” You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” ~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
You have probably heard about Bill and Lou. They are the oxen who served the community of Green Mountain College (GMC) in Vermont for 11 years until Lou stepped into a woodchuck hole and worsened his left leg injury. Since Bill and Lou could no longer serve as farm animals for the college, the students and faculty of the college decided to eat them. They are to be slaughtered and their bodies will be served up to the students and faculty during World Vegan Month in November.
GMC is supposed to be teaching its students about environmental sustainability. Its mission statement reads, “Green Mountain College prepares students for productive, caring, and fulfilling lives by taking the environment as the unifying theme.” But its modus operandi is based on the assumption that — to quote one of its supporters on the internet — “with proper management practices and ethics, meat can be completely sustainable.”
But is this true? Really, can meat eating at American rates of consumption be made completely sustainable?
Meanwhile, SuperStorm Sandy is making its way north towards Vermont to greet the students and faculty of GMC as they prepare to chow down Bill and Lou. SuperStorm Sandy is one of those extreme, freak storms systemically caused by climate change. And more than half the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change comes from our consumption of animals like Bill and Lou. Yet, among the dozens of environmentalists on national TV, not one of them has articulated that our dietary habits had anything to do with SuperStorm Sandy.
Now, SuperStorm Bill and Lou has begun to do just that.
SuperStorm Bill and Lou is the internet firestorm raised by GMC’s decision to eat Bill and Lou despite the offer from Vine Sanctuary to retire them and despite the offer of around $100K in donations from people around the world to save Bill and Lou. It is easy to connect the dots if we wish to do so. The provost of GMC, Dr. William Throop, is an expert in environmental ethics. He proclaimed to the NY Times, “Our choice is either to eat the animals that we know have been cared for and lived good lives or serve the bodies of nameless animals we do not know”.
But is this true? Are those the only two choices that Dr. Throop and his students have?
Besides, what about Bill and Lou? Does Lou really wish to die because he has a hurt leg? And does Bill wish to die because his brother, Lou, has a hurt leg? Don’t Bill and Lou care about each other when they had spent their entire lives together?
Last year, my wife and I were fortunate to visit the Zulu Nyala safari after the UN climate change conference, COP-17, in Durban, South Africa ( my wife won the safari trip through a charity raffle ). The Safari had a similar pair of brothers, Cheetahs, one with a broken hind leg and his brother, who used to hunt for the both of them. And these Cheetah brothers could always be found near the eastern electric fence of the Safari because they were part of a litter of 4 cubs. Their two sisters were sold to the neighboring Safari and they lingered near the fence waiting to greet their separated siblings.
Therefore, are we really sure that Bill and Lou cannot possibly care about each other?
The Zulu Nyala Safari covered 5000 acres of lush greenery with over 1000 herbivores, including 380 Impalas (deer), 250 Nyalas (deer), Giraffes, wild boars, rhinos and elephants. In addition, it had 7 Cheetahs, the only carnivores on the Safari. The 7 cheetahs included the two brothers, a mother cheetah and her 4 eight month old cubs. But between them, the 7 cheetahs were eating the equivalent of one whole deer each day, with the result that the Safari was planning to sell the cubs as soon as they turned a year old. Our game warden, Jabulani (James) Tembe, told us that the consumption of 365 deer in a year is unsustainable for the Safari.
That is the arithmetic of sustainability. 5000 acres of a tropical paradise can support over 1000 herbivores and 3 medium-sized carnivores. When 7 billion human beings consume a vegan diet, the 36 billion acres of ice-free land area on Earth can support us, along with the other Life on Earth. But if human beings insist on eating like Cheetahs, there are not enough resources on Earth to support us and the rest of Life.
Not by a long shot.
SuperStorm Bill and Lou is here to make that clear.