Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children???!!!!

May 13, 2009 at 5:54 pm 6 comments

From the Telegraph – Pigs reared and killed at primary school

From the Daily Fail – 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

Oh dear lord god. I do not know where to start with this one.

From what I can glean from the meagre facts interspersed between the manic hysteria (“Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”), the school in question has been keeping pigs 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, and I can’t remember consciously learning that meat comes from animals. I’d actually be interested to hear how (more sensible) 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 smallholders do talk about having conflicting feelings about sending their own animals to slaughter, 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, 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 curious, teetering balance 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 Good Thing. Hats off to the school and those teachers.

Lastly, why the bizarre fixation in the Fail and the Sun on the fact that they were selling the sausages to parents? Oh, yes, to make it sound much more callous. Not only are they TEACHING CHILDREN WHERE FOOD COMES FROM, they’re also COVERING THEIR COSTS and SUPPLY GOOD-QUALITY FOOD TO THE COMMUNITY!! SHOCK HORROR!!

(Now that I’ve attempted to make some intelligent commentary, who’d like to join me in a sweepstake on how soon someone comments on the Fail website that: ‘Oh, well, the loony liberal left will soon ban this because it’s offensive to religious minorities who don’t eat pork or against ‘elf and safety’… political correctness gone mad… this is why I live in Spain…’)


Entry filed under: food, meat. Tags: , .

yarnyarnyarnyarnyarn Faith in humanity somewhat strengthened

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosie at eco-gites  |  May 13, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    FFS – what is the world coming to when in such a short space of time we have gone from a land based society who knew exactly where their food came from to a society so divorced from reality and hypocritical that it can only eat meat from sanitised pre-packed trays and not tell their children what it actually is? It’s not the children who generally have a problem with this, especially if they are made aware from a young age where meat comes from; no it’s their stupid parents who think their little darling will throw a hissy fit/be traumatised for life or worse still turn vegetarian if they are actaully told the truth. It is also the sad fact that too many people will eat ridicuously cheap meat not thinking for one second about the awful life the animal may have had because the truth is too uncomfortable to consider.

    I heard somewher (Downsizer I think) that one Mum told her children that pigs “laid” sausages rather than explaining the truth – a truth that will be so much more painful when learnt about later.

    I know from my work with school children that far too many have absolutely no idea of the link between a burger and a cow – I therefore applaud the school for what it is doing and sincerely hope such negative publicity does not kil this fantastic scheme.

  • 2. Morgan  |  May 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Children are remarkably adaptable, and understand far more than a lot of adults give them credit for. We keep chickens for eggs and meat, and my two, aged 12 and 9, understand that the chicken that was in the garden last week is now on the table for Sunday lunch. They have cared for them, know that they have had a good life and appreciate knowing what they are eating. We know that our chickens are not pumped full of water and chemicals, and they taste very different from a shop-bought fowl. The chicken manure makes a useful addition to the compost heap, and the cycle goes on. We have quail, and we would have pigs too if we had the room! One day…..

  • 3. nommo  |  May 14, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Parents! Who’d have ’em? 😉

    Seriously though – we have kids, 12 & 10 – never tried to hide where meat comes from… we live near the country too tho and see meat walking around fairly often, which helps.

    We have been fans of River Cottage, and other such shows, and the kids independantly discovered Victorian Farm and loved it. Our youngest daughter – the ‘animal lover’ (although I think she likes dogs the most, as they can be bossed around 🙂 ) discussed being vegetarian a few times, but has never made the plunge. The eldest has been known to complain about a lack of meat with meals, and refuses to eat beans unless they come in a tin in tomato sauce.

    A good balance then hehe.

    With regards to the school and the meeja coverage in particular. Well – the school is to be commended – I proposed raising chickens at the girls school, but it was declined due to bird-flu fears or some such H&S issue. But we will need as many farmers as we can muster in the near future, once peak oil really kicks in. Jobs for life.

    As for the Wail/Fail/Heil – I totally despair. Both my parents and parents-in-law choose to poison their thinking with it. Both my wife and I berate them about it all the time – but they think we are weird. So the majority of the country are ultra conservative loons with a penchant for being deceived and told how to think, including my parents.


  • 4. nommo  |  May 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Oh I forgot to say – your sweepstake bit cracked me up. LOL

    BTW – I notice that the Daily Mail comments thing always say:

    “No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.”

    I have submitted comments before and they have never been accepted – they should change the message to:

    “No comments have so far been published. Why not try your luck and see if we accept your comment?”.

  • […] They get really excited when they see what a growing melon looks like. That’s why things like this scandal are very troubling to […]

  • 6. Mouse  |  June 2, 2009 at 5:20 am

    I heartily agree that children should be brought back to basics. There are also a great many adults who could use a similar lesson, though I have to say that when my French neighbours declared their intention to drag the poor pig, who had spent his few months of life in a sunless, airless, stinking stone shed, into the road to cut his throat I did decline to join in the fun.
    In addition, had Porky been raised in a sunlight meadow and passed his days munching and rooting and doing other piggy things I may have felt more inclined to eat the ham they offered me.
    “Non, merci, je ne mange jamais le porc”


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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

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Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

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Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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