Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Community of Interest › Public Policy/Political Activism › Help and Support Green Mtn College’s Mission
- November 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm #44235near horseParticipant
The events at GMC laid out in Carl’s post under Community demonstrate how a small, local community-based decision can suffer at the hands of those who have no understanding of the situation. Maybe not terrorists but definitely a sort of tyranny.
So to Philip Ackerman-Leist and others at GMC ….. Keep on doing what you were doing. You were/are right.
NOTE- I wanted to delete this thread after seeing that Carl had posted the letter from GMC already but could only edit out the text. So I left my comment.November 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm #75779near horseParticipant
(Part 2 of letter)
Unfortunately, this issue is not just about the fate of Bill and Lou or the intense local and international pressures faced by a small but diverse college community that opted for transparency, truth, and accountability in its own food system. If the extremist elements in this activist agenda succeed in forcing our college to choose a course not of our own making in this issue, then they will have the power and the confidence to do it again—perhaps next time to a smaller and less resourceful community or farm or even to a bigger institution or initiative. Such an outcome would be inconvenient to some and perhaps tragic to others. And it flies directly in the face of Vermont’s innovative efforts to develop community-based food systems, envisioned on a grand and courageous scale through our nationally-acclaimed Farm to Plate Initiative, a strategic ten-year plan to build the vision of interlinked local and sustainable food systems that can build thriving communities even in the most rural reaches of our state.
Imagine the pressures our college has faced in recent weeks and consider how other communities placed under such pressure might fare:
Numerous petition drives, with tens of thousands of signees from all over the world—people who know nothing of Bill and Lou’s conditions, much less the accountability and transparency we have built into our college food system
Action alerts that have generated email assaults (at least one staff person received almost 1000 emails in a single day) and switchboard and voicemail overloads of our campus phone system
One cyber-attack generated 3.9 million emails filtered in a period of several days—all from a single domain
Harassment and threats of physical violence to students, faculty, staff, and administrators
Constant surveillance of our college farm by stealthy intrusions, video cameras, and Facebook reports of our daily activities
Driving a livestock trailer to the edge of campus and barging into our administrative offices demanding that Bill and Lou be turned over
Dishonest and highly abusive postings on the college’s social media sites, requiring around-the-clock monitoring and editing
Attempts at widespread defamation of character of faculty, staff, and administrators through letters, emails, websites, and social media channels
Threats of continued negative publicity campaigns unless we turned Bill and Lou over to VINE Sanctuary
Online discussion of whether to give Bill and Lou medications that would render their meat unsafe and inedible
Slaughterhouses throughout Vermont and New York were threatened with protests, harassment, and potential violence if they agreed to work with the college, ultimately eliminating virtually all such possibilities for us, including our scheduled date at a local Animal Welfare Approved facility
Throughout it all, we have attempted to avoid a polarization among parties. After all, our student body is comprised of approximately 70% meat-eaters and 30% vegetarians and vegans. One of my colleagues in helping our students to think critically about these livestock decisions is Dr. Steven Fesmire, a philosopher and a vegetarian. For ten years, he and I have tried to model open and civil discourse about dietary choices and related animal issues through forums, joint classes, and guest lectures. We are unaccustomed to diatribe replacing dialogue, and our students tend to be open to a diversity of ideas and respectful of differences in opinion. Our community finds it odd that certain extremists have opted to try and make us out as villains when one of our stated goals is to become the first college or university in the United States with a major food service provider to eliminate all animal products that are not humanely raised and slaughtered.
Our college honors different dietary choices and encourages a diversity of philosophical perspectives related to agriculture and animal ethics. Were that not the case, we would not have a higher than average population of students who are vegetarians and vegans. We teach animal rights perspectives in our classes, as we believe that these philosophical ideas can help to illuminate the path toward more humane and sustainable livestock agriculture. The challenge we are now facing is not one of a philosophical perspective that we find inappropriate but rather of an extreme activist agenda that is divisive and destructive. The end goal is the abolition of livestock agriculture, whereas our college is invested in the transformation of livestock agriculture.
What happens next in this situation may have ramifications far beyond our campus community. If VINE, Farm Sanctuary, and PETA succeed in harassing and threatening not only us but also our regional livestock businesses to the point at which we succumb to their abolitionist desires, then they will march forward with their activist agenda and wreak havoc not only on the rebuilding of community-based food systems but also on the longstanding efforts in our region to create increasingly humane and ecologically appropriate livestock production and processing.
It is time for more organizations and individuals to come forward to denounce the intrusive and unethical bullying orchestrated by these organizations. Their tactics do not promote discourse, diversity, or democracy. Ultimately, they impede animal welfare reform by putting backyard poultry on the same level as a poorly managed “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” (CAFO). You may or may not agree with our community’s decisions regarding Bill and Lou. We recognize that people can come to different conclusions in what is the best alternative for each of these animals, and these discussions can be civil and frank. Regardless of your opinion in this particular matter, it is important to recognize that the extreme bullying tactics employed by these groups need to be countered with the courage, reason, and civility of people and organizations that believe in the transformation of livestock agriculture, not its abolition.
During the early morning hours of November 11th, under the cover of darkness and with complex security plans in place, we had to euthanize Lou and bury him in an undisclosed location, as outlined in a statement to our community by President Paul Fonteyn. It was a difficult and complex decision. President Fonteyn offered these words regarding Bill: “Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will stay on Cerridwen Farm and will be cared for in a manner that follows sustainable, humane livestock practices, as is the case with all of our animals. We take responsibility for our animals on the farm–it is an obligation we will not ask others to bear.”
Please make your voice heard on this issue, whether it be through letters to the editor, calls and emails to your elected officials, or by appropriate direct action through your organization. Green Mountain College has decided to stand up against the bullying directed at us while also standing up for farmers, businesses, educational farms, local food systems, and burgeoning farm-to-institution programs—in Vermont and elsewhere in the country. It is our ardent hope that reason and civility will prevail and perhaps save some other farm or organization from the onslaught that our college has opted to engage, oppose, and defeat.
Director of the GMC Farm & Food Project
Director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS)
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
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