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Anger over slaughter of pigs raised at primary school

Activists have condemned the slaughter of pigs raised at a primary school in Yorkshire, England, but could this be a vital opportunity to teach children where their food comes from?

30 April 2019, at 12:20pm

The headteacher of Farsley Farfield Primary school in West Yorkshire has faced both praise and criticism after the announcement that the Gloucester Old Spot pigs being reared on school grounds would be slaughtered this summer.

Keeping the pigs on site is part of a school initiative to teach students about the energy and resources that go into raising animals for meat, how the conditions animals are kept in is important, and how meat ends up on their plates.

The programme has received praise from parents and from Food for Life, a programme encouraging positive food culture in schools. The programme's head of policy, Rob Percival, told Sky News he was "fully supportive" of the project, saying a "hands-on experience" of rearing the animals was "even more valuable".

"Most of us eat meat of animal products, and so it's entirely appropriate that children are taught how this meat is produced and what it takes to put it on our plates," Percival explained.

"Schools have an important role to play to encouraging this shift, including by introducing more plant proteins onto their menu, and implementing meat-free days, while also ensuring that meat is higher welfare and more sustainable where possible," he added.

On the other hand, after a now 2000-signature petition was established by a previous pupil who claimed the project would teach children “that it is OK to exploit and kill animals with the only justification being that people enjoy eating their bodies”, animal welfare concerns have been sparked amongst the public.

The petition, set up on change.org, claims that parents will be able to buy the meat from the animals after they have been sent to a slaughterhouse but headteacher, Peter Harris, told parents and media that no decisions have been made as to where the meat will be sold but that it wouldn't be in school meals.

Some claim that the project is cruel and could potentially be traumatising for children. Others say that slaughtering the pigs would be unfair to those that do not eat pork for religious reasons. Mr Harris, however, explicitly stated that he had spoken to all parents prior to the pigs arriving at the school and has specifically taken time out to discuss with religious families the extent to which their child would be involved in the project.

This was backed up by 11 year old, Charlotte Heap, a student at the school who wrote a letter in the school's defence stating that Mr Harris was himself a vegetarian and had been clear with pupils of his intentions for the animals from the outset.

“We are being given a real demonstration of where our meat comes from,” she wrote. “We know that not all animals are treated well but we all want this to change.”