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Open Letter to Parents of Green Mountain College Students

By now, you have probably heard about the controversy concerning the impending slaughter of de facto campus mascots, Bill and Lou, 11 year-old oxen who have been denied the chance to live out their retirement at a sanctuary. What you may not know is that the process by which the decision to kill Bill and Lou was made in a manner that endangered student well-being at Green Mountain College and has diminished the value of a Green Mountain College degree.

There’s a reason that the drinking age is 21.  The frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex—the part of the brain responsible for assessing the consequences of actions—hasn’t finished growing until then. Teen-agers are literally unable to accurately estimate the consequences of drinking several shots of liquor in succession. Why would we ask them to accurately estimate the consequences of killing two animals? No responsible parent would ask a teen-ager to determine whether to euthanize a family pet, leaving them with the emotional burden of a life-or-death decision. And, certainly, no responsible parent would ask a teen-ager to make such a decision while withholding vital information relevant to that decision.

But that’s exactly what has happened at Green Mountain College. Immature students have been asked to decide the fate of these animals and to live with the emotional burden of so doing. Furthermore, students have been unwittingly steered toward the “kill” decision. Now that a small subset of students have made the decision to kill, all students have been subjected to heavy peer, faculty, and even administrative pressure to support that decision.

The consequences will be significant. Of course, the oxen themselves will pay the highest price, losing out on years of peace, ease, and friendship at an animal sanctuary. But the school and the students also will suffer.

Animal Welfare at Green Mountain College

All of the school’s students—not just the small sub-set who made the decision to kill and have since claimed that they speak for the entire student body—will have to live with the emotional reverberations of killing two beloved animals who did not want to die, deliberately depriving them of the free retirement home in defiance of a literally worldwide cry for mercy.

All students—including students who cared for Bill and Lou and did not want them to die—will have to grapple with the emotions of seeing “Bill and Lou burgers” on the menu at the school cafeteria.

Those students who do eat hamburgers will be expected—for several months—to consume 11 year-old oxen meat, which will be technically edible, but not at all palatable. Meat is muscle. As they age, muscles become more striated. They become even more so if the muscles are used strenuously, as those of work oxen have been. This will be stringy, grisly meat of the kind usually used in pet food.

All of which is to say, we expect significant crying and retching in the cafeteria on the first day that those burgers are served. And then what? The students who made the decision should be ethically obligated to consume that one ton of barely edible meat. But will they? If not, what then?

Students did not anticipate that likely outcome not only because of their age but also because they were provided with biased “information” in the deliberation process. The faculty member who conceived of the idea of killing the oxen slanted the information given to students in order to favor that decision. After the original decision was protested, other faculty members stepped in to protect students from information from outside sources, thereby steering them toward confirming the original decision.

The actions of these faculty members, and the shoddy reasoning in the rationales they have put forward for the slaughter, have significantly lowered Green Mountain College’s reputation within academia. This will lower the value of your child’s degree. Both publicly and privately, prestigious scholars in relevant fields have urged the Provost and President to reconsider the decision, or at least stop claiming that it is in any way consistent with environmental ethics or respect for animal welfare.

Pictures of animal cruelty at Green Mountain College are circulating online, further lowering the reputation of the school. National media stories and an online video feature Green Mountain College students making callous comments and offering illogical rationales for the killing. All of these are evidence that Green Mountain College teaches callousness toward animals while failing to teach students basic skills such as how to construct a rational argument without falling into fallacy.

Grave concerns about animal welfare at the college have emerged in the course of this controversy. Concerns about the academic credibility of the school’s farm program—which is managed by a faculty member with scant experience and no relevant degrees—also have arisen. All of this evidence will be brought up to challenge the accreditation of the college if it does not act immediately and affirmatively to review and improve its animal welfare policies.

If your student is in the farm program, you should know: She or he is not receiving instruction consistent with 21st century animal welfare policies. She or he is being instructed by a farm manager who lacks academic credentials in the area of agriculture, animal science, or any other related field. She or he is learning out-dated techniques and stereotyped ideas rather than the innovative ideas and practices endorsed by actual experts in the field of sustainable agriculture.

Use your voice as a tuition-paying parent. Tell the President of Green Mountain College to issue an immediate reprieve for Bill and Lou, allowing them to retire to VINE Sanctuary. Demand a thorough review of the farm program, with particular attention to the credentials of staff members charged with the responsibility of teaching students how to care for animals. Whatever your son or daughter might believe, ask that the school respect the rights of all students, protecting those with minority views from bullying and refraining from subjecting minors to the stress of making life-or-death decisions.


pattrice jones

Cofounder, VINE Sanctuary

p.s. If your child is a vegan or simply feels sympathy for animals, you should know: She or he may have been bullied or subjected to intense peer pressure at Green Mountain College. You may want to check in about that. If your child is one of the many former vegetarians now saying that they will be happy to eat Bill and Lou, you may want to inquire about the process by which she has been led to set her previous ideals and ideas aside in favor of those of the farm manager and his crew.

196 comments to Open Letter to Parents of Green Mountain College Students

  • Susan Harrison
    Well said! It is beautiful! I am just so disgusted by the school’s actions of insensitivity and lack of compassion. They are demented!
  • Shelby
    “p.s. If your child is a vegan or simply feels sympathy for animals, you should know: She or he may have been bullied or subjected to intense peer pressure at Green Mountain College.”

