A UK primary school initiative, under fire by an animal rights activist, is now being defended by pupils and parents.
Farsley Farfield Primary in Leeds raised two Gloucester Old Spot breed pigs on the school's mini farm since last October, with the aim of teaching pupils about animal welfare in the food production chain.
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The plan, implemented by headmaster Peter Harris, was to raise the pigs for nine months before having them slaughtered. Harris, a vegetarian, believed the project would teach the children to be mindful about where their food comes from
The plan has come under fire after former pupil and vegan animal rights campaigner, Ix Willow, set up an online petition protesting the slaughter. The petition, which gained over 2000 signatures in six months, expressed that the school was normalising animal exploitation and suffering for children.
"My main concerns are with the well being of these pigs... and the message that we will be teaching the children at Farsley Farfield that it is okay to exploit and kill animals with the only justification being that people enjoy eating their bodies," Ix Willow said.
Now 11-year-old Farfield pupil, Charlotte Heap, has written to the Yorkshire Evening Post editor. Charlotte says she disagreed with an earlier article about the petition, stating the article "had many errors and made our school look bad when actually it's one of the best schools in Leeds." Hannah said the article has made people criticise the school unfairly.
In her letter, Charlotte says everyone in the school community was well-informed and consulted about the pigs, including families with different religions. She says all pupils are aware that the animals aren't pets, and that no bonding has been encouraged. She says the children understood the pigs would be killed from the get-go.
"This was always the plan for these pigs. We took them in so that they could have a better life while they were alive. No one is upset about sending the pigs off at the end of the year...Having the pigs has taught us to respect meat and animals."
A number of parents have also backed the school's approach. One parent said: "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."
Harris has defended the school's position. In a blog last year Harris wrote: "Through keeping the pigs the children will learn more about the provenance of their food and issues around animal welfare.
"I think that we are raising awareness of the meat industry, and some of the issues around animal welfare and sustainability.
"I don't think that we are desensitising the children, I suggest that our children will be more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare than most of their peers."
He added: "A key element of this project is to discuss the need to reduce meat consumption."
Farsley Farfield Primary has one 'meat free' day per week and features boards at the farm explaining why meat consumption must be reduced.