Meat-Eating is Not Sustainable at Any Level


No one, by now, is unaware of the impassioned controversy over two oxen, Bill and Lou, and the broader issue of meat-eating that their situation has brought to the fore. Green Mountain College (GMC), where Lou and Bill tilled the fields for ten years, publicly announced that they would slaughter them and serve them in the dining hall, claiming that this action teaches “sustainable farming”. But, they ran into a problem. Animal advocates and many others responded to this morally questionable decision and no slaughterhouse was willing to brave the glare of the controversy. GMC ended up killing Lou in the middle of the night and burying his body, claiming that the medication they gave him for an injured leg made it impossible to serve his meat. Bill remains subject to an uncertain future while remaining on the farm.

The fact is that GMC has yet to provide a substantive reason why killing and eating Bill and Lou would be a lesson in sustainability. In my view, meat eating is a lesson in unsustainability at both the moral and scientific level.

Meeting the GMC argument on its own terms, the science tells us there is absolutely nothing sustainable about meat-eating. From a crop yield point of view, meat-eating simply does not make sense. Instead of growing crops to feed Bill and Lou and then eating Bill and Lou those same crops can yield a great deal more by directly being eaten by humans. The equation is simple and meat-eating is untenable as a sustainable practice.

Furthermore, GMC has decided to ignore the substantial body of scientific evidence that demonstrates other animals are emotionally and cognitively complex beings capable of great suffering. Lou was betrayed in the worst possible way. And now Bill is clearly showing signs of grieving for his friend Lou. Instead of being educational GMC’s decision has caused tremendous suffering.

Finally, GMC teaches their students that so-called sustainability equates with lack of compassion, betrayal and continuing down old unsuccessful paths. But GMC does not see the dangerous self-perpetuating logic in this objective. The reason the planet and all of its inhabitants are in such a desperate state is because our species has continued to exploit everyone and everything without compassion. Killing other animals reinforces that insensitivity and the very attitudes that have led to global destruction. We are currently facing the sixth mass extinction event, human overpopulation and starvation, and devastating planetary destruction from rampant ecological exploitation and climate change. The same insensitivity that leads to lack of concern for Bill and Lou as individuals has led us to the brink of global devastation. They are intimately related and anyone who claims otherwise is being disingenuous. Every individual currently in factory farms is Bill and Lou and factory farms are not only engines of unspeakable suffering for the luxury wants of our species but are contributing substantially to global warming.

In their many public relations efforts to the public, GMC wanted to convince others that they were being bullied by extremist animal rights groups. I have seen no evidence of this. Two legitimate animal sanctuaries, VINE and Farm Sanctuary, offered to take Bill and Lou and provide them with a decent life – free of charge. And there were other offers too. GMC was unresponsive to all of them. GMC rejected all reasonable requests to discuss the matter.

GMC has it all wrong. Sustainability is not about using up resources and killing others. It is about having a sustainable ethic of living.

6 Replies to “Meat-Eating is Not Sustainable at Any Level”

  1. Standing ovation. I enjoyed reading this and thank you so much for printing it. The world agrees with you

  2. “The fact is that GMC has yet to provide a substantive reason why killing and eating Bill and Lou would be a lesson in sustainability. In my view, meat eating is a lesson in unsustainability at both the moral and scientific level.”

    They have students that eat meat. They don’t force students to become vegan. So, they need to provide meat in the most sustainable way possible. One method is to cease all support of factory farms, an initiative already in the works. Another method is to raise animals on-site, slaughter them and serve them.

    This is pretty simple stuff, people.

    1. Dear Bill – THank you for your comment. It would be even easier if we stop catering to the luxury desires of people and really get down to business being serious aboust sustainability. The fact that some of their students want to eat meat should not drive their sustainability model. It is still more sustainable to eat crops directly than to raise crops that are eaten by other animals who are then eaten by us. Simple math. GMC has not provided a justification for their violation of this sustainability model. If they have a good one, now would be a good time to reveal it.

  3. Lori, you hit the nail on the head. Sustainability is not about using up resources and killing others, it is about having a sustainable ethic of life. My daughter is an Environmental Engineering at California Polytechnic State University. They had the honor of being chosen the premiere chapter in the United States this year. Cal Poly would have never killed Lou. The GMC President is the insensitive, inhumane, bully who is a complete control freak. His day of reckoning is coming sooner than he thinks. We are all can’t wait for the day Bill finally makes it to one of the sanctuaries. Isn’t it time he gets to enjoy the green pastures of retirement? It’s just very sad Lou won’t be there with him to share in the joy!!!!

  4. I traveled to GMC three times, once for the initial vigil, once with a friend to plead with President Fonteyn, once with a couple other friends who were appalled at the slaying of these boys.
    Working within the AR movement, I am starkly aware how ingrained in the DNA of humanity, is the mind set that other animals are property. It appears all through history, humans have needed to abduct others for selfish, self serving gain, to prove their power, a brutal power that is inextricably tied to all abuses of power, bullying, predatory political systems, bullying. all human endeavors that use force to do to others that which they’d never submit to on their own.
    Understanding the magnitude of human abuses of power, untangle the mirror image of human culture, which, in my view, has yet to be civilized.
    I am so very grateful for this work, and look forward to unifying the many fractions all over the nation, world, who know oppression of animals is how we learned oppression of humans. What is so tragic is how pathetically retarded our moral evolution has been, compared to our technological advances, always the double edge sword. I hope every AR individual and organization supports your work and we can come together to use our legal system to do for animals, what it finally did for slaves, women, innocent victims of all abuses of power. What a safer, brighter, healthier, more just world it will be.

  5. Dr. Barry Taylor November 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Other colleges have incorporated the fact that meat eating is NOT a sustainable practice into their environmental message. Several years ago, as an adjunct professor of Environmental Science at Southern New Hampshire University, it was one of the cornerstones of each section of environmental risk that we studied: atmospheric degradation, climate change, soil erosion, water depletion, and energy use. It was a message that was well received by the students and supported by my department heads.

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