life. We would welcome respectful students, facility and alumni who would wish to visit Bill and Lou in person, and we would be happy to forward photos, video, and updates as possible. VINE would also be happy to update any news sources that have covered the story, lauding the college’s compassionate decision to retire rather than slaughter.

I welcome the chance to answer any questions regarding VINE or my own personal experience. I offered to attend today’s meeting at the college, to provide information about the sanctuary and the life chances of cattle with injuries such as Lou’s, but that offer was refused by the event’s moderator. We understand that the meeting has now been closed to the public.

I hope that the students at the meeting will realize that, for Lou and Bill, this is not an abstract debate. Now is not the time to argue about diet or definitions of “sustainability.” The only question really should be: What is best for Bill and Lou? I ‘m sure that, if they were able to speak for themselves at the meeting, they’d ask to be allowed retire to VINE.

I grew up on a farm. I know that retiring work animals to pasture is a long-standing tradition of kindness in agriculture. I hope that Green Mountain College will generously elect to honor that tradition.

62 comments to An Open Letter to the Students of Green Mountain College

  • APASTOR

    Video of some of the interaction with GMC students at the campus the other day. Please share far and wide. The world needs to know how GMC is educating these young minds:

    http://www.causes.com/causes/644857-let-s-turn-facebook-orange-for-animal-cruelty-awareness/actions/1696966

  • Christine La Londe

    I have so much to say, but GOD BLESS YOU AND THE ANIMALS AND THOSE LIKE YOU (US).

  • If this letter doesn’t move the people who have the power to make this life and death decision for these two animal mascots, I doubt anything can. Lovely, well-reasoned letter. Why they can not hear this message, is unknowable. A clue, though, is going to their website and seeing the open discussions about slaughter. Somehow they find this a move ‘forward’ rather than backwards. They actually say the students routinely get to decide which animals live and which animals are eaten and think this is a great thing. I would never want my child to have to make such a decision. The whole concept of exploitable ‘livestock’ is the problem, anyhow. Sustainability doesn’t have to be barbaric. Think FORWARD.

  • LatterDays

    I just read that Bill has been put down in the night due to his pain. If you had not been putting such pressure on local slaughter plants Bill could have returned to GMC in the form of food. At least he did not go to your sanctuary to suffer for the remainder of his life. He died as he lived, with HONOR and RESPECT. These two things are vastly different from pampering and personifying animals. I hope that you all are happy that you have meddled with so many lives and made the sourcing of local ethical food (with a face) that much more difficult.

  • bravebird

    Had Lou come here, he would have immediately received an in-person examination by a highly qualified veterinarian. Next, the information from that examination would have been shared with other experts in large cattle care. Together they would have devised a treatment plan or recommended euthanasia. We suspect, given the minor nature of his injury –he was strolling without limping the day of his death– that the NSAID known as “bute” (like aspirin for us) might have been enough. One of the people here has chronic pain from an old injury. Another has arthritis. Nobody we know wants to be killed in response to such minor ailments. Of course, like all sanctuaries, we do euthanize when advised to do so by animal welfare (not use, welfare) professionals.

    But let me (pattrice) just comment on how sickened I am by your references to honor and respect. Do you in all sincerity believe that yoking animals, breaking them to the use of a whip, and making them work without compensation constitutes honor and respect? Heavens! I hope you don’t ever decide to respect me.

