I first found out about Bill & Lou while reading James McWilliam’s thought provoking blog Eating Plants. I learned that these oxen, who performed heavy labor for Green Mountain College, plowed the fields until one was injured and couldn’t plow any more. I was astounded at the apparent stubborness that the college’s provost, William Throop, has shown. It is almost unbelievable to me that a human being would be offered a way to save an animal’s life and would then turn a cold shoulder to these offers. Why not let them go live out their lives at the sanctuary? Why not accept money from the many people who offered to buy them? Why not admit that you don’t have the same degree of compassion for animals as other people but that you are willing to appease the pleas of those who do?

Here is an excerpt from Eating Plants. When you are finished reading, please do what you can for Bill & Lou.

“In a way I’m pleased to even say that it’s possible to have an update on Bill and Lou, the oxen who have come to represent the fate of livestock worldwide.  The fact that Green Mountain College has yet to kill them (to the best of my knowledge) suggests that the civil push back by animal rights advocates is, to say the least, working. So, you know, keep it up, because the minute it ceases is the minute the oxen go to slaughter. But the continued existence of Bill and Lou also suggests that—and you’ll have allow me to indulge in a bit of optimism here–Green Mountain College is gradually coming to realize that the outpouring of gratitude and warmth for what would be a courageous change of mind would be overwhelming. Let’s keep that possibility front and center alongside our relentlessly stated conviction that it is ethically wrong to slaughter Bill and Lou.  In other words, lots of heat mixed with lots of compassion is our best recipe for success.

Here’s what I know of late about Bill and Lou (and thank you to everyone who, perhaps knowing I’m not on FB, have been sending me all kinds of updates and tidbits):

UPDATE (1:08): Steve Wise, the attorney who has put together a settlement package of sorts for Bill and Lou, posted the following on GMC’s Facebook wall:

On Monday I faxed, emailed, and overnighted a letter to President Fonteyn and Provost Throop that contained several serious offers to resolve the ongoing controversy concerning Bill and Lou in a manner that harmonizes with the values of Green Mountain College and Vermont. I have received no response. Whatever you believe about the fates of Bill and Lou, I urge you to ask these gentlemen to respond at their earliest convenience, as a matter of courtesy.

1) PETA came out with a press release

Excerpt from a letter sent to GMC administrators:

We urge you with great urgency to make the compassionate decision to spare the lives of Bill and Lou. But if you move forward with the slaughter, you should, as educators, at the very least use this injustice as a learning opportunity. Everyone who knows Bill and Lou knows that they are individuals with personalities and desires of their own. Anyone who eats meat should be allowed to witness the terror in Bill’s and Lou’s eyes right before a bolt is shot into their foreheads and they are hung upside down and bled to death.

2) A new petition is floating around.

3) Great piece by Spencer Lo at Animal Blawg


One stated justification, put forth by William Throop, a professor who teaches environmental ethics at GMC, is that their 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 no explanation is given for why the obvious third choice—not to eat animals at all—isn’t viable. Or a more modest proposal: don’t eat animals for the next two months, which roughly corresponds to how long the meat from the bodies of Bill and Lou would last.

4)  I have an opportunity to write an e-book about the Bill and Lou saga and I think I’m going to take it. This choice would require suspending daily blogging for about a month so I could work full time in order to make the book available in a timely manner. It would also mean that my reliance on readers to keep sending me any and all relevant information will only increase.  I’m grateful, as always, for your support.” -jm







James McWilliams is a professor at Texas State University and the author of four books on food and agriculture, including Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We can Truly Eat Responsibly. His work appears regularly in Slate, The New York Times, Harper’s, The Washington Post, and  the He blogs at his Eating Plants Blog and lives in Austin.