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The Mixed-Up World of Green Mountain College

Presumably on the theory that there’s no defense like a good offense, Green Mountain College has for some weeks been engaged in a disinformation campaign intended to convince the public that animal advocates calling for compassion are terrorists.

Yes, they are actually using the T-word and have also referred to VINE –the friendly local animal sanctuary that generously offered a retirement home for two oxen beloved by students, alumni, and neighbors of the college– as an extremist organization.

It was bad enough when a Green Mountain College student made a video depicting VINE staff members as Nazis. Now the college President and faculty are comparing VINE to al-Qaeda and the KKK.

Green Mountain College students and faculty tend to loudly proclaim their distaste for factory farming. But now, unable to bear criticism or even scrutiny of their own practices, they’ve gone to the top tactic in the industrial animal agriculture playbook: Call the animal advocates terrorists, thereby discrediting them while gaining sympathy for yourself.

Sorry, GMC, it won’t work this time: Vermonters aren’t that dumb. Vermonters can see who wants to save a life and who wants to take a life. Vermonters are also deeply devoted to democracy —which often involves vociferous disagreement— and do not equate dissent with wrongdoing.

For the record:

VINE Sanctuary is a nonviolent organization that has neither perpetrated nor condoned any sort of threat against Green Mountain College or any other entity.

VINE Sanctuary does promote agriculture reform — as does Green Mountain College! We can and do differ in our definitions of sustainability and in our vision for the future of farming here in Vermont. In a democracy, such differences should be debated rather than denigrated as if they were evidence of destructive disloyalty to the region.

As we have so many times before, VINE reiterates its willingness to come to Green Mountain College to articulate and debate its ideas concerning the question of how to feed the world without wrecking the planet.

71 comments to The Mixed-Up World of Green Mountain College

  • Green Mountain College calls the Vine Sanctuary “terrorists???” I guess then that I should call “terrorists” anyone who is not a vegan (as I am), who likes the Pittsburgh Steelers better than the Cleveland Browns, those who like Letterman better than Leno. Ah, well, I guess now that ANYONE who disagrees with me on ANYTHING is a terrorist. Gee, I used to live in a democratic republic—I think it used to be called the United States of America.
  • Jo Ward
    Green Mountain College has done it to themselves with a stubbornness that is very difficult to understand. I used to respect this school but I have certainly lost that now. How can a place do such a complete turn around like this? I guess if you do not have a really good reason for something you just go around bad mouthing everyone else and hope folks will think you are right. As I pointed out many days ago the only bad language and threats I saw were coming out of GMC.
  • Shelby
    #1: Numerous petition drives, with tens of thousands of signees from all over the world—people who know nothing of Bill and Lou’s conditions, much less the accountability and transparency we have built into our college food system

    #2: Action alerts that have generated email assaults (at least one staff person received almost 1000 emails in a single day) and switchboard and voicemail overloads of our campus phone system

    #3: One cyber-attack generated 3.9 million emails filtered in a period of several days—all from a single domain

    #4: Harassment and threats of physical violence to students, faculty, staff, and administrators

    #5: Constant surveillance of our college farm by stealthy intrusions, video cameras, and Facebook reports of our daily activities

    #6: Driving a livestock trailer to the edge of campus and barging into our administrative offices demanding that Bill and Lou be turned over

    #7: Dishonest and highly abusive postings on the college’s social media sites, requiring around-the-clock monitoring and editing

    #8: Attempts at widespread defamation of character of faculty, staff, and administrators through letters, emails, websites, and social media channels

    #9: Threats of continued negative publicity campaigns unless we turned Bill and Lou over to VINE Sanctuary

    #10: Online discussion of whether to give Bill and Lou medications that would render their meat unsafe and inedible

    #11: Slaughterhouses throughout Vermont and New York were threatened with protests, harassment, and potential violence if they agreed to work with the college, ultimately eliminating virtually all such possibilities for us, including our scheduled date at a local Animal Welfare Approved facility

    ————————————————————-

    Some of these things VINE has been a part of. Some of them have not (facebook protesters) However because VINE is an organization and his heavily involved, they are partly responsible for supplying slanderous assumptions (disguised as facts).

    In my opinion, many of the threats that Kenneth Mulder is referring to are threats made on Facebook (by people unassociated with VINE)
    BUT many threats made could have been reported to the police or the FBI, and was not, mainly because we knew that no one would seriously come and kill students. (BUT THOSE THREATS WERE MADE) NOT HERE, BUT ON FACEBOOK.

    Terrorist, I would disagree on that comment. Extremists, I would say YES.

    Thank you for mentioning my video <3
    Satire.

  • Shelby
    Maybe one day I will visit VINE and we can make peace.

    The only thing that I do not appreciate is when words get twisted around. Mulder uses the word “extremist” not “terrorist.” And I guess we could argue that these words possibly mean the same thing. But I believe that they are two different levels. Terrorist implies that you will physically harm someone else. I do not think anyone at GMC believes VINE would ever do this.