  • LatterDays

    yes, if you have ever seen a draft animal that has not had a chance to use it’s mighty muscles for even a few days? It is cranky and wild, after a pulling session? Content. Let me address your comment about compensation, they were given room, board, and care. How is that not compensation? Their coats were groomed, their hooves trimmed. In the winter when the pasture was covered in snow they received the best hay.
    Respect, you should consider having some. You make diagnosis on an animals not in your care. How do you know if an animal welfare professional did not recommend that Lou be euthanized? How is it any less respectful to eat him than dig a hole? You try and control other people through smear campaigns and intimidation. As a resident the NEK and a farmer I make use of many of the slaughter facilities that were pressured not to except the oxen. How does respect play into invading a community and trying to dictate your will? You may flout about the (un)sustainability of meat, but I have some news for you. Those veggies that you eat are fertilized by animal manure and fish emulsion. One of the most commonly planted GMO crops? Soy. Destructive intensive cropping practices bring us potatoes, our oranges are trucked in from sunnier climes, what food isn’t destroying the earth? Locally produced food goes a long way towards reversing these destructive practices, but you’ve come in and broken part of our foodweb, making it harder to ethically grow our own food and meat. Just because these oxen had names does not mean that they should live so that other animals should die, the GMC community made a decision about how they were going to source part of the protein in their diet, and you trampled all over that.

  • Jackie

    All I can say is wow! Respect for all living creatures is essential.
    They are sentient beings not products or things!
    This is so sad!

  • DiMinou

    Hey LatterDays:

    Do you know why GMO soy is so widely planted? To be fed to livestock raised for food. The Amazon isn’t being gutted for tofu pups and veggie burgers, it’s for cattle. Even Joel Salatin’s Polyface chickens eat GMO soy. It’s completely disingenuous to imply that plant foods are more destructive than cycling protein unnecessarily through animals. Eat whatever you like, but don’t tell lies, and don’t lie to yourself about the ethics of what you do as well as the actual environmental impact of your actions.

  • Trylon

    I hope that Bill and Lou are saved. There is something remarkably unfair, in 2012, in naming animals, having them work for you and provide a lifetime of service and then butchering them because their useful work lives are over. I am a member o the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in NYS and

  • Trylon

    and they rescue animals that have suffered at the hands of humans through neglect and cruelty. We can do better. Bill and Lou deserve to finish their years simply because they have served their masters well. Green Mountain needs to do the right thing and allow these animals to live.

  • Geoff

    “they all find their place in the herd and a personal peace that is seldom present at “production-based farms.”

    Seldom – perhaps. But not never present and GMC was and is doing it right.

    “an in-person examination by a highly qualified veterinarian. Next, the information from that examination would have been shared with other experts in large cattle care. Together they would have devised a treatment plan or recommended euthanasia. We suspect, given the minor nature of his injury –he was strolling without limping the day of his death– that the NSAID known as “bute” (like aspirin for us) might have been enough.”

    GMC doesn’t have or use highly qualified vets? And they don’t have any cattle esperts? I think their vets did an in-person examination, consulted with the cattle experts and they decided to put them down (slaughter). I assume you think of yourself as either a highly qualified vet, a cattle expert or both if you can determine both the severity of the injury and the treatment being rendered without ever having seen Lou in person (your words).

    “Respect for all living creatures is essential.”

    Is not a plant a living thing? The fact of the matter is, unless you can photo or chemosythesize your nutrient requirements, you do live at the expense of other living things. You eat them, take their space, drink their water etc That’s just a plain FACT.

    “But let me (pattrice) just comment on how sickened I am by your references to honor and respect. Do you in all sincerity believe that yoking animals, breaking them to the use of a whip, and making them work without compensation constitutes honor and respect?”

    Without compensation? Certainly you don’t think the deserve a cash salary do you? I think they work for food. There is honor in work and repsect for good effort. Standing in a field occupying space, using resources for no other reason than to stroke your heart strings is what’s really sickening.

    “Do you know why GMO soy is so widely planted? To be fed to livestock raised for food.”
    So because CAFO’s are using GMO soy you can indict GMC? Humans raised cattle long before soybean meal was available and they can still be raised without it. Based on what I know of GMC’s mission, I highly doubt they were feeding GMO soybean meal.

  • Geoff

    “I grew up on a farm. I know that retiring work animals to pasture is a long-standing tradition of kindness in agriculture.”

    How many draft animals did you have working on your farm? And how many of them were oxen? I’m guessing you answered zero to each question. So really, you have no experience retiring working farm animals nor likely know of any personally.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>