Oxen team Bill and Lou have been beloved hard workers at the Green Mountain College farm for 10 years.
"They would plow and cultivate, and spread their manure and the manure of other animals," said Ben Dube, a research assistant.
The oxen are part of the farm's plan to be fossil-free. Instead of tractors, Bill and Lou do the work. But this summer, Lou suffered an injury and can barely walk. And Bill can't pull the plow alone.
"Doing any work with them is a question. Even putting them in the yoke and not pulling anything," Dube said.
The school already bought replacements, but kept Bill and Lou as pets until they could collaborate with the students, who were on summer break, about Bill and Lou's fate.
"Because it is an educational, sustainable farm, we think we've got to help students understand how to make farms work ecologically, socially and economically," said Bill Throop, the provost at Green Mountain College.
The consensus: to slaughter Bill and Lou for meat. This would save the school from purchasing meat from a factory for at least a month.
"I feel like it's better for us-- everyone else, since I'm a vegetarian-- to eat a happy animal. It was happy its entire life; to know that it had a good life," said Meghan Mitchell, a freshman.
"In general I think most students think that this is the right way to go," said Harrison Rhodes, a senior.
That's why many on campus were surprised to hear that a new internet petition to stop the slaughtering and send the pair to an animal sanctuary instead has gathered over 4,000 signatures.
"They jumped on one or two facts, took them facts to the edge and didn't really consider the entire situation," said Ernie Kelppeis, a senior.
The petition was created by Green Mountain Animal Defenders, a Vermont nonprofit, but many of the signatures are from other countries like Italy, the UK, even Albania and Belgium.
"Those people that are signing that don't really have the same understanding that's gone through with Bill and Lou," Rhodes said. "There's been a lot of discussion from the farm crew and the whole campus community."
Throop, who is also an expert in animal ethics, says this situation highlights farming's dilemmas, but the petition is not making him change his mind.
"Really the motivator is how do we educate well? And we think educating about the moral complexities is a part of educating about how to run a sustainable farm," he said.
Throop says he believes this is a situation where it's OK for reasonable people to disagree, but he feels the right decision for his school was made.
About 70 percent of GMC's students eat meat.
Officials say the slaughter will happen sometime later this month.
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:54:18 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:25 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:25:14 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:35 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:35:15 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>