A pupil has come to the defence of her Leeds primary school after it was criticised over plans to slaughter pigs kept on its grounds.
Farsley Farfield Primary School came under scrutiny when an online petition was set up in opposition to the plans for the two Gloucester Old Spot breed pigs being reared on its farm.
Now 11-year-old Charlotte Heap has written to Yorkshire Evening Post editor Hannah Thaxter, saying Farfield is one of the best schools in the city and its pupils are lucky to go there.
In her letter she says parents were consulted about the plans, the children have understood the pigs would go to slaughter from the start and "no one is upset" about it.
She sheds light on the school's award-winning work, what pupils learn from being able to spend time at Farfield Farm and what rearing the pigs has taught them.
Speaking to the YEP about the letter, Charlotte said she had put pen to paper because she did not agree with an earlier article about the petition.
"We're not seeing the slaughter and we don't have anything to do with it," she said. "The parents are definitely for it - most of them - and my headteacher made sure people from different religions who might not agree with it were OK. We don't have to see the pigs if we don't want to.
"Most of us are fine with the idea. Some of us quite like the pigs and brushing them down. We've all learned a lot from this - where our food comes - and Mr Harris is a vegetarian himself. He wants people to make their own choices in life and to know where their food actually comes from. I think that's important."
The online petition urging headteacher Peter Harris to abandon the plans has been running for around six months now and has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.
Set up by a former pupil, it explains that she loved attending the school but was concerned about the message current pupils would take away from the animals being sent to slaughter.
She wrote: "I am vegan for the animals, so my main concerns are with the well being of these pigs who don't deserve to die, 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."
But Mr Harris defended the school's position, saying it would actually teach the children more about the provenance of their food and issues around animal welfare.
A number of parents also backed the decision and praised the school for the approach it was taking.
Charlotte, whose mum also teaches at the school, said she started letter writing last summer when she was one of the finalists in the running to become the Leeds Children's Mayor.
"I was writing lots of letters to MPs," she said. "From doing that, I've got into the Leeds Youth Council. It's full of young people and children.
"We go along to meetings to decide things and we want to make Leeds a better place for children, to make it child friendly."
Charlotte's letter to the editor in full
My name is Charlotte Heap. I am 11 years old and in Year 6 at Farsley Farfield Primary School. I am writing to you about your article about our pigs. I think that the article had many errors and made our school look bad when actually it’s one of the best schools in Leeds.
Firstly, Mr Harris, our headteacher, has been very open about the whole idea of the pigs since the very beginning. He consulted all the parents about it first, especially those with religions that might not agree with it, and we don’t have to see the pigs if we don’t want to. We all know they aren’t pets and we’re not allowed to name them or get too fond of them because we all know that they will go off to be slaughtered. The children will not have anything to do with the slaughtering as they will be sent away to have it done properly. 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.
Secondly, Farsley Farfield Primary has been recognised nationally for the work we do on our farm as a part of the TES Healthy School of the Year award. We have a massive school farm where we learn about where food comes from and how to look after plants and animals. We even have chickens, bees and an orchard. Every half-term, we take it in turns to spend an afternoon on the farm doing all the jobs such as feeding the pigs and chickens, weeding, planting, harvesting, all different jobs throughout the year. We have learned a lot about life cycles of plants and animals and when different foods are in season. Sometimes we use food from the farm in our cooking lessons. Mr Harris makes sure we learn to respect nature and healthy food and have a good idea of where our food comes from. You should come visit our farm before writing a negative article about it.
Finally, having the pigs has taught us to respect meat and animals. We had already learned where fruit, vegetables and eggs come from. Now we are being given a real demonstration of where our meat comes from. We know that not all animals are treated well but we all want this to change. By taking in a couple of pigs to let them have a free, open life before they die, we are starting to make a difference. When we go to do the food shopping with our families, we know what “free range” means and try to buy it. Our headteacher is a vegetarian and wants everyone to make their own choices about what they eat by knowing all the facts.
Farsley Farfield is an amazing school and we are all so lucky to go there. With our huge grounds and vast curriculum, our teachers give us the opportunity to learn so many interesting things. Your article has made people criticise our school when they know nothing about it apart from your exaggerated headline. This is not fair. I think you should visit our school and write a positive article.
What do you think?
Do you you support or oppose the school's plans? Has Charlotte's letter changed your view?
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @LeedsNews to have your say.