November 1, 2012

Green Mountain College president is a mite paranoid

[Scroll down for updates to this post.]

From: President Paul J. Fonteyn
To: GMC Campus Community
Date: October 31, 2012
Re: Update on Bill and Lou

As you know, Green Mountain College has become the focus of widespread attention regarding our decision to slaughter our ten-year old team of oxen. I stand by the decision our community arrived at through a process that insured that all members had the opportunity to express their opinions.

I also compliment faculty, staff and students who, whether they personally agreed with the final decision or not, have demonstrated extraordinary civility in their interactions with each other, and with external individuals and organizations. Some of these external groups are attempting to use Bill and Lou as mascots for their own animal rights agendas. I am appalled by the abusive nature of some of the communications you have been receiving--if you are concerned about personal threats please notify the Office of Student Affairs.

Initially we decided to slaughter the oxen by the end of this month. However, we will not be able to meet this timetable because regional slaughterhouses have been inundated with hostile and threatening emails and phone calls from extremist groups bent on interfering with the processing. These businesses are mostly small, family-operated Vermont enterprises that provide local meat for local consumers. This is a busy time of year for them, and many have expressed fears that their operations might be shut down by protesters if they accept the oxen.

We have decided to continue to care for the oxen until a date with a reputable slaughterhouse can be obtained. In the meantime, Lou and Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will continue to stay with us in familiar surroundings. Eventually the animals will be processed as planned.

Green Mountain College has many allies who support the kind of sustainable agriculture in Vermont which GMC represents. Below is a statement made by Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, Chuck Ross.

As always, I'm available for discussion with any member of the GMC community who has questions or concerns.
Statements from the faculty have echoed the president's claim that the entire GMC community participated in making the decision to slaughter the oxen Bill and Lou, and that although Lou was injured months ago, the decision to kill him and his partner Bill, too, instead of retire them, was not made until students returned in the Fall. In fact, an Oct. 12 statement from the college says, "This was a decision many months in the making, with members of our community carefully weighing alternatives." It seems that the decision was already made, apparently by farm manager Kenneth Mulder and provost Bill Throop primarily, and that the only community-wide discussion was about that already made decision:
Ethics of Sending Draft Animals to Slaughter Discussion

When: Thursday, October 04, 2012
Time: 1 - 2:30 p.m.
Where: East Room

At the end of this month, Bill and Lou, the long-standing team of oxen for Green Mountain College’s Cerridwen Farm will leave the farm to be processed for meat.

Bill and Lou have worked as draft animals on the farm for over ten years. They have provided the motive power for a research and education program in draft animal farming that includes hay harvesting, vegetable production, animal driving and training, and electricity production. Last summer, Bill and Lou were featured in several workshops at the New England Organic Farmers’ Association summer conference.

This past year, Lou sustained a recurring injury to his left rear hock that has made it difficult for him to work. After attempting several remedies and giving him a prolonged rest without any improvement, it was the professional opinion of the farm staff and consulting veterinarians that he was no longer fit to work. Farm staff searched for a replacement animal to pair with Bill, but single oxen are difficult to find and it is uncertain that Bill would accept a new teammate in any case. After much deliberation, it was decided to purchase a new team and retire Bill and Lou.

“This has been a difficult decision all around,” stated farm manager Kenneth Mulder. “It is the traditional understanding with working cattle that when they reach the end of their working careers they are still productive as meat animals. But that does not make it easy.”

Bill and Lou cost approximately $300 per month to keep and will provide enough hamburger and beef to the college dining hall to last for a couple months. It is the general feeling of the farm crew and the farm management that the most ecologically and financially sustainable decision was to send them for processing.

On October 4th from 1 to 2:30 in the East Room, there will be an open class session on the ethics of sending draft animals to slaughter. Interested parties are encouraged to attend.
Update, Nov. 11:  The fact that the decision was already made was stated by student Alison Putnam in the Boston Globe: "Putnam is a member of the farm crew, consisting of students and staff, which she said made the initial decision. The administration supported the farm crew’s decision, Putnam said."