    You have no idea about the maturity level of GMC students. It is highly insulting to suggest that young adults cannot make mature decisions.
    I am a 27 year old student, and I support the decision.

    It is obvious that you have never even visited GMC as there is no bullying at this college. We respect every students beliefs and opinions. It is only the students fault if they are scared to stand up for their own beliefs, but we always listen to other students opinions and consider all input with an open-mind and ear.
    If students had decided to send Bill and Lou to VINE, then the school would respect our wishes, but we decided something different. The school stands by our choice.

    This picture is not a picture of a real GMC student. It is a picture that was meant to upset you.
    Students are changing their profile pictures and making ‘immature’ comments, because we are protesting the protesters, and quite frankly we are getting tired of defending our statements.

    I saw your protest the other day.
    It was pretty quiet. Not too impressive. It seems people have more courage when they are making insulting comments on the internet. Too bad you couldn’t use your voices in real life.

  • Cammi Nunez
    Call out PETA. They will do something!
  • pattrice
    Shelby, I’ll approve your comment, as it proves my point.

    For the record, GMC students have told us that they or their friends have been bullied.

    And, while you are 27, many GMC students are still in their teens.

    You could look it up, since you’ve evidently not learned it in a psychology class: The frontal lobe hasn’t finished growing by then. Until our early twenties, all of us are literally “immature.” That’s just a physical fact. Just as most children are unable to grasp algebra until after the brain growth spurt that happens just before or during puberty, most people in their late teens are not as well able to assess outcomes of actions as they will be once their brains finish growing.

    And you may want to do a bit of Googling before accusing me –that’s pattrice with two ts– of not having real-life courage.

  • Heather Keith
    It’s worth noting that the vegetarian/vegan population of Green Mountain is twice as high as national norms (of college students; much more than that of the general population). My (vegetarian) family and I eat in the campus dining hall several times a week, and I can personally attest to the availability of vegetarian and vegan options, and the fact that the food service is transitioning away from inhumanely raised meat (which will very likely mean less meat). We have classes in animal ethics, animal law, vegetarian lifestyles, and a wide assortment of classes and activities that explore compassion, justice, and sustainability. In fact, the support for vegans and vegetarians at this college rivals anywhere I’ve been.
    If the kids are changing their pictures to offend, they’re succeeding in their intent. But isn’t that a little immature?
  • Jon Brown
    I sincerely hope you do challenge the school’s accreditation so that the excellent programs and education it provides are shown to the world. You letter to parents is full of generalizations, half-truths, and libelous remarks. It is an example of how you, your organization, and your supporters are so stuck on their beliefs that you’re unwilling to learn about the process that lead to this decision. Disagree with it? That’s fine. Insinuate that GMC students were bullied because they opposed the slaughter? Get serious. I truly believe that you care about Bill and Lou, and do want to have them at your sanctuary. However, I also believe that you’re equally, if not more interested, in using this to grab headlines and more donations. Thankfully for you, the same people who blindly protest what they don’t understand will probably not realize this.
    I wanted to pass on a post by Vermont Law School Prof. Steven M. Wise

    I have taught “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Vermont Law School for more than twenty years. Green Mountain College’s decision to slaughter and eat the old and infirm oxen, Bill and Lou, is tragic and wrong-headed enough. But when I read the blood-curdling statements in today’s New York Times from some of its students, I wonder where Green Mountain College lost its moral compass. Doesn’t Green Mountain College have a philosophy department? Lisa Williams, identified as a vegetarian, claims “I’m excited to eat Bill and Lou.” Andrew Kohler, identified as a senior, says he learned how to drive them as a team: “They start listening to you, and they become your friend. I feel honored to eat them.” Even Southern slaveholders recognized their moral obligation to retire those old and infirm human slaves they had brutalized for their entire lives. It pains me to have to place these racists slaveholders as a model for Green Mountain College students for anything. But alas they have something to teach Green Mountain College students. We will certainly begin discussing this in my Vermont Law School classes.

  • pattrice
    Heather, that is good to hear. We have heard, specifically, about bullying within the farm program and also about an upsurge of anti-vegan rhetoric within the context of the current controversy.

    Jon, VINE has suspended its fundraising during this controversy. All that we have gained is much more work on top of our daily chores.

  • Ethan
    Have the students opposed to the slaughter of Bill and Lou united to stop this from happening? Like a an exodus from the college? A significant drop in enrollment may prove a point.
  • pattrice
    Ethan, we have spoken with one student who intends to transfer as well as the parent of a vegetarian student who has come to feel so uncomfortable that the parent may insist on a transfer. We’ve also heard from a former student who left the farm program due to discomfort with the ethos of cruelty disguised as sustainability. We do expect an exodus, but not an organized one. Remember that this is a very small student body to begin with. As one scholar I know wrote to the college President, this incident will change the constitution of the student body considerably over time. Not only will some current students leave, but many others who might have enrolled will not enroll, thereby considerably narrowing range of voices on campus.
  • Melody
    What a wonderful letter and I hope it is posted on every GMC student’s facebook page and shared with all their friends and family. The photos are real, they haven’t been changed as an immature act, despite what some are saying. There are more disturbing photos on their farm’s facebook page ~ seniors gleefully staring at dead sheep hanging from the rafters, a mutilated, bloody sheep in a wheelbarrow… one of their administration happily loading dead sheep into the back of a truck, smiling… One student even indicated he is going to GMC to learn about slaughter.
    No PR machine in the world will be able to help GMC if this murder is allowed to occur.
    They are receiving funding from numerous levels, that is where it will make an impact on this so called “college”.
  • pattrice
    Melody, right: The photographic evidence of callousness toward animals at Green Mountain College abounds. If they do kill Bill and Lou –which they may do as soon as tonight– I suspect that many of the people who have been politely pleading for mercy will be highly motivated to make sure that anybody who looks up Green Mountain College will see those pictures before they see anything else.
  • Marie
    I have been bullied by GMC students on Facebook
  • pattrice
    Marie, thanks for speaking up.