    But we do believe that your viewpoints (which are valid) have become extreme, merely because you are trying to push your viewpoints upon us by shaming us and making us out as monsters.

    I have run into so many vegans trolling our facebook page who have bullied students (including myself) for our opinions and beliefs, merely for the fact that we eat meat.The only message I wish to send out to animal activists/vegans/whatever is that name-calling and shaming will never make a person see things in your shoes. It will only make them more upset. And then no one will get anywhere, except frustrated.

    If you could only hear my voice, you would note that I am being sincere.
    Thank you.

  • Anjie Pham
    If anyone’s a terrorist, it’s GMC, for holding BILL & LOU captives all these years and then plotting their murders once their usefulness ran out.
  • Kristin05
    Dear Pattrice,
    It is deeply disturbing to hear of these defamatory attacks perpetrated by members of the college onto your sanctuary. I completely agree that the people of Vermont and the rest of the world will easily see through this desperate behavior. It is becoming almost predictable, as I have read of a similar slander campaign that some groups have made on the amazing people at an elephant sanctuary. If they could only see how transparent and appalling this behavior is to the rest of us. It seems that when people find themselves on the wrong side of an ethical issue, they become paranoid of peaceful voices of dissent. It is sad that they would rather reconstruct reality than critically consider the true effects of their actions.

    In all of this, I have gained immense respect for you and for everyone at VINE. Your writing, integrity, and leadership through this difficult time is remarkable. I am a sociology and psychology student, and your words remind me of my readings from Paulo Freire and bell hooks. Humans will someday look back in horror at the objectification and exploitation of other animals. Until then, I’m thankful for trailblazers like you who are getting us there. Stay strong and take care

  • Joyce Collins
    I am neither a Vegan nor an extremist. I am simply a person that cares about animal welfare. When a sanctuary raises thousands of dollars to take in an injured animal and it’s partner there really is no reason to refuse. The animals would have been treated humanely and recieve medical care that GMC stated was needed. With that money Gmc could easily have replaced the oxen with new younger ones to fill the void. When GMC labeled Bill And Lou both with human names and as the college mascots they ceased to be work animals. They became part of the GMC family, just like the students and faculty. To not deliver proper care to an ailing animal is criminal and the humane society should be checking your records (as should the local authorities). This is not the 19th century when it was necessary to feed them to the students Society has made great strides in animal welfare and will continue to learn from it’s past mistakes. Please look to the future of humanity and spare Bill’s life. Even send him to another sanctuary if that is more comfortable to you.
  • Anjie Pham
    @Shelby. It’s not that you/the entire GMC campus eat meat, but rather your strange insistence on eating the meat of 2 old friends in the cruelest of ways under some misguided guise of “sustainability.”
    –If GMC wants to teach “sustainability”, the school should include V*ganism as another green option for the future. Take any “Carbon Footprint” test you like and it will show that even if you live in a grass hut using only solar energy, drive a Prius, eat only organic food, your carbon footprint will still be bigger than that of a v*gan who lives in a normal house and drive an gas guzzler.
  • bravebird
    @Joyce, just for the record, VINE has never solicited any funds for Bill and Lou and in fact suspended its regular fundraising during this campaign, just to make sure that nobody could claim we had some sort of stake in bringing them to sanctuary.
  • Christine
    I agree with VINE-Vermonters are not that dumb nor are the compassionate people across the world. GMC dug their own hole and tried as they may they were not able to lie their way out of it! To claim to have put Lou down because he was suffering is clearly what they saw as “a way out” out of the lies that are piled high, lies that unfortunately some of the students believed.

    As I have worked with large farm animals for over 40 years and have dealt with many hock injuries I would like to know, in their quest for comfort for Lou,just what (and please be specific) was done to alleviate his pain?

    There was absolutely no reason to kill Lou. This is obviously a result of someone exercising their control over the weaker of beings simply because they can! I do realize that there are many people in this world who are not open to discussion or democracy, I call these people “extremists”, it is just sad and unfortunate that GMC is dictated by this sort.

  • bravebird
    @Shelby:

    1. When GMC proudly publicized the decision to kill Bill and Lou on Facebook, that put everything in motion. While nobody could have predicted that it would go viral in the way that it did, anybody could have guessed that some alumni would object, that they would contact one or more local animal advocacy groups, and that national animal advocacy groups would get involved. At every turn college administrators chose courses of action that escalated rather than defused the conflict. And yet those administrators continue to blame a small animal sanctuary for the public relations disaster they set in motion and refused to defuse.

    2. I can’t say whether everything on your list happened. Not saying that you are lying, just that I don’t know. (This is pattrice, by the way.) Some things may be misinterpretations. For example, our knowledge of what happened on campus came from students on campus who disagreed with the decision and made a point of sharing information with us. No spying. Just students exercising their right to share information. Also, I think you are misunderstanding the issue of medication. We, at least, were simply pointing out that the college must be withholding pain management for Lou because of USDA regulations prohibiting bute (the equivalent of aspirin for oxen) for animals who will be eaten by people.

