Thursday October 11, 2012

POULTNEY (AP) -- The days are numbered for two oxen that have worked the fields at Vermont’s Green Mountain College farm for more than a decade. Bill and Lou are being retired because of injury and will be processed into beef products to be served in the college dining hall, the Poultney college said.

"It’s a very emotional issue for everyone here," said college spokesman Kevin Coburn.

The college community was consulted, a public forum was held to get input from faculty and students, and "a broad majority supported the decision," Coburn said.

He added that the decision was in keeping with the farm’s past practices and with the commitment to agricultural sustainability. The oxen cost about $300 a month to maintain, he said.

"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," said farm manager Kenneth Mulder.

More than 3,000 people had signed an online petition started by an animal sanctuary in Springfield asking that the oxen be spared. The sanctuary had offered to have the oxen moved there, said Miriam Jones, co-founder.

"This is an especially cruel decision given that a reputable organization, VINE Sanctuary, has offered to provide sanctuary to both of them, for the rest of their lives, at our own expense," Jones wrote in an email.


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College Provost William Throop said "a fair number" of emails have come in asking that the oxen be saved. But he said they won’t persuade the college to reconsider.

"We’ve thought about this a lot over multiple years. Being bombarded with petitions is not the way to deal with ethical issues. The way is to sit down at the table and have a discussion, and we’ve done that," he said.