    Oh, and Shelby? This from Professor of History James McWilliams, in response to your false claim on his blog that this picture is not real:

    “Oh, but that picture IS from a real, current, GMC student. It was accompanied by other pictures, clearly taken on the GMC campus, of that student and other GMC students. That student has made numerous consistent postings expressing delight at the bloodbath on GMC’s facebook page. Your statement is positively false.”

  • Shelby
    I have been bullied by protesters on my GMC facebook.

    Goes both ways Marie.

  • Rucio
    Heather, it’s great that GMC caters to vegetarians and vegans, although it is irrelevant to the fate of Lou and Bill. As to the relatively high percentage of vegetarian and vegan students, yesterday’s New York Times calls that into question:

    “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.”

  • Jane Doe
    Pattrice, I’m just wondering why you feel so passionately about a situation that’s concerning more sustainability than anything else, isn’t that what your for in the grand scheme of things?

    If the oxen had been brought up to talk and bred to want to be eaten, would that make it okay, or would that still be a problem?

  • andrew
    you’re fascists. why is it so wrong to let people eat meat, live the way they want to live. the GMC community does not tolerate bullying or harrassment. protesters were verbally attacked by students because we are under attack from them. you shove your ideals down peoples throats, and you don’t respect or value anyone else opinion. it was the GMC communities choice to have these ox slaughtered, and you can’t even respect our decision. the teenagers that go here were not the only members in deciding the fate of these ox. GMC staff who have years of experience and knowledge in farming and sustainable living also believe in this choice. you’re discriminatory close minded fascists.
  • Zoe
    I whole heartedly agree with Pattrice and the ethical ideas fostered by the VINE sanctuary. The Green Mountain College’s decision is shocking and deeply saddening. In regards to Andrew Kohler’s statement, “They [the oxen] start listening to you, and they become your friend. I feel honored to eat them.” I would like to pose a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “Animals are my friends. And I don’t eat my friends.”
  • pattrice
    Jane, we don’t believe that the path to sustainability entails killing the disabled and elderly to prevent them from “wasting” resources” See my post (a few back) entitled “Shades of Green” for a further explanation.

    I don’t understand your second question.

  • Elke Winkler
    The biggest problem is, that they teach those students that killing an animal doesn’t matter and is always allowed if they decide so !!!! And when I see this picture …. this boy doesn’t show any emotion – he couldn’t care less about the death of this animal !! Maybe a future animal torturer ??
  • pattrice
    Andrew, again I will approve a message that proves my point. Poor child, what are they teaching in history or logic classes over there? Do you really believe that people expressing disagreement with you constitutes fascism? Or that protesters standing with signs across the street constitutes an “attack”? Or that when a community says “we made the decision,” that means that whatever that decision might be must be respected without argument? Think now… are you sure that anything any community might decide to do to any of the beings under its power must be accepted without question by the rest of the world? Come on… do you really need me to point out the relevant analogies?

    Shelby, I am sorry if you have been bullied. At this point, literally tens of thousands of people worldwide have taken interest in this. We have encouraged people to dialogue respectfully. That said, the fact that a random stranger was mean to you on Facebook doesn’t mitigate the obligation of GMC to ensure that students are not bullied on campus and to encourage its students not to participate in cyber-bullying.

