The primary school teaching about pig rearing is right: Children must understand meat production

If I had my way, every secondary school pupil would be taken on both intensive farming and abattoir visits so that they really know at first hand what goes on

Related Topics

Peasenhall Primary School near Saxmundham in Suffolk is rearing three piglets.

The project is designed to help the children to understand the provenance of the meat they eat. In the summer the animals will be sent for slaughter and this has been explained to the school’s 25 pupils.

Animal rights campaigners are furious and an online petition objecting to the principle of rearing animals for meat in schools had attracted 4,600 signatures from all over the world. Headteacher Mrs Kath Cook and her colleagues are receiving such vitriolic hate mail that she has asked for police protection for the school. A group called Colchester Animal Defenders is promoting the campaign and there are threats of demonstrations outside the school.

In fact the Peasenhall Primary School Project is part of a wider move to connect children with food and its sources. A growing number of schools are opening miniature farms, usually in connection with local organisations. There has been a 50% increase in such projects in the last six years.

I am a vegetarian. And that is why I am in favour of such work in schools.

I have not (knowingly) eaten meat, poultry, fish or any of the by-products of slaughter for over 30 years. I made this decision originally partly because of growing evidence that it is a healthier way for individuals to eat. And once I’d proved to myself that I could live very well without flesh foods there no longer seemed any moral reason to justify eating it, even occasionally. Moreover meat is globally an unsustainable way of feeding the world’s growing population because you can, for example, grow eight times as much grain for human consumption in a field which will support a single animal.

That’s my view. It’s a decision I came to. I expect my position to be respected – as it generally is – but I never proselytise. And I disapprove totally of harassment or aggression by pressure groups. Violence, even the verbal variety, is never the best way of presenting opinion. Instead, I believe that every individual should be free to make the meat decision for him or herself and that means being fully informed.

There is a lot of hypocrisy applied to the ethics of meat consumption. People don’t want to think about abattoirs and their work. Many people prefer their meat products sanitised and disguised in supermarket plastic wrapping. Cuts, joints and offal which might just remind the purchaser of the source animal tend to be less popular. And I suspect it’s why sausages have always sold well – they don’t look like a bit of dead animal. And as for people who say squeamishly “Oh I couldn’t possibly kill my own food” … my argument is that, in that case they have no right to eat it.

We owe it to children to break such attitudes down with honesty and without prejudice.  Of course I don’t want young children deliberately frightened with excessively nasty images but they should be told, and shown, the truth about meat. And school projects are good way of doing this. Most pigs (and other creatures) are reared in much less pleasant conditions than those piglets at Peasenhall, so this is clearly an appropriately gentle way of initiating the children who are not, incidentally, allowed to name, handle, sentimentalise or make pets of these animals.

If I had my way, every secondary school pupil – at age say 14 or 15 – would be taken on both intensive farming and abattoir visits so that they really know at first hand what goes on. I’d build it into the curriculum – not because I want to convert the whole nation to vegetarianism, although it might help to make abattoirs a bit more accountable - but because I want people to be sufficiently well educated to make knowledge-based decisions for themselves.  In a few years we’d have a much better food-educated general public who would fully understand the stages of meat production.

If, once properly clued up, you still believe that meat is a natural and moral way for human beings to feed themselves then I respect your point of view as much as I expect you to respect mine.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment