Staff and students at Priestlands School in Lymington, Hampshire, were looking after four pigs who were going to be being “sent to the slaughterhouse” in February. It is a project they have conducted every year for the past decade.
However, this year, more than 40,000 people signed a petition to stop the project going ahead and the school acquiesced.
“We decided that the best way forward was to hand back the pigs to their original owner,” a statement on the school’s website read.
“The original owner collected the pigs over the weekend, and this enables us to focus on our core purpose of running the school and will allow a proper consultation and discussion on whether we have pigs in the future.”
Parents who set up the Change.org petition argued: “In 2018 we should be teaching children compassion towards animals.
“The school has made students and parents uncomfortable, by discriminating against their beliefs by condemning these pigs to death. Priestlands School has the chance to do the right thing.”
One parent commented: “Educate about the food chain? OK, then maybe they should try taking the children to a kill floor of a slaughterhouse if they want them to be informed about ‘where their food comes from’.”
Parents even found an animal sanctuary, Tower Hills Stables, who agreed to take the pigs in and look after them.
Priestlands School has kept pigs on site for ten years in their school farm. Previously, the pigs have been donated by farmers, reared by pupils and sent for slaughter. The meat has then been used in school meals and sold by local butchers.
This is the first year the school has received a backlash to their project.
A statement released by Priestlands school explained they have always been “open and honest” about the purpose of the pigs.
“We respect the vegan philosophy but Priestlands School is proud to serve the whole community,” the statement read.
“We wanted to educate our students about where their food comes from and to do this in a sustainable way as well as preparing students for employment locally.
“Many local jobs are still in farming and this includes rearing animals for meat.”
They argued they were left with two choices when one vegan parent made it clear the only acceptable outcome for him would be the pigs not being slaughtered: 1) They stop the food chain programme or 2) they continue as planned.
“However, the parent made it clear that, were we to go down this path [continuing as planned], he would seek to launch a campaign to save the animals, which would include publishing the school’s contact details,” the school wrote.
“We were not willing to spend the next four weeks fighting a battle which would be time-consuming and peripheral to our central mission of delivering the best possible provision to our students.”
Responding to the statement, founders of the petition wrote: “The school is attempting to push the blame onto the parent and portray them in a negative light, which is not only unprofessional considering his children go to the school, but also because he is not the only parent that is upset about this matter.
“At this stage it is a matter of asking the school to have the farmer release the pigs back to the school and then to the sanctuary where they can live out their lives with other pigs, without ever needing to worry about being killed.”
Priestlands is not the only school in the UK to rear pigs, there are more than 116 School Farms in the UK., according to the School Farms Network. Food writer Millie Diamond, is hoping to make discussion of such topics more open, by blogging about her experience of going from ’Piglet to Plate’, to find out where her food is coming from.
Diamond, believes the school should have gone ahead with the project.
“Yes, we should be teaching children compassion towards animals but that starts with them understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced,” she said.
“These pigs have surely had a far better life than any factory farmed animal, and have provided an unrivalled learning opportunity for these children to see where their food comes from and make their own informed decisions about what they wish to consume.
“From my point of view, showing this entire process of raising an animal and connecting the dots is far more likely to encourage change, raising awareness of animal welfare and creating a better understanding of food provenance.”