    3. Once tens of thousands of people are involved, nobody can control what happens. I don’t doubt that some people said or did crazy things, because people were constantly calling and writing us with crazy suggestions. But –and this is key– behind the scenes VINE steadily both (a) tried to bring the college into some sort of pressure-relieving dialogue with its critics, and (b) advised anyone who contacted us to behave rationally and peacefully. As recently as this weekend, we were using back channels of communication –people known and trusted by college administrators– to try to mediate some sort of face-saving resolution for the college. Hence it is particularly vexing for us to be blamed for the actions of others.

    4. I recognize that your video was satire, but I found the allegations in the introductory text–where you claimed that VINE had threatened to murder GMC students–to be libelous as well as deeply hurtful to the peaceful people here. The video itself was hurtful to a staff member whose family lost members in the Holocaust. So, while I do appreciate the skill and humor you evidently possess, I and we were and remain deeply offended. You’ll probably find it patronizing of me to say so, but I’d like to see somebody with your gifts put them to better uses.

    5. Variations on the T-word have been used in comments to reporters, not by Mulder that I know of.

    6. I believe that you are sincere. So are we. Maybe in time you will see that we have been more sincere than some of your teachers, who we continue to believe have not been entirely honest with students throughout this process.

  • anitat
    This whole discussion has puzzled me for some days now. Yesterday some of my more vociferous and omnivore friends finally crystallized what’s been niggling at me. In a nutshell, we don’t eat our friends. Even aggressive omniovores have this social more. Farm children, from their earliest years, learn that when an animal is named and tamed, it is a friend and therefore unacceptable as food. This is why kids on a farm are encouraged to be kind, but not to befriend animals.

    Consider for a moment the level of disgust that so many people, of all walks of life, feel from the teaching at Green Mountain, which clearly implies that it is all right to traumatize, kill, and eat those who trust you.

    This goes, in my opinion, far beyond issues of meat eating and veganism. This sinks to a level that is socially unacceptable by nearly all individuals. Yet Green Mountain is teaching that this behavior is okay, it is all right, it is sustainable.

    It is not. It is quite outside the realm of social acceptability and accountability, even those of the average aggressive meat eater. And that, my friends, is very intolerable indeed.

  • jack rose
    Green Mountain College have to realize this wont stop with the impending demise of Bill, they are now under the international spotlight, they have an opportunity to show themselves as a democratic and transparent institute which encourages “open” discussion and alternative solutions.
  • Kim
    I’d just like to say that the work of VINE and their conduct during the outreach to the college is greatly appreciated and admired. No one looking in on this situation would think for one second that VINE had anything but the best of intentions for Lou and Bill. It is clear that VINE’s actions have only been to provide sanctuary and the people at this sanctuary have not threatened anyone or anything.
  • Eeyore
    Not sure how the word “extremist” has become a term of insult.
    Every major political historical figure has harbored extremist viewpoints, relative to their era.
    Without sounding trite — MLK Jr., Malcom X, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, the suffragettes, abolitionists…. these people all held thoughts and undertook actions that branded them as extremists in their times.
    We’d all like to look back at history now and say, “If I lived in the times of [slavery, segregation, extreme subjugation of women, etc] I would’ve fought against it (or at the very least not supported it).”
    But would you really? Or would you be too horrified by the prospect of being one of those extremists (or heaven forbid, even a terrorist)?
    Without extremists, there would be no political or social change; there would never be a challenge to an unjust status quo. Without extremists, there would be no social evolution.
  • Rucio
    Shelby, only one side has advocated murder. The extreme outcry against it is not “extremist”. That label is clearly more appropriate for the stubborn insistence of GMC’s desire to kill their workers, despite offers of sanctuary and even money.
  • Karen Moulder
    VINE is to be commended for their generous and caring offer to retire bill and Lou at their expense, and for the way they have handled the irrational behaviour of GMC, even suggesting that bill and Lou go to another available sanctuary. The denigrating remarks toward everyone who has tried to save these innocent animals ,are absolutely appalling. People who have tried to reason intelligently with GMC about Bill and Lou have been met with immature foolish remarks, with insulting accusations and inconsistent stories. The world is watching and I think it is fairly clear to most who have followed from the beginning what has been going on here. Thank you VINE for the wonderful work you do, for what you tried so hard to do for poor Lou, and what you are trying to do for poor Bill who must miss his partner terribly and is most likely destined for as unfair an outcome as Lou.
  • Claudia Modie
    I read an article in the Huffington post with regards to Bill and Lou. Initially I thought I was going to GMC’s fb page to offer support to the students. I was appalled by the the idea of slaughtering and serving the meat of animals who had spent ten years working on the college campus. And I did find students in need of support,compassionate individuals who mourned the thought of losing the oxen they had come to know and love. But, much to my surprise, I found an onslaught of bullies. I felt sorry for the students at Green Mountain College, the ones pleading for the lives of the two oxen they loved, and considered mascots. “They are going to taste delicious!” A direct quote from a student supporting GMC’s stance. I have never . . . NEVER, in my life, been so disappointed in today’s youth.
    GMC claims they have been threatened??? I am a writer and it’s taken me a week to have the negative one star reviews removed from my book page. In retaliation for my standing up for Bill and Lou, students at GMC posted reviews without purchasing or reading my books. And why? That’s what really gets me. Are they that hungry for oxen meat? Not caring one way or the other would make some sense, but actually wanting this cruel and completely unneccesary act to take place? I’m sickened by this situation, saddened by the culture GMC is apparently fostering, and if I had a finacial stake in this college heads would be rolling. Set aside the obvious barbaric implications, this is a public relations nightmare . . . and it is, whether they choose to realize it or not, financial suicide. The world is watching. RIP Lou!
  • The Killing of Lou and Loneliness of Bill at Green Mountain College, Nov. 11, 2012