  • Fox
    I have no problem with what anyone believes in. I do not care about what they practice or how they practice it as long as it does not interfere with the freedoms of those affected by those practices. As a student at green mountain, I can say with the utmost honesty that never in my life have I met such a diverse and close community of kind and willing people. There are people of all beliefs and all practices. I eat meat because humans are omnivores, but I have NEVER seen anyone targeted or harassed in a malicious manor at any point for their eating habits or philosophical beliefs. I believe the school does an excellent job at facilitating the needs of those who choose to be vegetarian or vegan. I have been to the farm and i have worked on it, and the animals are treated with respect and kindness. However although we care about them, we cannot deny that each of them have a purpose as farm animals, both in life and in death.
    Although you believe eating meat is bad, and I will admit that there are moral implications to death wherever it occurs, the tradeoff system between animals and humans should be a mutual benefit in the life of both the animal and the people relying and depending upon them.
    I’d agree that there are immature people, and people are not always at their best and brightest. But to say that anyone under 21 is immature and not capable of grasping the consequences of their actions is just wrong. How can you degrade your argument by relating “several shots of liquor” and such a difficult moral decision. There is no way to compare the two without showing your lack of objectivity by slandering and creating an image the green mountain student body as idiots and drunks, it does a immense injustice to perfectly valid and bright minds.
    The faculty of GMC are among the most unbiased and respectful people, I have not met any faculty member who would dilute their credibility by blatantly forcing a decision when the choice did not even need to be made available.
    I did not vote in the decision because i had not worked extensively with bill and lou, but I saw them every day and i do feel an important connection to them as any living thing feels towards another. But with the one severely injured and the other unable to work well with other oxen, as well as their impending age I respected the decision to remain sustainable and let the two be killed. If we had sold them or sent them away, or kept them penned in somewhere it would have been wasteful to the farm and painful to them. To be honest GMC is the last place you should be fighting. We loved and cared for bill and lou, gave them good lives. What no one talks about is how we saved them from becoming veal. Instead of wasting away chained to some post in a metal barn, they grew old and strong.
    What’s more GMC has a unique relationship with the chart wells food distributors in providing locally grown and slaughtered food in our cafeteria, where otherwise we would be living off the inhumane and disgusting methods of the industrial food complex. It is our goal to create a sustainable future where humanity can survive and live in harmony with the world rather than ceaselessly destroying everything we touch.
    Lastly I am appalled by this article’s blatant attempt to smear a school trying to practically achieve so much good and change things in a seriously f-ked up world of injustice and destruction. You twist words and I have heard terrible things about the vine sanctuary which although i am tempted too, as an objective person, I will keep your secrets to yourselves.
  • andrew
    You’re fascists because you discriminate and have no respect for any ones ideals except for your own. Stop trying to act as if you were never disrespectful to the members of our community. I wasn’t saying you attacked us at your protest. In fact most of you had nothing to say at all. the hundreds of ignorant cruel comments made toward the people of GMC. Stop waiting until you are behind the shield of the internet to make nasty comments. You are fascists, and also cowards.
  • ronald
    That pic is hilarious.
  • pattrice
    Andrew, there are five of us here at VINE, all LGBTQ, all over 30 and two over 50. Most of our time is spent caring for animals. I can assure you that none of us are fascists, none of us discriminate, and none of us have made cruel comments to any student at GMC.

    But, again, let’s look at your logic: You condemn the protesters–which included a nurse and a middle-aged neighbor of the school–both for being there and for not saying anything. That’s called a respectful picket line.

    And, again, logic: Reasoned disagreement is not the same as disrespect. Here at VINE, at least, all we have done is, first, offer sanctuary to two animals and then, second, rebut arguments made in response to that offer. The first act is called compassion. The second is called reasoned dialogue. How you get from that to fascism–please look it up before you use the word again–is beyond me.

    As for coward, again: Google me. Seriously. I was facing down homophobic thugs long before you were born. I’ve gone up against slumlords, racist police, and enraged perpetrators of domestic violence. The others here at VINE have similar activist histories. Do your homework.

    I suspect that what is upsetting you is that literally tens of thousands of people have expressed the opinion that your decision is morally abhorrent. That must be hard to hear. But, if you want to learn and grow as part of your college education, you’d be well advised to actually think about what people are saying rather than hide behind charges of fascism or cowardice.

  • Craig Cimmons
    Since you have the ability (stated yourself above) to choose what comments you approve, I hope this makes it into this discussion. I have such a love for GMC that I feel I must say some things.

    I am not saying you are wrong about Bill and Lou. I do not want to see them die. I was there when they arrived as youngsters and grew very fond of them. In fact, I try not to have any animals suffer or die for my quality of live. Thanks to my time as a student and staff member at GMC I am: an environmentalist; well connected to the world around me; passionate about community; passionate about the well being of animals; a vegetarian; and a person that understands large scale global dynamic systems and how they relate to my life. I have also worked on a farm that sent animals to slaughter (reinforcing my vegetarianism). I think you might be making large scale generalizations and assumptions here. I am upset that you have heard about bullying at GMC, and this should be looked into. However, I want to address some things you wrote about in your letter to parents.

    I understand your point about the maturity level of college students. I have known many. Nevertheless, is anyone to young to be involved with the decision making process around their food? I am pretty well read and educated in food systems but I know young children who hunt and/or raise animals for food and have a better understanding of this relationship than I do. Is there anything more powerful for a young meat-eating person than pulling a trigger, or cutting off the head of a chicken, or sending a loved animal to slaughter? If you want to talk about young people deciding the fate of an animal I hope you know some who have done some of the above. I am sure you do and I am sure you see the power in it.

    As for your photo, I think you might have missed the point. The one think young people are very good at is seeing through the falsities and justifications we adults put up around us to tell ourselves what we are doing is correct. They are not blinded by things like mortgage payments, work stress, raising a family, paying the car loan, and doing as the boss says. They can focus on the point of the issue and not what society shows them with its vale of justifications over it.
    The picture just illustrates an overreaction to something that happens all the time. Animals need to die before we eat them. I am going to assume he does not actually think all chickens should die. The GMC farm has killed many animals and sent them to the dining hall yet a reaction like this has never happened. Since Bill and Lou have names and have been the profile picture for the school, suddenly they are more important that the chickens, sheep, goats, ducks, pigs and the other farm life that have died previously. Why are the lives of Bill and Lou more important than any of the lives of the other farm animals?

    You wrote: “All of the school’s students—not just the small sub-set who made the decision to kill and have since claimed that they speak for the entire student body—will have to live with the emotional reverberations of killing two beloved animals…in defiance of a literally worldwide cry for mercy” I am curious, do you not hear the hypocrisy in this statement A small sub set of the worldwide population is calling for them to not be slaughtered.

