Lou, half of Green Mountain College’s famous oxen pair, has died
Oxen Lou, front, and Bill, are seen in an enclosure Thursday at Green Mountain College in Poultney. On Sunday, GMC announced that Lou, who had been ailing, was euthanized. $PHOTOCREDIT_ON$AP PHOTO $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$
POULTNEY — Lou, the ailing half of Green Mountain College’s now famous yoke of Guernsey oxen of Bill and Lou, has died.
The small Vermont liberal arts college announced Sunday a veterinarian had put the 11-year-old oxen down that morning, citing his deteriorating quality of life, his health, and the looming winter weather.
Green Mountain College spokesman Kevin Coburn said Lou had been euthanized following discussions between the school and consulting veterinarians. He added that the college would not reveal how his body had been disposed of.
“But he won’t be slaughtered or rendered for meat,” Coburn said Sunday.
Coburn said that Bill, the surviving half of the oxen team, would remain on the college’s Cerridwen Farm, and would not be sent to a sanctuary. “He will continue to stay at Cerridwen Farm and receive care consistent with appropriate livestock practices,” said Coburn.
The college, which has a sustainable agriculture program, incurred the social media wrath of animal rights activists all over the world, who said the college and its students were betraying two kind animals who had served the college long and hard, and deserved to live out their declining years, and not be slaughtered and eaten.
But the college and the majority of its students — backed by Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross — said the full use of the animals, including their slaughter, was the sustainable way of life on a farm.
The college said that Lou had re-injured his left leg this summer when he stepped into a woodchuck hole. As a consequence, he could no longer work — and Bill refused to work without his longtime partner.
Lou’s left hock, or ankle, had caused him a great deal of pain, according to Coburn.
The college and its consulting veterinarians had decided “it was not humane for him to suffer further.”
“The left hock caused a great deal of swelling, and he had other injuries to his front left leg and knees,” Coburn said.
Coburn said that Lou continued to graze and eat hay, but that moving from pasture to pasture had become “an arduous and painful process.”
“The arrival of cold temperatures and icy conditions are certain to increase his suffering,” wrote Green Mountain College President Paul Fonteyn in a letter to the college community Sunday that was posted on the school’s Facebook page.
The college, along with its students, had agreed to follow traditional farming practices and have the oxen slaughtered for meat, which the college said would be served as hamburger in the college dining hall.
The college’s farm has other livestock, Coburn said, including dairy cows which produce milk for the college, as well as chickens, pigs and sheep. The college has a new, young team of oxen, Spook and Speck.
The college had originally planned on having the oxen slaughtered at an area slaughterhouse at the end of October, but abandoned those plans because activists had threatened the slaughterhouses, the college said.
Miriam Jones, a member of VINE Sanctuary in Springfield (VINE stands for “veganism is the next evolution”), said Sunday that her group and other animal activists would continue to work to save Bill.
“We still believe Bill should be sent to a sanctuary. Our interest, first and foremost, is Bill’s welfare,” said Jones, including proper medication, including pain medication for any ailments.
Jones said animals cannot be eaten within 30 days of receiving medication, such as antibiotics or pain medication. She said her sanctuary had euthanized animals, but only after they lose their will to live and stop eating, drinking and moving.
“But every animal is different,” she said.
VINE, which was founded in Maryland as a sanctuary for chickens, moved to Springfield in 2010, and currently houses 27 bovines, along with chickens and a few sheep, according to its webpage.
Jones said her group was concerned about the slaughter of all animals, and not just Bill and Lou.
“I can’t march into Smithfield Pork and demand all their pigs,” said Jones, much as she’d like to.
VINE had offered to take in Bill and Lou to prevent their slaughter, but the college had steadfastly refused any offers of sanctuary.
Fonteyn addressed that issue in his letter Sunday.
“We take responsibility for our animals on the farm. It is an obligation we will not ask others to bear,” Fonteyn wrote.
But supporters of the two oxen who had established a group called Save Bill and Lou, and who staged several protests, vowed to continue the fight and to save Bill, according to their Facebook page.
The group’s Facebook page showed a photo collage of Lou, sitting on a cloud, with wings and a halo, and a black ribbon.
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