Lou and Bill lived a good life at Green Mountain College, one of the more green-minded campuses in America. As a team, the two oxen worked at the college’s sustainable Cerridwen Farm for 10 years. At age 11, Lou and Bill aren’t particularly old for oxen, which can live about two decades, but after Lou stepped in a gopher hole earlier this year and injured his leg, the college retired the team.

Now, as part of its “circle-of-life” philosophy of sustainability, Green Mountain College is thinking of turning Lou and Bill into “more than a month’s worth of hamburger” meat.

The idea is not going over well, not just on campus but in the community beyond. More than 30,000 people signed a petition on Facebook to save Lou and Bill, Vermont Public Radio reports, and an animal sanctuary has offered to adopt them.

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But the college so far is still planning on serving the oxen for dinner. About three-quarters of the students eat meat, and part of the farm’s purpose is to teach students about what that means, VPR says:

12 years ago, when the college began developing its sustainable farm program, vegetarian students specifically asked that livestock be included to confront the realities of eating meat. [Philip Ackerman-Leist, head of the college’s Farm and Food project] says this debate goes way beyond Bill and Lou, and faculty and students have spent a lot of time discussing it.

Our bet? There’ll be a rash of vegetarianism on campus … but plenty of students will decide that Bill and Lou taste just as good (maybe better) than the cattle they normally eat.

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