    I am glad you wrote the following: “All students—including students who cared for Bill and Lou and did not want them to die—will have to grapple with the emotions of seeing ‘Bill and Lou burgers’ on the menu at the school cafeteria.” This is exactly one of the reasons to slaughter them. Knowing the animals name before you eat it effects people in different ways. Personally it drives home my choice to not eat them, others might be connected to food in a new way, and some couldn’t care less. College is a time to learn about your place in the world and knowing where your food comes from is very important. I feel GMC is one of the best institutions to teach people this.

    I don’t fully understand the point you are trying to make about the 11 year old meat. Are you saying we should kill young cows that are far away and we don’t know? How is this better for animals and people in any way? The dinning hall serves meat, you need to understand that. Would it not be better on some level if we raised animals to maturity than slaughtered them, instead of killing them at young ages just to have better meat? Are humans ready to make that sacrifice for animals?
    Can you add a reference for this please: “…prestigious scholars in relevant fields have urged the Provost and President to reconsider the decision, or at least stop claiming that it is in any way consistent with environmental ethics or respect for animal welfare.”

    I am good friends with the man who runs the farm and I am wondering if you ever met him, been to his farm, taken one of his classes, or read his book? It sounds like you have not by what you say about him. It sounds like you just read about him on the internet. To be honest when I read what you wrote about him I started laughing out loud at how far off you are.

    Again, can you please give examples to back this up: “If your student is in the farm program… She or he is not receiving instruction consistent with 21st century animal welfare policies… is being instructed by a farm manager who lacks academic credentials in the area of agriculture, animal science, or any other related field… is learning out-dated techniques and stereotyped ideas rather than the innovative ideas and practices endorsed by actual experts in the field of sustainable agriculture.”

    Please understand that I don’t think Bill and Lou should die. But that is because I don’t think any animal should die to support my diet. I am only writing this because GMC is such a special place to so many people.

    So parents, if you are questioning your child’s home away from home, please consider this: most schools would not, 1) even have a farm on campus and, 2) not ever ask the students where their food should come from. I agree you should look into GMC closer, and if you don’t like what you see, educate yourself on the issue to the fullest and do something about it. That is what the students do because that is what the faculty teaches. If you have a child that was bullied, I apologize and you should inform the school, this should not be tolerated.

    Thank you for your time,

  • [disrepectful moniker deleted]
    It’s funny how Green Mountain College makes the whole argument about sustainability now when it is a known fact that eating animal products actually destroys the planet, which is why the United Nations is urging everyone to adopt a plant-based diet. If Green Mountain College actually cared about the environment, they would promote a plant-based diet on their campus. The arrogance they display by talking about sustainability as if they own the entire planet and have some kind of authority over who gets to live on Earth and who gets to die is sickening. No other species on this planet destroys the environment like us. If they are so worried about the sustainability of the planet, why don’t they walk the walk by killing themselves?

    Their only motive here is the flesh they will get out of Bill and Lou’s old, worn out bodies but by using double talk and making the issue about the environment now, they think they are going to fool people though sadly, many do get fooled.

  • pattrice

    I can see that you are deeply engaged here, and I am glad about that.

    I’m very happy to know that you have had good experiences at GMC. I am sure that many of the faculty are wonderful and competent people. This does not change the fact that Kenneth Mulder–go look at his online CV yourself–does not have any credentials that make him qualified to run the farm program. Nor does it change the fact that some faculty members have devoted significant time and energy –including in class time– to denigrating a local animal sanctuary. Where, exactly, did you get your ideas about VINE? Have you ever been here? Talked to us? Or have you heard us bad-mouthed by people who wanted you to approve the decision to slaughter Bill and Lou? Did they also tell you that we repeatedly and respectfully offered to come to campus to answer student questions or have a public debate? No, I thought not.

    Now to the brain. I am a college teacher myself and have taught lifespan psychology so I know that this is one of the hardest facts for adolescent and young adult students to face, but it is simply the fact that the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex does not finish growing until the early to mid-twenties. And it is simply a fact that, as a consequence of this, people in their teens do not have the cognitive capacities that they will have when their brains have fully developed. I remember being a youngster myself when I first learned this fact, and how much I hated learning that I was literally immature, in the sense that my brain had not finished growing yet.

    But, Fox, this is in fact why the drinking age is 21 rather than, as it used to be, 18. You misunderstood my reasoning on this point completely. What I am saying is: If we cannot trust teenagers to decide whether and how much to drink, how can we possibly trust them with the decision of whether or not to kill–permanently kill–two beings?

    A comment by one of your peers on the video from the protest supports this point. The young woman says that maybe she will later realize that this was a wrong decision, but that that’s all part of the learning process. She appears not to realize that the decision cannot be undone. It has real repercussions which cannot be taken back if she later realizes she was wrong. Bill and Lou will still be dead.

    It is the difficulties that people at this age have in assessing the likely outcomes of decisions that are responsible for the high rates of adolescent deaths due to car accidents, drinking, and the like.

    So, in academia, it is not normally considered ethical to place college students in the stressful position of making life-or-death decisions.

    As a GMC student, of course you are loyal to the school. And, because you are a student immersed in the institution, you do not have the frame of reference to be able to see the ways that the institution may be failing you. But pay attention to this controversy and you will see that educators from other schools join me in being deeply concerned about the matters addressed in this letter. For example, you may wish to visit the blog of historian James McWilliams, whose specialty is the history of agriculture, to hear what he and other professors are saying about the quality of the education for which you or your parents are paying so much money.

