A Leeds school took in two pigs which they plan to look after before 'sending them off to slaughter and selling the meat back to parents’.
A petition started by a former pupil claims that Farsley Farfield Primary is planning to allow the slaughter of two pigs to teach children about the food chain and animal welfare.
The school says it set up the project to educate pupils about the process that their food goes through to give them a better understanding of where their food comes from.
The Gloucester Old Spot breed pigs have taken up residence at Farfield Farm in the school grounds and have been enjoying snuffling for windfall apples which pupils have hidden around their enclosure.
But their charmed lives will come to an end over the summer, when they will become an as-yet unknown pork product, according to the protesters who have organised the nearly 2,000-strong signature petition.
The school’s headteacher says the pigs are not pets and has dismissed concerns from animal welfare protesters.
He added that the project will teach kids about animal welfare but that there are not yet any plans for how the meat will be sold.
‘Exploiting and killing animals to eat their bodies’
Headteacher Peter Harris wrote in a blog post on the school’s website: “Through keeping the pigs, the children will learn more about the provenance of their food and issues around animal welfare.”
A petition against the plan, created by Ix Willon, who went to the school as a child, has garnered almost 2,000 signatures.
Ms Willow wrote that the school planned to allow parents to buy back the meat, but the school has said no decision has been made on how it will be sold.
She wrote on the petition: “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.
“Pigs are as intelligent as dogs, and at least as smart as a three-year-old human child. They are friendly animals that can live for about 12 years or so.
“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."
But on a blog post welcoming the porkers to the school in October 2018, a supportive parent said: “Despite some individual’s 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.”
‘We are not desensitising the children’
Responding to the criticism, Mr Harris wrote online: “I think that we are raising awareness of the meat industry, and some of the issues around animal welfare and sustainability.
“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 desensitising the children: I suggest that our children will be more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare than most of their peers.”
Farfield won the award for Healthy School of the Year 2017 at the Times Educational Supplement's schools awards.
In a statement, Mr Harris said: “Our school farm is a tremendous long-term success, recognised nationally, and it provides our pupils with the opportunity to have a much better understanding of where their food comes from.
“The pigs are extremely well cared for and have already been alive in their large free-range pen for much longer than intensively-reared commercial pigs. The children are all very clear that the animals are not pets.
“A key element of this project is to discuss the need to reduce meat consumption. We have a meat-free day in the school meal week and information boards for the farm are in production, which explain why meat consumption must reduce for environmental as well as personal health reasons.
“The information boards also draw attention to the animal welfare costs of cheap food.
“We are aware of a petition which was set up six months ago around the keeping of the pigs, and fully respect people’s individual views. From our perspective, the school community were consulted prior to ordering the pigs and have been very supportive of the initiative.
“We have also been extremely keen to engage with any parents that have had any questions or concerns regarding the project.
“Once we have completed the full cycle with the pigs, we will review how the project has gone with people such as the School Council and Governors and consider next steps in terms of livestock on our farm.
“No decisions have been made as yet on how the meat will be sold.”