    By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
    http://www.upc-online.org/alerts/121113killing_of_lou.html

    Many of us have been following the saga of Bill and Lou, two gentle oxen at Green Mountain College in Vermont who were yoked together for ten years laboring for the college.

    Bill and Lou were bonded companions until the dark morning hours of November 11, when Lou was awakened, taken somewhere, and killed.

    The college says Lou was “euthanized” by a farm veterinarian during those early morning hours of secrecy, then buried in an undisclosed location. This account has not been verified and may well be a lie designed to silence critics of the college’s decision to kill Lou and Bill after Lou developed a hock (ankle) injury in the course of plow-pulling earlier this year.

    Learning of the plan to truck Bill and Lou to a slaughterhouse, VINE sanctuary offered to give them a permanent home, but the college refused, insisting that Bill and Lou must be “processed” and served to its students as hamburger as part of the school’s “sustainability” program. The college public relations department wrote: “Bill and Lou, when processed for meat, will yield over one ton of beef. If this meat doesn’t come from our animals, it likely will come from a factory farm setting which carries with it a significant amount of ecological impact. . . . If sent to a sanctuary, Bill and Lou would continue to consume resources at a significant rate.” The PR department also asserted that “transition” to a sanctuary would be harder on Bill and Lou than being loaded on a truck, unloaded at a slaughter house, and butchered.

    To justify slaughtering Bill and Lou (Bill has no reported injury), the college said the American agricultural system uses 5 million gallons of water to produce the same amount of beef, not to mention greenhouse gas production, soil erosion, and water pollution. But where are the actual comparisons laid out? In Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Richard Oppenlander says smaller farms don’t alter the total amount of resources that are required to raise, transport and slaughter hundreds of billions of animals. And I can’t recall anything the school said anywhere about consuming fewer animals for the good of the earth.

    In any case, Lou is dead and the means of his death are undisclosed, and Bill is bereft of his one true friend and comfort while the school decides how to dispose of him as euphemistically as possible. Some people ask, why spend so much time on Bill and Lou when billions of farm animals are living and dying every day under conditions that are worse than those at Green Mountain College? First of all, Bill and Lou matter in their own right and were brought to public attention. They could have been saved if the school had let them. Maybe Bill will get a second chance after all. Second, they personify the billions of anonymous animals whom nobody thinks about or grieves for apart from the few who do. This Green Mountain College episode reminds us poignantly that when it comes to animal farming, there is no essential difference in attitude between so-called sustainable practitioners and industrial producers. For them, farm animals are expendable, disposable “resources” that “consume resources,” and if someone is going to pay for humanity’s planetary havoc, it will be them and not us.

  • Michele Poling
    I am so terribly sorry you have had to endure this criticism, as we all know we can’t save the world, but we sure would like to try. Thank You Vine for doing more for animals than most. I applaud you, I admire you, and we are fortunate to have grat people like you in the world. Hugs to you and all of the animals you take care of!
  • Geoff
    “In any case, Lou is dead and the means of his death are undisclosed”

    Not true. You even post the means of his death
    ….”The college says Lou was “euthanized” by a farm veterinarian during those early morning hours of secrecy, then buried in an undisclosed location.”

    You just choose not to believe their diclosure.

    “MLK Jr., Malcom X, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, the suffragettes, abolitionists…. these people all held thoughts and undertook actions that branded them as extremists in their times.”

    Don’t embarrass yourself with that EXTREME association. GMC could say the same thing in standing up against your unsolicited onslaught on their food sovereignty.

    “were simply pointing out that the college must be withholding pain management for Lou because of USDA regulations prohibiting bute (the equivalent of aspirin for oxen) for animals who will be eaten by people”

    Another unfounded comment. Bute is NOT the only analgesic or anti inflammatory approved for use in food animals and to ASSUME they must have been making him suffer is just that – another speculatory assumption.

    @ Shelby – stand strong with GMC as they are doing things right regardless of what these people say. Food sovereignty involves local control and decision-making by those with vested interest in the food system. Not the age old – “special interest groups” – and VINE/GMAD can be just as guilty as Monsanto and Cargill.