    We are not trying to drag down GMC. To the contrary, we want GMC to actually live up to its stated ideals, many of which we share.

  • andrew
    I know the difference between “reasoned disagreement” and disrespect. Don’t insult my intelligence. People that are a part of VINE and those that associate VINE have made disrespect comments to students of GMC. Don’t try to lie.
  • [disrepectful moniker deleted]
    The UN and European Commission says we should adopt a plant-based diet to save the planet:
  • Rucio
    Fox, if Lou and Bill could speak in a language you could understand, they might have something to say against your claim to be NOT “ceaselessly destroying everything we touch” by slaughtering them because they’re no longer useful to you.
  • pattrice
    Andrew, seriously, this struggle was started by Green Mountain Animal Defenders and has been picked up by at least three national organizations, not to mention a few organizations overseas. We are just the sanctuary that stepped in to offer refuge. We simply cannot be held accountable for the actions of animal advocates all over the world. What has happened is that GMC has condensed all of its feelings of defensiveness onto VINE, blaming us for the logical repercussions of its decision.

    You need to understand this: Once GMAD was asked by an alumni to take action, some sanctuary would have stepped up to offer refuge and the college would have refused. Then GMAD would have made up its petition and the sanctuary would have notified its own supporters. Then the national organizations would have gotten wind of it and started to spread the word nationwide. It doesn’t matter which sanctuary stepped up, the outcome would have been exactly the same. GMC would have been inundated by calls and messages from all over the world. Some of them would have been rude.

    What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not only factually inaccurate to blame VINE for the actions of thousands of people who heard about Bill and Lou from the news media or from other organizations, but also that blaming VINE deflects attention from the real question–How did GMC come to make a decision that is so morally repugnant to so many people and why has the GMC community so steadfastly refused to even consider that it might have made an error?

  • Molly
    Dear Pattrice,

    I recently read your letter to the parents of Green Mountain College students and would like to tell you how deeply offended I was by it. Not only did you attack my school and my parents, but you attacked me personally when you do not know anything about me. I may be only 18, but I am confident in the fact that I can make decisions better than a fair amount of adults. I also do not appreciate being called “immature” and “brain-washed” by someone miles away attacking my school through an online letter.
    Bill and Lou are beloved members of the GMC community, but they are animals on our sustainable farm not our mascots. They were purchased, like many of our other farm animals, with the intent of someday being slaughtered and that day has come. Green Mountain College has the noble intention of teaching its students how farms really work. It is nice to picture all farm animals living out their lives in a sunny field, but anyone who has real experience on a farm knows that in order to get meat, animals must be slaughtered. Many animals across the country that are purchased with the intent of being slaughtered have a very different life from Bill and Lou which is another reason I support their slaughter. I, personally, do not eat meat, but I still do not like the idea that my school buys meat from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s). I believe most of my fellow students would agree with me when I say that I would rather know where the meat in my cafeteria comes from and how the animal was treated (which is very good at GMC).
    As for your argument that my brain is not developed enough to make my own decisions or opinions, I say have a conversation with me. Maybe my brain isn’t fully developed, but I am very capable of gathering my own information and making a well-informed decision/opinion. This is what I did when it came time to discuss what was to be done about Bill and Lou. I am an avid animal lover and enjoy the company of our two oxen, but I also come from an area that is rich in agriculture and I understand how farms work. Animals are slaughtered every day and most do not experience the amount of love and sunshine that Bill and Lou have. And for your assertion that we cannot make good decisions because we are under the age of 21, that is an easily refuted argument. If that is your argument, than why do so many people drink irresponsibly after they turn 21? Why do they break the law? If we are generalizing so broadly here than if all people under the age of 21 make poor decisions, shouldn’t all people over the age of 21 make good decisions?
    I have not eaten meat in many years, so I do not feel qualified to comment on the quality of meat we are getting from Bill and Lou except to say that I’m pretty sure we aren’t getting high-grade meat in our college cafeteria as it is. I would also like to add that our farm was started by mainly vegetarians and vegans as a way to show people who exactly they are eating when they bite into a hamburger. With that in mind, I must not completely understand your argument of “All students—including students who cared for Bill and Lou and did not want them to die—will have to grapple with the emotions of seeing “Bill and Lou burgers” on the menu at the school cafeteria.” Because it sounds like you don’t think that meat-eating students (because you did say “all students”) should have to come to terms with where their meat came from. If some students choose to eat less meat or cease eating meat altogether because they didn’t want to eat Bill and Lou, then the farm has done its job of making students more aware.
    I have tried my best to keep this letter as civil as possible, even though I was deeply offended by your letter. I would also like to point out how easy it is to take a couple quotes out of context or from the heat of an argument and make a whole organization/company/political party/school look bad. If this was how we judged everything, I don’t think there would be a reputable group around. Please do not pretend like you have never said something that could have easily been taken out of context to make you look bad. I respect your opinion regarding our animals, but I would appreciate if you voiced it in an equally respectful manner. I love my school and hate to see its name slandered.

    Best regards,

  • andrew
    You’re close minded and have no respect for others. Everything you say is garbage.
  • pattrice

    I fail to see how this letter attacks your parents, to whom it was addressed.

    Please see my extensive comments above concerning brain growth. Of course you feel completely competent. All adolescents do. That’s why we see so many car accidents, drinking accidents, and other fatal accidents among people in their late teens, when we humans –all of us! not just you! not just GMC students! all homo sapiens at that age!– have literally immature brains within adult bodies.