The president is paranoid (and perhaps psychopathic) in making Green Mountain College the victim, when the criticism from "outside" is about GMC's needless cruelty to its working animals — hardly the work of "extremist groups", who are "threatening" the "processing" only with publicity. It should be noted that it was GMC alumni who, when they were told of their college's plans for Bill and Lou, called animal rights groups, particularly Green Mountain Animal Defenders, who then sought a sanctuary to offer retirement. VINE Sanctuary, the only one in Vermont, was one of those that responded.

As for the "ethics of sending draft animals to slaughter discussion", that is not an exercise in ethics at all, but rather in excuse making for a decision already made.

Update, Nov. 12:  Fonteyn further illustrates his ever more evidently psychopathic paranoia in his Nov. 11 announcement that Lou had been killed early that morning:
As reported in my October 31 email to the community, our original timetable was disrupted by outside organizations seeking to appropriate the images of the oxen for their extremist agendas, including the abolition of animal agriculture. Without shame, these groups harassed and threatened local slaughterhouses, making it impossible for them to accept our animals, and therefore for us to carry out our decision expeditiously. Despite our attempts to use the most humane and local options available, one of the only Animal Welfare Approved slaughterhouses in the area was forced to cancel our appointment as a result of these hostile threats. Some individuals associated with these efforts have even discussed giving drugs to our animals, which would render the meat unacceptable for human consumption.

... Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will stay on Cerridwen Farm and will be cared for in a manner that follows sustainable, humane livestock practices, as is the case with all of our animals. We take responsibility for our animals on the farm--it is an obligation we will not ask others to bear.

I know at times the attention has been harsh and unfair, but it has also provided a platform to present some of the best aspects of Green Mountain College: our intellectual courage to squarely examine moral dilemmas, our values of sustainability, and our commitment to discourse over doctrine. I am proud of how GMC students have engaged with colleagues and with people outside our community in mature, thoughtful, and civil ways. ... [emphases added]
1. It was GMC alumni, not "outsiders", who raised the alarm. In any case, a college is not an ivory tower. GMC's focus, sustainability, is not normally considered in terms of "us-versus-them" survivalism, but indeed is concerned the larger community.

2. It is not extremist, but normal practice, to retire rather than slaughter work animals.

3. The only "harassment" of slaughterhouses was in the number of calls from around the world asking them to not accept these oxen. The only threats were of bad publicity. Although many of those concerned are vegan and indeed would like to see the end of animal agriculture, many are not. Moreover, vegans are not delusional that animal agriculture is going to end any time soon and therefore advocated only for Bill and Lou, not, e.g., to abolish GMC's home-grown beef project. Yet it is not "extremist" to seek the abolition of animal agriculture. Along the interest that GMC purports to pursue, the U.N. has warned that animal agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gases and a misappropriation of resources. It is neither sustainable nor humane.

4. The response to GMC's determination to slaughter Bill and Lou despite offers of sanctuary has been deservedly harsh and not unfair. Despite Fonteyn's closing words, he and other administrators and faculty have been exposed as intellectually lazy cowards, committed not to honest discourse but indeed to self-serving — inflexible and therefore inhumane — doctrine.

5. Many of the students have proved to be infantile, idiotic, and insulting, so Fonteyn's pride is clearly only in their firm backing of him. Because he, too, is clearly infantile, idiotic, and insulting. His language is the lashing out of an abuser found out.

Update, Jan. 16, 2013:  Apparently still hoping to kill Bill, "farm" director Philip Ackerman-Leist, assistant "farm" manager Baylee Rose Drown, and student Meiko Lunetta pled before the Vt. House Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday for "protection" from the outrage provoked by their needless (and heedless) cruelty in refusing offers of sanctuary for their hardworked and beloved oxen to instead sell them for dog food.

As comments below the story indicate, the logic is: a) GMC is trying to get away from factory farming; and b) Bill and Lou are/were not on a factory farm; so c) it is/was necessary to kill Bill and Lou. The corollary is that anyone with a different conclusion from (c) is therefore against (a). And because (a) is inarguably good, anyone asking for compassion toward Bill and Lou is inarguably bad. It's madness, really.

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, Vermont