  • nita m moccia
    With GMC comparing VINE Sanctuary to the KKK and the Nazi’s to me is a projection of their true selves……………..VINE is no way a terrorist group of al-qaeda proportions or SS Storm troopers or Grand Wizards in the KKK……..the people who fling this sort of EXTREME accusations are living in FEAR and CONSUMPTION.and are more than likely meat eaters…I have never seen this group promote any violent act at all, and has encouraged people to not act out of violence on their behalf….for some that was hard to do….i was a name caller for sometime, but had nothing to do with VINE…it was me, and I am still evolving….What they do however is make their readers THINK and GO DEEP.and now they are now guilty of offering a home for two elderly OXEN………………how is that EXTREMIST? a Big Karma is goiung to run over your DOGMA GMC.
  • Geoff
    Gee Les Roberts,

    I think you’ve missed the point with regard to calling these actions terrorism. First – liking Leno, the Steelers or veganism is your personal choice and it is fair to debate those choices. But when large scale actions attempt to coerce another’s decision by means of terror (cyberattacks, personal threats ..)you are taking part in psychological terrorism.

  • Geoff
    Oops – where did anyone call VINE the KKK or Nazi’s? Terrorism doesn’t require storm troopers or grand wizards. Just those who want to impose their beleifs on others using strong arm tactics which in the 21st century include cyberthreats. Terrorism does not require physical violence. Just fear.
  • Kim
    I think it is very safe to say that no one at VINE instituted a cyberattack or made any threats of harm to anyone. These folks run a small sanctuary. They don’t possess the technology you are talking about and their entire mission is about compassion for others. While there has been negative rhetoric spewed by individuals on both sides of this philosophical and moral debate, including students and administrators at the college and activists and other concerned observers, VINE has acted in a way consistent with a civil protest of the actions of the college. A college must be held to a higher standard than the common commercial enterprise, because of the important influence institutions of higher learning have in society. Colleges are not sovereign.
  • anitat
    This was just posted on their facebook page:

    We thank members of the Green Mountain College community and other interested individuals for sharing their views about the College’s decision regarding our senior team of oxen, Bill and Lou.

    In the interest of dialogue and open-minded debate, GMC’s moderators have consistently accepted all posts that did not violate basic ground rules of profanity, threats or libel. While Facebook traffic on the page has decreased, the conversation is increasingly contentious and repetitive, and we believe the dialogue no longer contributes to broader understanding or the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff at the College.

    For the time being we will no longer accept new threads. Off-topic posting will subsequently be deleted.

    Again, we thank the majority of the contributors who have commented on this forum respectfully over the last two months.

    For those interested in background on the College’s original decision, see http://www.greenmtn.edu/farm_food.aspx.

  • EdSaid
    For God’s sake Geoff… Listen to yourself. “Food sovereignty”? Equating VINE with Monsanto and Cargill? (Monsanto, who, among other things, fought rBGH-free labelling on milk… Talk about moral bankruptcy.) Such comparisons are laughable, and by making them, you discredit yourself and GMC.
  • Shelby
    GMC did not compare VINE to the KKK or Nazi’s.
    VINE insinuated/assumed that GMC was using this comparison, by using the word “extremist.” Which means that VINE is comparing VINE, and placing blame on the college for the accusation.

    My video may have compared VINE to Hitler, but had no reflection on anything GMC stands for. I was using my freedom of creativity to show my frustrations through laughter and also to show an ugly side to the world of extreme vegans. If anything, Hitler has taught us that it is wrong to try and push our viewpoints on other people. It is wrong to make them feel ashamed for who they are. Which is what has happened to Cerridwen Farm Crew Students.

    I know most everyone who reads this will disagree and say “But you wanted to kill a sentient being. If anything you’re the Hitler.”

    But I want to say this: Nothing GMC has done is illegal in any way shape or form, by United States Law. Protesters opinions have been heard and repeated for over a month. It is not that we completely disagree with any of you, but you have to also understand that most protesters are not a part of our community and have little say in what happens on our Small Scale Farm.

    GMC has enough evidence from GMC facebook wall posts. They had to be deleted due to profanity, illegal activities, and murderous threats directed at staff and students. Personally, I blame VINE for what has happened. Had VINE members been respectful of our wishes and moved on, I would not be here with my Hitler video. We would not have said that they were extremists. But VINE proves to be a bad neighbor to Vermonters and farmers jobs. Farmers do not farm to make money. Who goes into farming with the idea: “Oh Boy! I’m going to make a lot of money with this farm.” NO. Farmers do what they do because they either legitimately enjoy providing food or because that is what they know how to do.

    Instead, (and especially if this keeps up), the distant future I see is a bunch of Vermont Farmers coming together to support the college and protect their own businesses. GMC is also making an effort to protect others from campaigns similar to this. I hope campaigns similar to this does not spread to other college campuses, mainly because, this could have ended in a tragedy had it been a larger college with a higher student to teacher ratio.