    So, again, in academia it is not usually considered ethical to ask teen-agers to make life-or-death decisions. You may be insulted by this, just as many are insulted by the drinking age. But it is actually for your protection.

    GMC has failed to protect you. That is why you are so upset right now. Students never should have been asked to make such a decision, and the faculty that engineered the decision should not be leaving you with its emotional repercussions.

    One more point about decisions. You say “my own decisions,” but the decision about Lou and Bill was not about you. It was about their lives.

    You’re right that we may have a deep disagreement about whether it is OK to treat animals like property, but you are wrong if you–like so many GMC students–think that killing Bill and Lou is any sort of normal farming decision. The farmers at the feed store are literally laughing about this, asking “who eats 11 year old oxen meat?” A local beef farmer shakes his head and wonders why you city kids don’t understand that it is a farming tradition to retire rather than kill elderly work animals. That’s where the old phrase “being put out to pasture” comes from!

    Did you not know this? Why didn’t you know this? What else aren’t they teaching you?

    What did they tell you about Bill and Lou when the decision was made to kill them? How do you know those things were true? Did your professors encourage you to do independent research? To visit VINE? Did they offer to call in an animal welfare professional or an animal rights attorney to speak for Bill and Lou in the deliberative process?

    After the controversy arose, why did professors and administrators refuse to allow VINE to come to campus to answer student questions? What didn’t they want you to learn?

    I understand why GMC students who read this letter will get upset when they read what I say about the brain. That’s an understandable reaction from college-age students. I’d just like to see more typical college-age behaviors — such as questioning authority.

  • Andrew, you have no rational argument
    ”you’re fascists. why is it so wrong to let people eat meat, live the way they want to live.”

    If our speaking out against the slaughter of Bill and Lou makes us “fascists,” your speaking out against dog fighting also makes you a “fascist.”

    The difference between you and us is we do not get our sense of morality from laws, which is why we’re against the slaughter of Bill and Lou with a passion so why is it that we do not get our sense of morality from laws? Because we know that…

    Back in the day, owning slaves was one’s “personal choice” because it was legal. Back in the day, fighting dogs was one’s “personal choice” because it was legal, and today, consuming animal products is considered one’s “personal choice” because it is legal. Just because it is legal does not mean it is right. Nothing that harms an innocent-being (human or non-human) can ever be one’s “personal choice.” A personal choice does not involve victims or parties who do not or cannot give their consent to be exploited, enslaved, tortured, abused or killed. A personal choice involves you and you alone.

    If you’re so big on letting others live their lives the way they want to live, why don’t you let Bill & Lou live their lives how they want to live? Because I can guarantee you they very much prefer to be alive than dead, and as they are shoved towards death, they will make this very obvious.

    Those of you who resent vegans and think “Vegans need to respect that it’s my personal choice to consume animal products; they have no right to judge me:”

    If it weren’t for people like vegans who had dared to think outside the box, refused to follow the crowd, questioned established norms, customs and “judged,” human slavery and dog fighting would still be legal today in the US so the reason why we’re such “fascists” is because we live way ahead of our time, and what you call “fascism” today will be the accepted and practiced norm and thought tomorrow.

  • Fox

    I will keep my eyes open to anything and research what you think may be helpful. I do this because I wish to be informed and I like to understand the sides of people who quarrel in the hope of finding a beneficial conclusion. I wish that there was a public debate, but as a private school and as an institution working on being Self-sufficient it probably wasn’t the wish for the decision to be made public. I understood the point you were trying to make with the alcohol, but it appears to many people and myself that this article is trying just to drag our school down with blanket statements and targeted slanders at our integrity because the school did not accept your offer. Also, there was a level of perception that was off with the girl in the video, she was thinking about the decision in regards to a similar situation in the future where obviously you were thinking specifically about bill and lou. I’m starting to think that cerebral cortex thing just puts people set in their ways, science never grasps the true nature and feeling of life which you must understand because of how the cruelty of animals relies heavily on just looking at scientific facts when people could use a dose of philosophy.

    They would have been dead and packaged into veal ten years ago and we wouldn’t be talking about them at all right now. I think that its something that we gave them a peaceful 11 years munching on the Vermont grass under the sun. Can someone just admit that this is a lesser evil in this world? there are so many grave injustices going on all the time, conveyer belts with sharp gnashing reckoning without so much as a ray of sunlight. Animals being pumped with hormones never to know the joy of freedom or the wind on their skin.

    fight the people worth fighting and leave this little progressive collage to try and gain some ground against the horrid and mechanized death. These people of the industrial food complex don’t look at animals as life, they don’t look at them as something with a soul or a consciousness. they see them as product. a product requiring the cutting of overhead and the maximizing of profit. Instead we should be cutting greed and maximizing quality of life!

    Bill and lou are great and beautiful animals. But the hard truth is that not everyone is vegan, and there will be some need to depend on the work of animals in agriculture. Perhaps things will change, but we wont get anywhere unless some god-mend compromise can happen. Believe in what you believe, Stand your ground and cry out to the world against what you despise. But ideals wont be met if people are just digging themselves deeper and deeper into close-mindedness and nonacceptance. Im not saying its just you or just me, Im saying that people need to work together to bring this world to a new dawn of prosperity and joyous freedom. just Shake hands and fight the common enemy.

