Pupils at a Kent school helped to raise Marcus, the pet sheep, by hand – and then raised their hands in favour of having him killed.
Their ruthless display of realism had parents demonstrating yesterday in the hope of saving the doomed sheep. Scores of children aged three to 11 had taken part in hand-rearing Marcus, the neutered ram. But when they were given a choice of keeping him or selling him for meat so that they could buy other animals, they voted to send him to the abattoir.
But Marcus was offered a lifeline last night after the comedian Paul O'Grady offered to buy him. He said it could join his own sheep on his land and he would ensure the school pupils were kept updated about its progress.
Mr O'Grady, who lives near Ashford, said it was "wrong" for children to be allowed to hand-rear and name a sheep before being told it could be sent to an abattoir.
He told BBC Radio Kent: "I've got 11 sheep of my own that have all been hand-reared. I will pay the school for him and bring him over here and he can go in with my sheep and have a ball. "And I'll keep the kids updated. I'll let them know on the show how he's doing and I'll send photos."
Teachers at Lydd Primary School in Romney Marsh say rearing Marcus has taught its pupils the reality that meat comes from animals. But yesterday, the school was picketed by irate parents, who claimed that some children were in tears over Marcus's fate.
Jo Davis, whose eight-year-old daughter helped to raise the sheep, said: "This is the same as my daughter coming home from school to find her pet rabbit bubbling away on the stove in a stew. My daughter was told it was no different to buying lamb from the supermarket. I really don't think this is the same thing."
Another parent, who did not want to be named, described it as "more like Lord of the Flies than a normal day at primary school".