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Slaughtering Bill and Lou and the ethics of meat

Slaughtering Bill and Lou and the ethics of meat

The ethics of meat and the fate of two oxen intertwine at Green Mountain College in Vermont. From the Huffington Post:

What is missing from the dialogue, however, on how a campus could slaughter two longstanding oxen, is how close both collective’s rationale toward Bill and Lou’s future are situated. This isn’t about polar opposites, but rather about adjoining neighbors with closely woven values on the world around us. And we know what happens when two good candidates of any political party appear on a ballot: they end up splitting our vote.This reasoning has handed many less than optimal political officials the reins of power.

Like most of society, I am accustomed to the removal of the personal from the plate. And to be honest, I am still in shock with my new Vermont roots. I have never witnessed 80 percent or more of my dinner plate grown within my community and by my neighbors. I have never helped care for chickens that lay eggs. Honestly, I rarely thought of chickens as I ate eggs. I am new to the fact that biodiversity and climate neutrality are central issues that lead conversations, community values and a liberal arts education. I am new to the fact that local restaurants like Taps Tavern in Poultney, Vermont pay more to have their hamburgers created from local cattle. I am equally shocked that local people actually ask where the meat comes from. I am new to being a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which gives my family locally grown produce each and every week. And I am new to the community pitching in and helping their neighbors for no reason other than to lend a hand — because that is the way it has always been done.

The conversation about Bill and Lou isn’t the conversation we should be having. We should be talking about the millions of animals like them that never have a name or an existence to anchor our virtues of sympathy toward. Here we have some of the best minds and activists standing out for two oxen who have had an amazing existence over the last 10 years and whose core value and meat aren’t contaminated with excessive feces or growth hormones. By convincing the collective to rally around the highest status oxen, Bill and Lou, we are diverting needed resources of critique from the masses of animals that supply our world’s food source.

More on meat and the environment here.

Is this an issue for the church? Christians?


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Gary Paul Gilbert

Good articles! The church should take this issue of meat eating on. Years ago I read Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet during Lent and thought to myself that it felt very spiritual to be looking at the toll on the planet and human health that the mass production of meat takes. The author of the book does not say one needs to eliminate all meat from the diet but to use meat as a garnish. I highly recommend this book because it is a story about how one woman took on a bunch of experts and showed them that a vegetarian diet could not only be healthier but would also be better for the planet. We could feed many more hungry people with vegetables if people in the First World consumed less animal protein. The received wisdom back then was animal protein is healthier because it is more “complete,” forgetting the high fat content.

Looking back on the seventies, I think the word “diet” is no longer the best word to use. What this is really about is a way of living in which people should relate more to each other and with the rest of the planet, including the so-called animal kingdom. There are no simple solutions. A culture which eats vegetables is generally more egalitarian, etc. One factor is not enough, which is what I think Frances Moore Lappe’s message is.

Relating to others, including the nonhuman, is the larger context, and may be much closer to Buddhism than much Christianity. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful was part of a similar movement. His case against nuclear energy was first of all ethical. He saw violence in the splitting of an atom.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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