    Any decision ever made has had people on both sides of what is moral or right. Bill and Lou are not just serving the base needs of consumption. They are the catalysts in a movement to take away these murdering death camps across the world. They symbolize how we can break our dependance on the greed-ridden world of machines. Yes it is sad, yes they are loved, but through history there have been great martyrs. Bill and Lou are more than just cattle now they are an ideal which can step us all closer to a harmonious relationship with the world. DO not make what they must do and what must be done in vain, do not make it an ugly thing and maybe we can all get what we want. LIFE OF QUALITY TOGETHER!

    do you understand, it is the excess in this country and the ever baring need for more and more and more which kills so many needlessly, what cuts through habitats and turns forests into parking lots. But they are the majority, and unless the minorities band together we will always be minorities. In a system which depends on consensus, no one is truly happy, but at least we can try to get to a place where we can all have good lives and find fulfillment in our work.

    I understand that miens don’t always justify the ends. But this is a case where with rationality, There are such ends to gain.

  • Jar Jar Binks
    The drinking age needs to be lower!
  • Fox
  • Chris
    After carefully reading and analyzing your “letter”, I’ve come to the conclusion that you at VINE sanctuary are doing nothing more than launching an all out attack on GMC, whether it be students, alumni, faculty, and even community. Jesus Christ! I’ve been on the farm, and I’ve seen first hand care that these animals are provided with. Congratulations! Stalin and Hitler would be enthralled with you ability to conjure up such good propaganda! Why don’t you just go and attempt to mate with animals that way you won’t bring children up in this awful world, and we wont have to hear the warped ideologies that you pound into their heads. Thank you, that is all.
  • pattrice
    This just in– Today the college president refused a substantial donation to the library, to be made in exchange for allowing the oxen to retire. He had previously refused offers to buy the oxen for many times their worth, presumably because “sustainability” demands that they not be allowed to live if they cannot work. But this offer of a donation was substantially higher–in the tens of thousands of dollars.

    Parents, Which should be more important to a college: Killing elderly oxen or buying scholarly books?

  • J
    Pattrice, for someone who has been been writing poorly researched, deliberately inflammatory, and disrespectful tirades for longer than Andrew has been born, you have the grammar skills of a “teenager” whose frontal lobe hasn’t quite developed. You have obviously not thought further into this than your emotions will let you and your little outburst here is blantantly untrue. Readers, that is not a GMC student, but I’ll admit it was a nice attempt at demonizing some of the most accepting and kind people I’ve ever met. The students of GMC aren’t relishing slaughtering Bill and Lou. I’m sure a lot of the people who support it are actually upset about losing their friends, but at the same they know they are doing the right thing – because they’ve been taught in philosophy, ethics, agricultural science classes, they’ve eaten the food in the dining hall, and they understand sustainability. Bash the Green Mountain Community all you want, but do me a favor and fact check (and edit while you’re at it) before you post things like this.

    And if this pseudo-journalism is really how you make a living, keep in mind – the more uneducated and biased you sound, the more people like me you get who will never take you seriously.

  • Heather Keith
    If I am the “Heather” to whom you refer in your statement below, I’d appreciate it if you’d remove it. Professor McWilliams was not responding to a post by me. I appreciate open dialogue, but I don’t appreciate being accused of a false claim I did not make. After some research, I was able to dig up the quotation, made by another person. I assume your post was a mistake.

    “Oh, and Heather? This from Professor of History James McWilliams, in response to your false claim on his blog that this picture is not real:

    “Oh, but that picture IS from a real, current, GMC student. It was accompanied by other pictures, clearly taken on the GMC campus, of that student and other GMC students. That student has made numerous consistent postings expressing delight at the bloodbath on GMC’s facebook page. Your statement is positively false.”

  • Fox
    “Parents, Which should be more important to a college: Killing elderly oxen or buying scholarly books?”
    Obviously Books are important. I dont think the gmc president wants anything to do with VINE. Based on the way you are undermining the validity of the college as a place to learn. Why are you doing this?

    at this moment there are thousands of oxen dying in cold and dark-some places without anyone defending their individual right to live directly. There are bigger things at work doing terrible things. Put your time and useful energy to stopping what has no question to its moral transgressions.

  • pattrice
    J, I’m sorry but I can’t quit laughing at this comment. Please do point out my grammatical errors! Check your own facts while you’re at it. Everything I say here is true, and most can be easily verified by simple online research.
  • Fox
    Do you have any interest in changing anything? you can fight the world and build your little mental castle of ideals and morals. Look down on the people in the futile lands around you and mock their existence all you want.

    But one day their cries will reach your most inner chambers. And you will shudder at the folly of your wasted and egotistical motives. Maybe you will never see the importance of these little people and you’ll go on. Blissful in your ignorance of unity.

    You know im talking to you.

    The problem with some older folks is that their cerebral cortex has become so developed that they loose touch with what matters. they spend their whole lives fighting for something, making their lives enveloped in an idea or a standard. When that idea has a hole punched in it or when their ship of standards begin to spring leaks. They just cant handle changing what they worked so hard for. Their resolution is commendable to a point until it just gets in the way of progress. The world is a fluid existence pattrice, what tries to stop its flow is swept aside. All one can do is direct it towards a calm gentle bedding.

    Care not for legacy or remembrance. For even great empires are forgotten.

  • Fox
    But i suppose all one can do is decide what to do with the time they are given…Gandalf said something like that. Im sorry for that it was out of spite.

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