Farsley Fairfield school is a great school. The headmaster is a good guy. He is insightful, thoughtful and he wants to do the best for the students. The school is on a disused airfield so they have plenty of space to set up a mini-farm where children can learn about responsible farming and the food cycle.
They had some pigs brought in to raise them and then to be involved, at least indirectly, in their slaughter. Thanks to social media there was uproar about the killing of the pigs. A former pupil who wishes to remain anonymous set up a petition which went viral. There were lots of uncomfortable comments about the slaughter – murder – of these pigs and the petitioner was appalled by them.
She said that the school was a good school but she also said:
“I set up the petition because I saw an opportunity to save the lives of these pigs. I don’t see why the pigs need to die in order to teach the children a lesson, anyone can look at a photo of a pig online and go ‘yep that’s where bacon comes from.'”Petitioner – anonymous
A parent and part-time dietician said:
“When we were children we didn’t have to deal with this kind of thing. Making children feel guilty eating meat or learning about it is not the right way to go about things. Teaching them where meat comes from so that they can make responsible choices is.”Parent
This is a very difficult topic to comment upon. There is no doubt that a farm at a school is a good idea because it does teach children something that they would not normally learn at school which is their relationship with animals, how they are farmed and treated as a source of meat. Meat eating is a very big issue today because cows are damaging the environment through methane. Vegetarianism and veganism is burgeoning. People are far more aware of climate change and air pollution in cities.
However, I tend (I am not certain) to agree with the student who set up the petition when she argues that you don’t need to kill pigs to learn a lesson. You obviously need to know that they are killed but I don’t think you need to be this close to the killing process because it may be traumatic for some children. Indeed the petitioner claimed that the school was “traumatising” children by teaching them that it is okay to exploit and kill animals.
It’s interesting that the children have also learned about the power of social media, if they did not already know about it. This backlash and outrage which spread virally on social media would never have happened five or 10 years ago. I’m not sure that it is a good thing. The backlash on social media and the violent communications may be more traumatic than the killing of the pigs which has been described as “murder”.
A lot of people see the killing of animals as murder. They anthropomorphise the killing of livestock and I get the point but technically the description is incorrect.
Another student said that you can’t trust everything that you read online especially on social media and she is completely correct. The farm at the school was supported by the parents and teachers. There was a thorough consultation. It was well organised by the headteacher. He can only be given praise for the project. Emilia, 11, who is part of an elected representative of the school council said that:
“It’s a bit mad. Some people kill thousands of pigs a day, were only going to kill two.”Emilia
Another point to make is that the story is very big in the newspapers which itself means that it is discussed as I’m doing so on this page. We are forced to confront and discuss the farming industry and the killing of millions of animals. That’s a good thing. It brings it uncomfortably close to the reality of farming and we need that. The killing is distant. We call it meat rather than flesh. We create euphemisms to get rid of the uncomfortableness of killing livestock. We shouldn’t do that so perhaps it’s a good thing that the children were involved in the killing of these two pigs.
Vietnamese and rhino horn
In an associated story about why the Vietnamese are so addicted to rhino horn I also mentioned that one reason why they continue to purchase rhino horn and thereby support the poachers of rhino on the African continent is that they feel distant from the killing of his animals. They simply see the product in their country for purchase and do not connect that process with the gradual extinction of this wonderful animal.
The conservation of the rhino, the poaching of this iconic animal and its gradual extinction in the wild needs to be brought home far more forcefully to the Vietnamese people. The children in that country should be educated about it. It should be part of their class curriculum and they should be taught when young so that it sticks; so that they are indoctrinated in order to break this horrible cycle, to break a culture which has been embedded in the country’s culture for perhaps hundreds or thousands of years.