Today's Lesson: Slaughtering Animals

Cynthia Dermody

Photo by honeybee69

Recently in the meat aisle, my 5 year old daughter asked me where the chicken we cook for dinner comes from. "Well, from chickens," I said.

I could see her suburban brain working as she tried to connect the dots from the orange feathered bird at the petting zoo to the shiny pink slices underneath the plastic wrap. I explain more: "People raise the birds and kill them for meat. We eat meat, that's how it's done."

How food gets to our plates is a day to day reality. Would I take my 5 year old to a slaughterhouse? No. But when children ask about stuff like this, I believe they deserve an honest answer, even if it takes them a little time to ... ahem ... digest.

That's what Andrea Charman thought, too, but look what happened to her.

A group of parents and activists forced the headmistress of Lydd Primary School in Kent to resign this week over her plan to slaughter a lamb from the school farm, according to Newser. The children helped to raise the lamb, fed it bottles, even gave it a name, Marcus. Charman wanted to demonstrate how the food the children eat every day goes from farm to table.

Did I mention this is a rural community? A rural farming community with lots of sheep farms?

The parents claimed that Charman's plan to send Marcus the lamb to slaughter traumatized many of the children, causing some of them to seek counseling. This plan was voted on and approved by the school council. Charman was an extraordinary educator, transforming the lagging Lydd Primary into a high-performing school.

She made a few mistakes over this lamb thing, that's for certain.

Number one, she allowed the children to get too close to the lamb, especially by giving him a name. So he became a pet. Well, of course that's upsetting!

Number two, it would have nice if she had been more public about the plan from the very beginning. It's not entirely clear that she did that, and perhaps some parents who felt strongly could have opted their children out of this part of curriculum.

I wouldn't have. My children would have stayed in. If you're raising your kids as vegetarians, and oppose this, fine, good for you! I respect your opinion that we should all just give up eating meat, but, mmm, not gonna happen. The sooner everyone realizes that the better. But the parents in Charman's school definitely should have been given their choice. 

The way I see it, the story of Marcus the Lamb is the best example of the locally grown, organically raised, humanely treated farming principal that everyone in the environmental, economic, and academic communities hold up as the exemplar.

Marcus the lamb had a more humane, natural life than 95 percent of all the other livestock that go to slaughter each day. Like it or not, that's the reality. I couldn't think of a better lesson for my little carnivores.

Was Charman's resignation justified? Would you allow your child to visit a slaughterhouse or watch an animal be killed for food?


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