Skip to content

Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

May 13, 2009

From the Telegraph – Pigs reared and killed at primary school

From the Daily Mail – Anger as pigs raised ‘as pets’ by primary school children are turned into sausages and sold to parents

From the Sun – ‘Pets’ for tea: Fury as pigs reared by kids are sold to parents as sausages

——

From what I can glean from the meagre facts interspersed between the manic hysteria, the school in question has been rearing pigs for meat as part of a small farming project, which also includes sheep, poultry, fruit and veg and aims to teach children where food comes from. It won a prize and, according to the headteacher, the children all love it and it’s attracting parents to the school.

Then, a few parents complain – ‘Children have to learn where food comes from, but this seems insensitive.’ ‘It’s too young to tell kids they can eat things they grow to love on a sandwich or with a fried egg.’ – the press get wind of it and idiocy ensues.

‘It’s too young to tell kids they can eat things they grow to love on a sandwich or with a fried egg.’

I’d like to unpick this sentence a bit more, because it seems to demonstrate so many of the issues that are going on here.

‘Too young’ to tell children – It’s an interesting question. I don’t have children myself, nor can I remember consciously learning that meat comes from animals. I’d actually be interested to learn more about how people introduce the idea to their children. Does age come into it? How old is old enough? Do you tell them out of the blue? I appreciate it’s easier if you live in the country, as I did, as it’s easier to incorporate it into discussions about everyday life going on around you; but if you don’t, and the only animals you come across are pets, it must be harder. However, I couldn’t help noticing that none of the articles referred to any instances of the children being upset or traumatised by this. It was the parents who felt it was upsetting and inappropriate.

‘Eat things they grow to love’ – There are other references in the articles to children feeding and cuddling the animals and giving them names. I don’t deny that it is difficult to come to terms with the idea of eating something that used to be alive, and lots of new farmers and smallholders do talk about having conflicting feelings about naming animals they plan to eat and sending them, especially the first time. I recently read Lark Rise to Candleford in which Flora Thompson talks about ‘Laura’ being upset when their pigs were slaughtered and not wanting to eat an animal she had known when it was alive, so even back when it was more usual to produce your own meat, some people still felt uneasy about it.

Many people have valid ethical or philosophical objections to eating meat which go beyond ‘feeling uneasy’, and it’s an individual’s prerogative to decide what they put into their body. The difference is that they’ve actually thought about it and reached their own conclusion. The implication of the statement above is that these children, who would be so traumatised, are routinely eating pork ‘on a sandwich or with a fried egg’, but couldn’t handle knowing where it comes from.

This is exactly what the school is trying to correct. These animals weren’t raised ‘as pets’, they were raised as food; they weren’t in ‘pets corner’, they were in a farm. The children appear to have taken the difference in their stride and as a result will probably end up being either informed meat-eaters or informed vegetarians. But to the parents, this is a challenge to their precarious combination of sentimentality and unthinking consumption of meat. If you think your children would be traumatised by the idea of eating pigs, why are you feeding them bacon sandwiches?

Death is something it’s natural to want to shield children from (but something they will have to confront eventually), but mightn’t they be traumatised in part because we don’t encourage the general public to see animals in other ways than as pets? Because we raise animals for meat in horrific, stomach-churning conditions out of our sight and buy it in anonymous packets from giant fridges in supermarkets? Is it ‘insensitive’ to tell children where their food comes from because we’ve made the truth so much worse and so much more inhuman than it needs to be?

Frankly, if you eat meat, you should be honest about what you’re eating. And if you don’t like it, you’re at liberty not to eat meat. But you can’t have it both ways. And encouraging children to think about it is a positive thing and, demonstrably, this project is teaching them something they wouldn’t learn at home.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: