Friday, 12 February 2010

A lamb to the slaughter

I'm sure I won't be alone in being saddened by the treatment of primary school headmistress Andrea Charman of Lydd School in Kent, who was effectively forced to resign after a hate campaign against her.

What terrible thing did Ms Charman do? Did she beat the children? No. Did she embezzle funds? No. She had a lamb that had been reared at the school slaughtered. This wasn't a sudden whim, when she fancied something to go with mint sauce. It was the whole point of having the lamb in the first place - so that pupils at this rural school could get a better understanding of just what is involved in putting meat on their dinner plates.

Hypocrisy is too mild a word for the attitude of the people who made Ms Charman's life hell after this very sensible act. Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater, you would surely encourage making sure that children had a clear idea of what happened to the lambs from the fields. And it's not as if they were taken to the slaughter house to watch the process. This was simply because the lamb that had been reared at the school ended up as someone's dinner.

I began by saying I was saddened, but to be honest this sort of pathetic response makes me angry. Apparently Ms Charman is an excellent head who brought a school out of special measures into good Ofsted results. She clearly is the sort of person we can't afford to push out of schools. The people who criticized her should be ashamed of themselves.

NOTE posted edited to change 'Chapman' to the correct name 'Charman' after my typo was kindly pointed out in the comments.

7 comments:

  1. I agree that children should be educated to understand how food is produced. As a vegetarian and a father, I want my children to be aware of the ethical dilemmas to make an informed decision on their dietary choices. In our society we are very much removed from the production of food, especially meat products, and what we pick up at the supermarket, or a fast food chain.

    However, in this particular case I feel that the Ms. Chapman used poor judgment in her approach. These children obviously had an emotional bond to the animal as they protested against the slaughter. This animal was then rather more so a pet than a "food product". We can but speculate on the psychological impact on the children knowing that their teacher made the decision to slaughter, not a food product, but a pet, not very unlike a family dog, gold fish, or other common pets.

    Yes, Ms. Chapman got her point across, but she put the psychological well-being of these children at risk. For that, her conduct is to me unacceptable, and I agree with her voluntary 'dismissal'. There are many other ways she could have chosen to put the point across and still achieved the academic goal, perhaps even more efficiently than through a 'shock' method.

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  2. As far as I'm aware most of the protests came from adults. The school council (made up of children) voted to have the lamb slaughtered by a huge majority.

    I really don't think children's psychological well-being is put at risk by getting an understanding of what eating animals really means, something that can only be achieved by knowing the animal before it is slaughtered.

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  3. I'm with you Brian; two further thoughts come to mind; one is that she resigned which I think is becoming increasingly rare these days - the majority, even in high office, always seem to want to wait to be sacked; and second that your anonymous respondent has jumped into battle without reading the BBC news item that you included; it's quite clear that the children voted for the slaughter and that the majority of the complaints are from parents and other pressure groups.

    It reminds me of the Creationism v Evolution debate in the USA where one side still regards science as if it were another philosophical principle; or of the Homeopathy issues you have referred to earlier this month where the science means nothing to a well opinionated believer.

    Down with blind faith and cod science.

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  4. Interesting news Brian. I hadn't seen it. I agree that it would be much better if people really think about where the beef/lamp/meat comes from. I know that it is sort of gruesome to see the alsughter house, and maybe you don't need to push smaller children into the actual house but surely it is only fair and good to explain "this is lamb, wolly little cute one that we now eat at the table".

    It seems again like the parents might be "helicoptering" (or what ever you'd call it "my little one can't handle this" when in reality it is them who feel finicky about the whole deal) or just plain confused about why they choose to eat meat.

    Then again, wasn't there a study in UK where 30% thought that bacon came from lamb? Maybe the parents really didn't know that wolly cute lamb is the sorce of the nice meat on the plate?!

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  5. Brain, please be aware that the headteacher concerned is called Mrs Charman and not Mrs Chapman. As a parent of a child who attends this school I am very saddened that we have lost an outstanding head who has turned the school around. She will be missed by many.

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  6. As I said on your facebook page, I agree with you Brian. My stepkids go to a school with a farm and they slaughter the animals there periodically - it's a working farm. We would never lie to the kids about it. We bought some bacon and sausages from the last lot and were very open about where they had come from. Our youngest said at first she didn't want to eat it so we asked her if she'd rather eat the meat from animal that she knew had been well looked after and had a good life, or one that was probably kept in a small pen and maltreated. She changed her mind. Well, at least, once she smelled the bacon cooking she did! I don't think kids are ever too young to be told about the facts of life and death and where our food comes from. It's part of nature - as are they. Ill treatment by farmers and slaughterhouses would not be so easily tolerated if everyone was properly in touch with where meat came from. I think we've lost our connection with that, and that farms in schools like this are a way of helping people reconnect at a young age

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  7. Thanks for the interesting comments.

    Thanks also anonymous 2 for the correction - a mental typo, I'm afraid! I've edited the original and noted the edit at the bottom.

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