A letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post

This is copied and pasted from an email I wrote to a journalist from the Yorkshire Evening Post- which was ignored.

Since your original article in the YEP, many companies have picked up this story and reported it.

I did not initially contact any newspapers about this story because of abusive comments on similar articles including me, other personal reasons and because of the abuse and backlash towards the Leeds activists (some of whom I know and are brilliant people) got for a silent protest through Leeds and Kirkgate Market a few months ago.

A lot of the publicity has been irritating to say the least, yet verging on being laughable. However, it is the same old stuff which I am used to reading about, but another article in the YEP has made me feel quite troubled.
One Farfield student wrote in, I’m sure you might have read. I want it to be clear that my intention is not, and never has been, to ‘make the school look bad.’ If the school has garnered a bad reputation through these stories it is their own fault for planning to slaughter animals.

The thing that I am passionate about is saving these animals- not ruining anyone’s reputation. I have even been in contact with a local sanctuary who said they would be willing to come to do an assembly for the children.
Mr Harris declined this saying ” I am not going to to take up the offer of a visit from the sanctuary: that would be confusing for the children at this time. I have discussed your protest with the older children and have said that we will review whether this has been a good idea after the full cycle.” 

Contrary to his point, I think it is confusing for children to be given this false idea of what life is like for livestock animals and potentially lead children and teachers to believe that this is what life is like for all “free range” domesticated livestock animals. I think it is confusing for children to brush and care for the pigs, as they would a dog, to then eat them after they have had their throats slit, or been gassed, or whichever method the people at the abattoir use to kill them. I have had parents heckle me when I have stood outside the school with my “friends not food” poster saying I would deny the children a right to education but that is not the case. It’s quite the opposite, I would will the school to have people from sanctuaries teach the children, I would have people working in slaughter houses tell the children what the conditions are like, I would have factory farmers teach the children. We can agree I’m sure that it would in fact be too traumatising for such young minds to witness the life cycle of animals: from artificial insemination, birth and rearing, force feeding, then to slaughter. So, if we cannot fully educate the children on who and what they eat, then we cannot in good conscience allow them to be complicit. (Mr Harris has ignored all of my emails since.)

I was raised as a vegetarian, my parents cooked dead animals which I ate sometimes between the ages of about five and seven years old. For the most part I have been a vegetarian my whole life, and I have been vegan almost four years. Though I am grateful that my parents made an effort to give me a real choice, there is no greater regret I have than not being vegan my entire life. I remember when I was in high school and people would ask “so, if you’re vegetarian does that mean you don’t eat eggs or milk?” and I would scoff and say “well you don’t need to kill a cow to get milk do you?”

Even when I decided to go vegan I had no idea how animals were treated in these industries, my main reason to go vegan was because I have no right to eat the things that animals produce. I saw it as a level up from vegetarianism. (Though really if your reason for living vegan is animal rights vegetarianism would not be comparable because animals can’t have their full rights to freedom, peace and health whilst being used for eggs, dairy or honey etc.)

Whilst it may not be necessary to kill cows in the dairy industry, it still happens every day. Male calves in the dairy industry are often slaughtered at only days old as they’re not useful to provide milk; dairy cows often end up as beef once their bodies are exhausted from constant pregnancy and lactation, etc.

Three out of four members of my family are vegan (one is vegetarian), my younger sibling has only eaten animal body parts twice in their life. The first time happened to be in Farsley Farfield school when they were given mince instead of quorn, after complaining to a dinner lady she scraped off the quorn and gave back the mince. The second time was accidentally eating mints with gelatine in that one of their friends had brought to our house. On my first day (and many times consequently) at Farsley Farfield I didn’t eat my school lunch because the dinner lady gave me a sausage, and then when I told her I was a vegetarian she gave me fish fingers instead.

All of this is a great shame, especially considering their veggie head teacher (and ex animal rights campaigner). Farsley Farfield was one of the best schools I’ve been to, I had some great friends and good teachers there. I really believe that Farfield could be the best school in Leeds, they obviously care about renewable energy and the environment, food, health etc but why aren’t they promoting veganism as a way to lower your carbon footprint or to be healthier?! This school has free vegan school meals, I don’t know why Farfield is lagging behind- even taking steps backwards!

“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.”

I wanted to highlight the above quote, but I don’t even know what to say. Charlotte says it all herself. It’s a classic example of taking steps to compensate for feelings of cognitive dissonance: to name the pigs is to humanise them, not naming them objectifies them. This cognitive distortion helps people come to terms with eating animals. Pigs are as intelligent as young children, and they’re smarter than dogs. So why is it that you would name a dog, but not a pig? Why would you adopt a dog into your family, but kill a pig?

I wanted to talk about this paragraph in particular: “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.”

Is it a sign of respect to murder a human being? Do we respect our pets by slaughtering them once they reach adolescence? Is it normal, in our culture, to revere the dead by consuming their bodies? No. So, why is it apparently respectful to ‘meat and animals’ to end their lives when they are barely adults and eat their corpses?

I would again argue that a “real demonstration” of where ‘meat’ comes from is not happy piggies on a school field, it’s in the slaughterhouse. Anyone can go online and look at pictures of pigs, but this isn’t a real demonstration of where animal products come from. A pig is a pig, a living being, until they are killed; then they become a corpse, they become a commodity, they become a product.

As for “free range” foods, I have tried to look into the RSPCA’s so called “welfare standards” for pigs but the PDF on their website does not open. (As a disclaimer, I do not respect or endorse the RSPCA in any way whatsoever.)
This quote from Compassion in World Farming (another org that I’m not a fan of) states “Whilst there is no legal definition of ‘free-range pork’ we believe this should mean pigs who are born and reared in outdoor systems throughout their lives, with permanent access to pasture.”

If it wasn’t already completely meaningless in an ethical sense to get free range meat, surely the lack of any real definition, law or regulation further cements the futility of the “free range” label. It is simply yet another ploy that the animal agriculture industries use to continue to promote “their product” and to continue to exploit, kill, and profit from animals.

We are all animals. Living beings who have the capacity to suffer. If you are capable of compassion and empathy, and have an understanding of what it is to suffer, and you have the ability to prevent suffering then I believe you have a responsibility to do what you can to decrease and alleviate suffering as much as possible. This is why I am vegan, and this is why I made the petition. I hope that these pigs will live a long life in a sanctuary. We can all live without bacon, the pigs can only live if we allow ourselves to put the value and sanctity of life above our own enjoyment and palette pleasure.

There is no need to kill these pigs, no one will starve if they continue to live. It is not natural to breed, rear and slaughter animals in the way we do. Their suffering is in vain.
Who are we to deny logic, reason and emotion?
If dogs and pigs can be friends, why can’t we be friends to all animals?

All this being said, it is not about what I think, or what Charlotte thinks. It’s not about the reputation of the school, or the school governors, the headteacher, the PTA, people who donate money to the school, or any links they might have with butchers etc.

It’s about the pigs.

Friends not food.

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