    The strain of this internet protest has claimed a toll on all sides. It feels like a war. But no one will win. And GMC has done nothing illegal. I would suggest if you really want change, start writing legislation. Work together, without vilifying people. Help us reform CAFO standards with stricter rules. More animal welfare. I would personally like animal abusers to go to jail.
    But leave small farmers out of it.

    Do not make meat-eaters feel terrible about what they do. THESE ARE YOUR VOTERS. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO YOU NEED ON YOUR SIDE. Please do not fight meat-eaters. Criminalize Animal Abuse, not animal consumption.

    Thank you.

  • Shelby
    And thanks for not deleting my posts. I do appreciate it.
  • M. Judith
    I have not weighed in on this before, merely watched it unfold with increasing incredulity. By the time I thought I should weigh in, I was cowardly about it, because I could see good-hearted and thoughtful people being raked over the coals in commentary of various sorts as well as experiencing physical threat. Some of this is easy to ignore, some less so. One does not generally invite such experience.

    The worst part of the entire “conversation” is that the VINE community and the GMC community agree far more than they disagree. This debate, in which people become increasingly polarized is, in a microcosm, what has been going on in politics at a national level. I am at GMC and involved in the conversations about sustainability and animal ethics, though these are not my academic fields. Our view is, to be sure, different from most of those reading these posts; that does not make it wrong.

    I and many of my friends, who 6 weeks ago would have had sympathy with VINE’s views have been somewhat shocked at the bald attack. We now have a very different opinion of “activism” and the tactics engaged in what essentially is a pitched battle for power (yes, that’s what you’re doing). The tactics involved in winning such a war get in the way of real conversation and finding common ground, which are the only things that bring peaceful change. Remember that revolution in Iran allied activist groups at both ends of the political spectrum initially. The result was somewhat less happy. Pondering this for very long makes you think revolutions are probably not the best way to change society.

    The other piece is that a campaign carried out electronically brings out the worst in people. What we should be doing is trying to bring out the best. I see people with no information about the college or the animals saying they “love” Bill and Lou and “hate” all of the people at the college. That sort of love and hate is comparable to the love of a rock star and the hatred on the part of some fundamentalist people for others with lifestyles they despise. I have no doubt that emotions are engaged, but emotional engagement can get in the way of reason. Just ask a parent tempted to spank a child. Sometimes, it is better to step back.

    Finally, practically every college in the US serves meat in its dining halls. How strange to attack one of the few trying to mitigate the truly terrible practices that our appetite for meat encourages and allows.

  • Joyce Collins
    Dear Shelby, I am a meat eater and I am on the side of right(which happens to be VINE). I also am against any kind of animal abuse. The good folks at GMC do not have the best interest of their animals at heart. I have stated in previous posts that when you name animals ,make them your friends(as the students and faculty have all stated) and make them your mascots they CEASE to be animals and are now friends and family. Both of my parents were raised on farms in NJ, and my grandparents kept their small farm until age failed them. I was raised to respect all living things and taught if you are raising an animal for food purposes you DO NOT becomes friends with it. You treat it with utmost respect for what he will provide you with. I know this will upset some people, but I do see both sides. You cannot have it both ways the animals cannot be your family and then just discarded like trash. They must be treated with dignity as all living beings deserve. Small farmers understand this and will not stand behind GMC in this debacle
  • bravebird
    @EdSaid and @Geoff:

    For the record, the Global Hunger Alliance (an international coalition coordinated by VINE Sanctuary co-founder pattrice jones, which included 125 environmental, social justice, and animal advocacy organizations from some two dozen countries, including low-income countries in the Global South) participated in the 2002 Forum for Food Sovereignty that ran parallel to that year’s UN World Food Summit (we also spoke at the Summit). The hundreds of food, agriculture, and hunger NGOs that participated in the Forum welcomed our ideas, so much so that many were included in the action plan coming out of the Forum, which specified that –in order to reduce world hunger– people in affluent countries like the United States should “reduce or eliminate” their consumption of meat.

  • bravebird
    @M. Judith

    We hear you.

    At VINE, we persistently but politely sought in-person dialogue with the college and its students but were ignored or refused again and again, even as the online conflict escalated.

    We specifically suggested to campus administrators that some sort of in-person dialogue would defuse the conflict as well as give students access to the full range of information they needed in decision-making (they heard of our offer only from a faculty member who opposed it and who made misrepresentations about the ability of sanctuaries to care for large cattle.)

    We also solicited the aid of scholars we knew would be respected by the administration, and some of them too –quietly and politely– implored the college to *talk* with us.

    VINE cannot be held accountable for the internet. We did not, for example, write any one of the numerous petitions that sprung up. GMC chose, in posting its initial boastful announcement of the decision on Facebook, to engage the wider world in its decision.

    GMC students and faculty should understand: Once that notice was posted on Facebook, the die was cast. It doesn’t matter *which* sanctuary would have stepped up to offer refuge to the animals. This would have unfolded in exactly the same way. They made a decision that shocked the moral conscience of tens of thousands of people all over the world, and they chose to publicize that fact on the internet.

