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On the Disappearing of Oxen Instead of Problems

I’m supposed to be blogging for VINE Sanctuary right now. Instead I find myself sitting in seething stillness, wondering what to say. Lou is dead—disappeared in the middle of the night. A man who only days ago referred to Lou and Bill’s impending slaughter as “processing” now wants us to believe him when he says that Lou was euthanized and buried in an undisclosed location.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe Lou—who was seen walking easily in a pasture only hours before—really did suffer such a drastic deterioration due to a minor leg injury that a veterinarian decreed that treatment would be useless and life too painful to bear. Maybe this deterioration really did occur in the middle of the night, when an ox would usually be lying down asleep rather than up and evidencing deterioration of a leg injury. Maybe somebody just happened to be in the barn when that happened. Maybe that somebody called a vet and maybe that vet was willing to come out in the middle of the night rather than prescribing pain medication pending a morning examination. Maybe that vet really did both recommend and implement euthanasia for humane purposes and by humane methods. And maybe somebody with a backhoe came out in the middle of the night to dig a big enough grave for a 1,000lb ox in that undisclosed location.

All of that’s not beyond the realm of the imaginable, but it’s all very unlikely. Especially the backhoe.

Because here’s something I know: Digging graves for cows takes planning. At the sanctuary, we dig a few—just in case—before the ground freezes over in the winter. Even when the weather is mild, you have to call somebody to come with the backhoe to dig the grave. They usually don’t rush right over, and I have a hard time imagining somebody willing to do the deed in the dark, when it would be awfully hard not only to dig the hole but also to accurately lower the body into it.

This is all about bodies.

Here’s what I think: This killing was planned for the dead of night and had nothing to do with Lou’s condition.

Here’s what I think: No veterinarian was involved.

Here’s what I think: Either the secret grave was dug in advance or he’s not in a grave but at a rendering plant.

Here’s what I think: They had to haul him alive—alone and possibly in pain—to the site of the grave, if indeed there is a grave.

And then they killed him how?

This is all about bodies.

Here’s what I know: While vets don’t usually come out in the middle of the night, that’s exactly when animals are trucked to slaughter.

It’s also when people tend to be disappeared. Authorities or death squads come in the middle of the night and nobody sees them again.

When governments disappear people, it’s usually with the wish that, in so doing, they can disappear dissent.

My guess is that the authorities at Green Mountain College hope to do something similar and more.

My guess is that the authorities at Green Mountain College want the controversy that has engulfed them to just go away and they think that making Lou just go away will make that happen.

But the controversy will not go away. Everybody knows, now, that Green Mountain College schools liberal arts students in a particularly callous variety of supposedly sustainable agriculture. Everybody knows, now, that Green Mountain College faculty are willing to disseminate the most ludicrous arguments in service of their simulation of sustainability. Everybody knows, now, that students and faculty at the extremely insular Green Mountain College—like the subjects in some 1970s social psychology experiment—are particularly susceptible to groupthink, conformity, and obedience to authority.

And everybody knows, now, that–all of those hamburgers?–they’re all Lou. Or Bill. They’re not just some body, they’re somebody.

Why were the authorities so reluctant to show mercy to Bill and Lou, insisting that they must be made into hamburger? Could it be that, then, they would have to ask themselves: Why show mercy only to them? Why not show mercy to all of the animals we subject to needless suffering so that we can enjoy the brief sensory pleasure of a particular flavor or texture?

If they think that, by disappearing Lou, they can disappear that question, they are even more mistaken than they were when making illogical arguments in favor of slaughter. The question will not go away. The ghost of Lou will make sure of that.

But since this really is all about bodies, we should be thinking about how to bring our own bodies more fully into struggles like this. We erred, maybe, in going along with the Green Mountain College tactic of distancing themselves from the deaths they perpetrate by means of endless rational argumentation. So much of this struggle was conducted online, in the most disembodied fashion imaginable and mostly in the realm of logic rather than emotion. What might we have done instead? That’s the question that won’t disappear for me.



5 comments to On the Disappearing of Oxen Instead of Problems

  • Catherine Podojil

    It’s the students’ behavior/lack of resistance that bothers me more than that of the college officials, who, like most bureaucrats of any stamp, will fight to protect their worldview. But the kids – are they so brainwashed that none of them can break through and take a stand, or so committed to the school’s policies that none of them could have kept watch to see what actually happened? Is this a religious school, by the way?

  • There are some students who bravely contested the decision and have tried to look out for Bill and Lou, but they are young people with lives and classes (not to mention the need for sleep), so they could not be on the lookout at all times. That’s probably why this was done in the dead of night.

    This was originally a Methodist school, so all of this is particularly shocking in light of the history of Methodist concern for justice.

  • Reading the comments to the article about the killing of Lou is like entering a world of pure hatred for animals and their advocates. That, plus the view that animals classified as “food” animals cannot possibly be reclassified as beings in their own right, plus the view that humans have “rights” and other-than-human animals have no rights. I have been deeply affected by VINE’s effort to save Bill and Lou from the fate that Lou has now met at the hands of those who needed him to be dead at the college. I am sure Lou was not “euthanized.” I wonder how Bill feels waking up in the morning and realizing he is alone. I wonder how Lou felt as he was dragged away from his partner of ten years in the middle of the night. Waking someone up in the dead of night to take them somewhere to be killed could never be euthanasia. Everything about this story is sad but it illustrates the animal farming mentality and what animals used for food are put through by the millions every day.

    Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns.

  • A very astute observation re the middle of the night “disappearing”. We humans try to hide that which we find shameful. That whole organization/school and the human animals associated with it have much to be ashamed of.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Ronnie Steinau

    What might we have done instead? Whatever we could have done, can we do it now to save Bill?