Vegan protest derails 10-year school pig project

A secondary school has dropped a 10-year project that saw pupils raising pigs for consumption in the canteen after a protest from a vegan parent.

In a story that has been widely carried and debated across the national media, the school in Lymington, Hampshire, returned four pigs to their original owners after a petition raised more than 40,000 signatures calling for the pigs to be saved.

As had been the case for the past 10 years, the pigs were due to be sent to the local abattoir, with some of the meat then being sold in the school canteen. But the school decided to act after the father of an 11-year-old boy complained and started a petition, which, The Telegraph reported, led to school staff verbally abused by campaigners.

The project, which aimed to teach children about the food chain, had been conducted without complaint for the past 10 years and has been supported by Prince Charles, the Telegraph report added.

Chris Willsher, the school’s executive head, initially told the parent, Vincent Cook, he would not give into his demands. In an email, he told Mr Cook: “I was a vegetarian for 25 years and still struggle to accept the practices of the meat industry.

“When one speaks to Year 7 students who believe sausages are vegetables, there is clearly work to be done educating some members of our community about where food comes from.

“The pigs we have in school are borrowed from a farm. They are already destined for the food chain.

“I cannot pretend to be entirely comfortable with the arrangement but, realistically, we live in a community where the meat-eaters outnumber the vegetarians and vegans.”

But he told the Telegraph that he had decided to returned the piglets to the farmer after office staff started to receive abuse. “We could have kept them and fought the good fight but we had to ask was it worth it?” he said.

“We will consult the school community, send a letter to all parents and give them the opportunity to have a say about what we do in the future. As it stands, we have not had a single parent contact us to say they are unhappy with what we are doing.”

Mr Cook said: “We should be teaching children compassion towards animals. The pig programme may have had its place in the past but we live in a more enlightened world now and it has to end.”

You can see some of the coverage of the story here:

The story has also been covered on TV and radio and debated on phone-in shows, with many people backing the right of the school to continue its project, alongside others demanding that it ends.



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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.