By now, everybody knows that Lou is dead—allegedly euthanized and buried in an undisclosed location in the middle of the night. The mysterious circumstances of his death make it difficult to know exactly what to say, and perhaps that was the point. And of course VINE staff—especially the two who twice went to see Bill and Lou at the college—are grieving, as are Lou’s friends on campus (including but not limited to Bill) and in the community.
All of Lou’s supporters, especially those who knew him personally,
deserve to know exactly why and how he died.
With all of that understood, here are a few of our preliminary thoughts. We say “preliminary” because, unless the college produces a veterinarian to attest that he or she both mandated and enacted euthanasia for humane reasons using humane methods, we cannot know for sure what happened on the last night of Lou’s life. We do believe that all of Lou’s supporters, especially those who knew him personally, deserve to know exactly why and how he died.
If this was a real euthanasia —recommended and implemented by a vet for humane reasons and by humane methods— and Green Mountain College administrators really have decided not to kill Bill, then that represents a compassionate response to the concerns of the tens of thousands (including many GMC students, GMC alumni, GMC neighbors, and other Vermont citizens) who voiced their opposition to the proposed slaughter and consumption of two campus workers. We would be eager to laud Green Mountain College for choosing compassion and reason over defensiveness and rigidity were it not for disturbing questions about why and how Lou was killed.
Lou’s friends on campus and in the Poultney community have been keeping an eye on him in recent weeks. VINE Sanctuary staff also have had a couple of opportunities to look at him. Neither we nor our informants have seen any sign that Lou’s injury was of sufficient severity to mandate euthanasia. On the afternoon of what would be the last day of his life, he was seen strolling in the pasture.
According to the statement released by the college, Lou was killed in the middle of the night due to a sudden deterioration of his condition and then buried in an undisclosed location. Many material questions make this narrative troubling. How, exactly, was a grave large enough for a 1,000lb ox dug in the dark? How was the body lowered into that grave in the dark? Did a backhoe operator come out in the middle of the night to engineer these feats?
If so, was Lou killed before or after being transported to the grave site? Did a veterinarian come out in the middle of the night to examine him and administer a painless death? Or did the farm manager simply decide to kill him and, if so, by what method?
We would be eager to laud Green Mountain College for choosing compassion and reason over defensiveness and rigidity were it not for disturbing questions about why and how Lou was killed.
We are aware that, while veterinarians and backhoe operators rarely come out in the middle of the night, transports to slaughterhouses and rendering plants almost always occur at night. In order to ease the mind of the community, we ask Green Mountain College to produce documentation of veterinary involvement in Lou’s death.
We worry for Bill. While delighted to hear that an immediate death sentence no longer hangs over his head, we are troubled by the terms used in the college’s statement of its plans for him, which reference usual agricultural practices. As students and faculty of Green Mountain College are well aware, being critics of some farming practices themselves, many commonly used agricultural practices, while legal, are widely considered to be inhumane. We would like to hear a much more clear statement of the intention to allow Bill a humane retirement.
Oxen are cattle, and cattle are herd animals. We fear that Bill will be deliberately isolated and that any resulting depression will be cited as a justification to kill him too. We are sorry to have to have this concern, but the college’s previous intention to kill and eat Bill makes us wary for his welfare. We strongly urge –and encourage our supporters to urge– Green Mountain College to accept Farm Sanctuary’s generous offer to include Bill in their herd of special needs cattle, among whom he can find companionship and solace. (We would also be more than willing to welcome him here, but we understand that feelings about VINE run hot on campus right now.)
We strongly urge –and encourage our supporters to urge– Green Mountain College to accept Farm Sanctuary’s generous offer to include Bill in their herd of special needs cattle, among whom he can find companionship and solace.
We sincerely hope that Lou’s death was necessary and not deceptive. We sincerely hope that Bill will be treated kindly, as all elders should be. We sincerely hope that Green Mountain College administrators have decided not to make these two animals sacrificial symbols of sustainability, independence, or any other abstract principle.
We understand that it can be troubling to think about questions such as exactly how Lou was killed and buried, but we believe that such questions are at the heart of the spirit of inquiry that Green Mountain College purports to embody. We hope that college administrators do not intend, by making Lou literally disappear, to make all of the troubling questions raised by the controversy about Bill and Lou also disappear. Those questions remain and should be debated on campus in a humane manner that does not endanger the lives or well-being of any actual animals. VINE remains ready to participate in such dialogues, and VINE staff would readily attend any class or campus forum to which we were invited.
Again, VINE staff are grieving this death, particularly since its circumstances are so murky. In coming days, we will publish individually authored pieces reflecting the personal feelings and opinions of various staff members.