    We understand, at the psychological level, why GMC students and faculty –stung by international criticism– would turn to attack the closest representative of that criticism. But we would hope that faculty would show more restraint or at least be truthful in acknowledging that VINE sought –and *they* refused– the kind of de-escalating dialogue that you discuss here.

  • Geoff
    It is appears that our understanding of what constitutes food sovereignty are worlds apart.

    @Ed – I agree that Monsanto and Cargill are terrible companies who don’t want consumers to know and exercise free-choice to buy their product or not. They don’t want small, local food production anywhere – global north or south, India or the US …. VINE, GMAD and the rest who attacked GMC have essentially done the same thing – to take away the right of a local population to decide whether or not it chooses to support their local producers. Everyone is not interested nor willing to become vegans so without the GMCs teaching local, sustainable food production, we’ll be left with the Monsantos and Cargills dictating our food policy for the future. So therein lies the association of VINE, GMAD w/ Monsanto/Cargill.

  • Shelby
    Joyce Collins,

    Just because an animal has a name, does not mean anything. A cow has a name. Cow. A pig has a name Pig.
    But humans will forever want to be creative with their names. Especially small scale farms, where there are only a few cows. A few pigs. We name all of our animals, to tell them apart from one another. To describe them to others in conversation. We want to give them characters and describe them to others.

    You say you eat meat, and that is fine. But are you so sure that the meat you eat didn’t have a name? Where do you purchase your meat? A farmers market? A co-op? A major grocery store? Where did that meat/animal come from? How was it treated? How was it killed? Do you know that it didn’t have a name? What if the farmers daughter gave it a name and loved it?
    Of course they are not going to put a label on store bought meat: “Suzy”

    Most all humans (omnivores & herbivores) have an animal/s that they love. They want to give them names no matter what. This is part of human nature. We name things. And finally, the point that I continuously repeat like a broken record: Bill and Lou were not pets. They were farm animals. We named them. We loved them. But we never forgot that one day this would happen.

  • Joyce Collins
    You missed my point (on purpose maybe?) about treating animals with respect. If Lou was injured several months ago why would they wait? Why wait for the students to decide? They supposedly employ vets to care for the animals, why not let them deide what’s best .Waiting for a couple of months is not humane. Would you like to wait for months with a leg injury while a bunch of teenagers decide what to do with you? I hope you are never in that postion, as teenagers do not have the experience to make that type of decision
  • Geoff
    “Would you like to wait for months with a leg injury while a bunch of teenagers decide what to do with you?”

    Ummm – that bunch of “teenagers” you slam were allowed to vote last Tuesday in the presidential election and some are being deployed as soldiers overseas so it is incredibly insulting for you to damn their right to decide. Their certainly should carry as much weight as some midde-aged woman in Europe who decides to voice her opinion (not saying you’re any of these but I assume you’re not a dreaded “teenager”).

    “If Lou was injured several months ago why would they wait?”

    Perhaps they were trying to treat the hock injury (which is what they said) and, as happens in older large animals, it failed to heal. Or maybe they waited so that VINE and GMAD could get this out there and facilitate a cyberattack on GMC as well as generating a new fund-raising campaign.

  • bravebird
    @Geoff

    For what should be the last time, VINE has never sought donations in relation to Bill and Lou and, indeed, suspended even routine fundraising during the campaign. It is libelous for GMC and its supporters to continue to allege that VINE advocated for Bill and Lou as part of some sort of fundraising strategy.

    And, no, neither teenagers nor uninformed adults should have been voting on what to do about a hock injury. That decision should have been made by animal welfare professionals who had sufficient experience and expertise to accurately assess the probable outcomes of each possible course of action. We did, to no avail, offer to make such expertise available to GMC.

  • Geoff
    “At VINE, we persistently but politely sought in-person dialogue with the college and its students but were ignored or refused again and again, even as the online conflict escalated.”

    Why are they required to have dialogue with you? Except that you forgot to mention this time that you would “turn down the heat” (your words) if they talked with you. Extortion.

  • bravebird
    No, we never said that we would turn down the heat if they talked to us. We did, accurately, say what everybody knows about all conflicts like this — that bringing people into conversation in the same room tends to defuse overheated emotions on all sides. That’s not extortion, that’s being a grown-up.
  • Joyce Collins
    I have family members who have been to afghanastan, i who will be returning for a 3rd tour of duty,even he will tell you the most important aspect of a soldier is the ability to follow orders without question. They will walk through the gates of Hell when told to. We do have the utmost respect for the. On the other hand why is the drinking age 21? Because abstract reasoning in not fully matured yet affecting the ability to maturley think about actions and reactions. teenagers usually think that they are infaaable and things will never happen to them (the voice of experience here) I and many people I know regret decisions we made as teens as surely we all must. again you missed my point on humane treatment. Why would they not treat Bill with respect? Allow him to live peacefully in comfort with his own kind? A power play is all it is and you seem intent on proving yours too. by not listening to what others say. You only read and respond to what you want to
  • Geoff
    You can continue to say that you didn’t advocate for Bill and Lou as a fund-raising campaign and you might even have closed down your VINE donations during that time but I have a hard time believing that VINE will not experience a windfall in funding from this action – whether it’s next week or next month. Also hard to imagine that you didn’t see this as an oppportunity to get on the public stage to advance VINE’s goal.

