Mother says she’s heartbroken after failed effort to save Antioch lambs

A fenced-in 1-megawatt solar array located on Antioch College’s farm was the grazing ground for nine sheep that were being raised to feed students. Yellow Springs resident and Wittenberg University Professor David Nibert campaigned to save the sheep and protested the college’s practice of raising animals for slaughter. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF

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A fenced-in 1-megawatt solar array located on Antioch College’s farm was the grazing ground for nine sheep that were being raised to feed students. Yellow Springs resident and Wittenberg University Professor David Nibert campaigned to save the sheep and protested the college’s practice of raising animals for slaughter. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF

The mother of a former Antioch student said the college has dishonored her late son by refusing to free its sustainable farm program’s lambs.

The dispute began in May when Yellow Springs resident David Nibert, a Wittenberg University professor of sociology, came across the lambs during a walk. After learning the lambs’ fate, Nibert reached out to his neighbor, the college president, to see if the sheep could be given to a sanctuary instead of slaughtered later this year. The answer was no.

In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization, said in a release on Friday, “Nine lambs from Antioch College’s farm are feared slaughtered despite a relentless campaign to save their lives which amassed 88,000 change.org signatures, a statement from over 100 scholars asking for the lambs’ release, television commercials, countless letters, emails, phone calls and a heartfelt request to honor the memory of Barbara Pearl’s son, Jason Seth Houten, a dedicated advocate for animals and a former Antioch College student.”

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Pearl, who lives in Philadelphia, said she received an email from PETA alerting her about the situation at Antioch. She said she reached out to the school directly to find out if there was anyway to free the lambs.

“He was my only son. I don’t even have a gravestone for my son,” Pearl said. “I ‘ve never found a way to honor his memory. It sparked something inside me. I thought it would be a wonderful way to honor Jason. … It’s just heartbreaking how they could ignore a mother’s plea.”

In a September statement, Antioch said the sheep will continue to graze in the school’s solar field until the end of the grass growing season.

Antioch would not comment on whether the lambs have been slaughtered, but the lambs are no longer contained in the solar array field.

Previous coverage: Campaign against Antioch College sheep draws protest

The lambs are part of the college’s “sustainable farm-to-table dining program,” that “helps our students, and our faculty and staff, to understand what it truly takes to feed a community, especially in an ecologically sound, ethical manner,” according to Christine Reedy, assistant director of communications at Antioch.

Reedy said a memorial for Pearl’s son was never established before or after Nibert’s initial request to Antioch for the lambs to be released.

“On June 29, David Nibert sent our president, Dr. Tom Manley, an email asking us to release the solar sheep,” said Reedy said. “I sent Dr. Nibert an email response on behalf of President Manley. The response from President Manley clearly stated that after consulting with members of our campus community, our Board of Trustees, and other practitioners, that our sustainable farm-to-table dining program involving the solar sheep would not be changing. That is still true. We practice community governance at Antioch College, so changes like this would need to start from within our community and have buy-in from our community.”

The organization has planned a vigil for today at noon at the corner of Xenia Avenue and Corry Street, Yellow Springs, according to the IDA release.

“There’s a certain element of sadness,” Nibert said. “A lot of people are heartbroken so it might be harder to get people to come out to the vigil than the protest.”

Antioch is aware of the planned vigil and said its public safety officers, who work in coordination with Yellow Springs Police Department, are aware. The vigil is not set to be held on campus, Reedy said, so the college does not anticipate anything problematic.

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“I guess there’s a positive, even though we’ve had harassment and death threats, we gained an enormous amount of support from our local community and across the county from people who’ve learned about our farm-to-table dining program and our sustainable farming practices,” Reedy said. “We’re proud of our educational program, and our students are learning the principles of ecological agriculture.”

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