Farsley Farfield Primary School’s plans to send a group of Gloucester Old Spot pigs reared by its pupils to slaughter has divided opinion.
Head teacher Peter Harris said the idea was to teach children about the food chain and animal welfare.
But an online petition against the slaughter has gained more than 2,600 signatures – and this week has led to press coverage in many national newspapers and has sparked debates on national TV.
Writing on the school’s website, Mr Harris said:
“I think that we are raising awareness of the meat industry, and some of the issues around animal welfare and sustainability. I don’t agree that this project has anything to do with greed.
“The pigs will live twice as long as commercial pigs and appear to be enjoying their outdoor life with plenty of opportunity to root around.
“Their welfare standards are much higher than most pigs. I don’t think that we are desensitizing the children: I suggest that our children will be more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare than most of their peers.”
One critic branded the move “propaganda” for the meat-eating community “who want their children to be brainwashed into thinking it’s OK to kill animals for food”, another said it was potentially traumatising.
Mr Harris said he had received “overwhelming support” for the project, and that he believed none of the signatures on the petition were from people inside his school community. He added:
“There are educational boards in production that explain that these pigs are better treated than the vast majority of pigs. These boards also encourage people to greatly reduce their meat intake.
“We are getting criticised some vegetarians/vegans and, at the same time, by some meat eaters who think that the project is a veggie-conspiracy. I hope that our children have an educated view and make informed, balanced decisions when they are adults.”
A petition calling for the pigs to be spared slaughter has gained more than 2,200 signatures. It was created by a former pupil, identified as Ix Willow.
The petition states:
“Schools have a duty of care to support children, teach them fair values and to provide a safe and happy environment for them. By teaching children that it is okay to exploit and kill animals they are in breach of this, and this could also be traumatising for children getting to know the animals and then knowing they are going to die.”
Some parents have welcomed the move. Posting on the school’s website, one parent said:
“Such a great value add to the school farm. A great way to extend children’s learning and understanding of the food chain, animal welfare and how pigs live that goes beyond the classroom.”
“Despite some individuals’ views on social media I think having the pigs on the farm is a brilliant idea. All of my children have been brought up knowing where our food comes from and it does not stop them eating any of it.
“Setting aside this it is also a chance for children from all walks of life to see and or be close to a farm animal which they may not get the chance to ever see other than on TV etc. Fantastic and I hope this keeps going for many years and the future generation.”
Farsley Farfield was named healthy school of the year in 2017 by the Times Literary Supplement.
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