    “neither teenagers nor uninformed adults should have been voting on what to do about a hock injury. That decision should have been made by animal welfare professionals who had sufficient experience and expertise to accurately assess the probable outcomes of each possible course of action. We did, to no avail, offer to make such expertise available to GMC.”

    Wow – now that is truly unAmerican. Self-determination and local decision-making should be turned over to some self-appointed “animal welfare professionals”. It’s hard for me to imagine that a group of people who think veganism is the answer could be unbiased “experts” in animal welfare”. Laughable really.

    As I’ve written before and had it excluded, would VINE accept a contingent from GMC demanding that you slaughter one of your sanctaury animals? And “find common ground” with them? Of course not and I applaud your right to refuse to compromise/dialog with a group that wants to interfere with how you manage your operaton. Why can’t you afford that same respect to GMC?

  • M. Judith
    I repeat, we have more in common than not.

    I think this is what happened to the feminist movement as well. It got co-opted by people so extreme that they alienated all of their more moderate compatriots, to the degree that women of my daughter’s age will not say they are feminists, much to my horror. (You remember, the all sex is rape etc). Bad idea.

  • Geoff
    “I personally made the point to Steve Fesmire that I believed we could turn down the heat if only we could meet.”

    Above are the words of bravebird – that can be seen as an extortive statement.

    “That’s not extortion, that’s being a grown-up.”

    Saying “meet with us” and “come to common ground” and ” we can turn down the heat” in a case in which you have no say so does constitute extortion, even if it’s not written in “if, then” terms.

    Recognizing that there are some things in life you can’t control, like the ultimate outcome for these 2 old oxen, is being grown-up.

    EXTORTION = Unlawful exaction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority. It may include threats of physical harm, criminal prosecution, or public exposure.

    Demanding that GMC negotiate with you to take Bill and Lou (unlawful extraction of private property) through the intimidation of “not calling off the heat” (public exposure) sure sound like extortion to me.

  • Geoff
    @M.Judith – I like your OP RE: common ground btwn GMC and VINE. Those who are proponents of large agriculture and CAFO’s are dancing with glee as this attack on GMC helps their cause with no effort on their part.
  • Shelby
    Joyce Collins: “You missed my point (on purpose maybe?) about treating animals with respect. If Lou was injured several months ago why would they wait? Why wait for the students to decide? They supposedly employ vets to care for the animals, why not let them deide what’s best.”

    You missed my point about where you get your meat from and how would you know if it doesn’t have a name, since you haven’t met it or spoke with your farmer?

    And in response to treating animals with respect, Cerridwen Farms does not abuse their animals. During the summer, Lou’s injury was bearable for him, but regardless, the farm let him rest and did not put him to work. I know some sources on VINE may have said otherwise, but we have much evidence to show that VINE continues to stretch the truth and make assumptions about information that they do not know.

    So Lou was okay over the summer. The farm wanted to wait until students came back from summer break to help decide what to do. The school knew that farm students would be upset if they ignored what Farm Crew students wanted. We decided to kill him, because it was the right thing to do. We wanted to provide food for the dining hall (that is what farms do).

    Just because we were going to eat him, does not mean that he was abused during his life. He was a domesticated farm animal and served a purpose. Cerridwen Farm did not want to bury him, they wanted to turn him into food for others. You are a meat-eater Joyce, you should be able to understand this.

    Once again, Bill and Lou were not pets. It was VINE who gave them this label, not anyone at GMC. We know what farm animals are. We also eat meat. We would rather eat meat from our own farm.
    This should be a simple concept, especially for someone who eats meat. GMC has and will continue providing food (of all types) to our community. Outsiders can have their opinion, but it won’t stop a farm from farming.

  • Shelby
    And another reason why we had to wait as long as we did, was because this campaign started, and slaughterhouses in our area were being threatened. We were not going to back down, because Lou needed to be put down, but we (like I said) did not want to waste his meat.
    We couldn’t do what we wanted because of this extreme campaign.

    We will also make sure that this does not happen to other businesses in Vermont. This behavior will not be tolerated in Vermont. In a time of economic crisis, the last thing you want to do is put people out of a job. This will get you run out of town or a bad neighbor label.

    Think about that for awhile VINE, it might be time for you to move on.

  • Joyce Collins
    My last comment to you…….. Those who are too blind to see
  • Geoff
    Nicely said Shelby. I hope you continue to grow in sustainable agriculture, of which animals are an integral part. Good luck with your studies and know that there are many many others out there, including vegetarians, who applaud you and GMC.
  • Geoff
    “Those who are too blind to see”

    Is that an excuse for your support for VINE’s behavior?