Slaughter row school sheep culled

A sheep reared by schoolchildren who was at the centre of a row over whether it should be sent to slaughter has been culled, a headteacher said today.

Hundreds of people, including comedian Paul O'Grady, voiced opposition to turning Marcus into chops and selling off his meat as a raffle prize at Lydd Primary School in Romney Marsh, Kent.

Animals lovers said it was "heartless" to allow children to personalise the sheep and then learn that it is to be sent to an abattoir for its meat to be auctioned.

But the school defended the decision, saying the aim was to educate children about the food cycle at the school, which is within a farming community.

Headteacher Andrea Charman refused to back down on the decision to cull Marcus, and today urged people to "move on from this issue" for the sake of the children's education.

She said: "The decision to send the Wether lamb for meat, which has the support of the school council and staff, the governing body and the majority of parents, has now been carried out.

"When we started the farm in spring 2009, the aim was to educate the children in all aspects of farming life and everything that implies.

"The children have had a range of opportunities to discuss this issue, both in terms of the food cycle and the ethical aspect.

"There is overwhelming support for the school, locally and further afield. It is important for everyone to move on from this issue, so the children can focus on their education."

Where and when Marcus was culled have not been disclosed but Kent County Council strongly denied suggestions that children visited an abattoir beforehand to learn about the slaughter process.

Ms Charman has said pupils voted in favour of selling lamb to raise money to buy more animals.

O'Grady, host of Channel 4's Paul O'Grady Show, stepped into the row last week by offering to buy the animal and give it sanctuary alongside sheep he owns.

"The sheep that go to slaughter are not made pets of," he told BBC Radio Kent on Friday.

"But a lamb that you hand-rear, that you personalise, that you give it a name and then announce that is going off to the abattoir is wrong. You can't do that."

Facebook groups in support of preserving Marcus's life have attracted hundreds of supporters, including some from people offering to care for him.

One poster said today: "I am really quite worried about the state of mind of a headteacher who is so determined to kill this animal.

"She says she is teaching kids the food chain, but letting them fall in love with him, feed him and care for him is inappropriate.

"Can we not let kids hold on to their childhood for a little longer before they have to face the grim realities of life?"

Mother-of-one Trudy Dixon, 26, from Copthorne, West Sussex, who campaigned to keep Marcus alive, said: "It's disgusting. The headteacher should be sacked over this.

"There were so many supporters to keep the sheep alive. Many of the poor kids will need counselling over this.

"The school should've accepted the money offered by Paul O'Grady which would've been a lot more than they would get from a raffle."