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

Share
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

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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?