Should children watch animals being slaughtered at school?

This news item made me go “–um?” in a really big way.,2669,SAV-0105190168,FF.html

And I went, “–um?” They’ve been reading about butchering animals all year? What kind of school is this, anyway?

Yes, but the 4-H animals aren’t slaughtered in front of an audience of children.

How is watching an animal being killed “age appropriate”? Age 3 to 5, “stun only”. Age 6 to 10, “stun and cut throat”. Age 10 to 14, “stun, cut throat, allow to hang and bleed, cut up.”

A movie rating of PG-13 still won’t allow you to show animals actually being killed.

How does a white-collar teacher “prepare” a child to see an animal killed? How many of these kids were raised on farms? The article doesn’t say. Also, these days, just because a kid was “raised on a farm” doesn’t mean he’s going to have experience with slaughtering livestock. If Daddy’s raising hogs, Junior doesn’t see them killed–a big truck comes to take them away to the slaughterhouse. Long gone are the days when it was part of farm life to see Daddy chop the head off a chicken for Sunday dinner.

Um–you can’t demonstrate this on an already-dead animal?

Debate this: should children watch animals being killed as part of their school education? I say no. I say the educational value is non-existent.

“What did you do at school today?”
“We watched a man kill a cow.”
“And from this you learned…?”
“You gotta make sure to stun it properly, otherwise it wiggles around. Also, proper bleeding is important.”

If kids need to know where meat comes from, they can read about it in books, or learn it at first hand from whatever family experience they have available. I have no objection to going deer hunting with Dad and Uncle Bill, because Dad and Uncle Bill will (presumably) also teach the value system that should go with the taking of life to feed your own life. Ditto the “back to the land” people who really do raise their own meat. Then there’s a context to the killing.

But merely to line kids up, like a sort of field trip, and have them observe while someone kills an animal, well, I just really think someone at that school made a very bad and stupid decision. It seems more like a lesson in “here’s what it’s like to kill an animal”, not “here’s where your McDonald’s hamburger comes from”.

When they’re 18, then they can go down to the slaughterhouse and watch. Or start raising their own chickens.

(and no, I am not a vegetarian. Unreconstructed meat eater here.)


I’m going to respectfully disagree with you DDG. First note that each student was required to have parental consent. If indeed, the students studied where meat comes from for an entire year, I would think that all aspects of the deed were covered, including the spiritual aspects of killing for sustinance.

I think anyone who even occasionally partakes of flesh should witness slaughtering and butchering. It does give one more respect for life.

I’ve always had a problem with folks who think nothing of allowing their children of any age to watch graphic human violence on television yet scream bloody murder about a love scene in the same movie.

Most custom meat processing still starts at the farm, with the butcher coming out, killing the animal, gutting, skinning and quartering the animal before taking it to the meat plant.

For their next field trip maybe they can go out and plant an apple tree and pick an apple.

It would be interesting to see a study comparing the occurance of murder between city bred/never seen death before folks and folks who have witnessed the respectful taking of life for the purpose of eating.

I am a vegetarian, and consider myself something of an animal-rights proponent, though I don’t necessarily object on a moral ground to killing animals for food, per se… That said, I wouldn’t have protested this activity. Actually, I think it’s great. If it’s okay for children to eat dead animals, it only makes sense that they should have the opportunity, nay, the responsibility, to see a live animal converted into a dead animal for the purposes of eating. I don’t say this because I hope that kids will get grossed out and stop eating meat. Not at all. However, they should have a very good understanding of where their food comes from. God forbid that these children have some kind of awareness and respect for life.

And I went, “–um?” They’ve been reading about butchering animals all year? What kind of school is this, anyway?


Beats me. One of the local elementary schools here instructed 1st graders on the finer points of pig-latin for two days.


If you’re old enough to make the connection that bacon comes from Babe then maybe you’re old enough to watch it.


The ratings system in the United States in very broken and almost of no use. Stand by Me and Friday the 13th have the exact same rating. Which one do you think is worse?


I dunno. You might start by telling them what’s going to happen and why.


Really? I was born in 1976 and I remember when I was 4 or 5 and I watched my parents, and some friends of theirs, chop the heads off of chickens. I even remember how they ran around without heads. Man that was weird.


Well I’m gonna assume the animal had already died when this was demonstrated. What difference does it make whether it was stuck in some preservative or not?


They learned something didn’t they?


They could read about a lot of other things in books as well. But we still take them to museums and watch educational films.


Why was it a very bad decision? I don’t see why it was bad to show children the truth of how meat is made.


It was optional. What’s the big deal?


Okay, good, I’m glad we can get this point out of the way right off the bat.

The OP is not about whether the children should have watched, or about whether they had their parents’ permission to watch. The OP is about whether there’s any kind of educational value in having children watch animals being killed–at school.

Children don’t have the experience to be able to really extrapolate from that big bleeding animal in the parking lot to their McDonalds hamburger. Teacher can say as much as she likes, “Now, see, Johnny, that’s where your hamburger came from”, but if Johnny’s younger than about 14, he just doesn’t have the experience and the imagination to really grasp it. To him, it’s just a big bleeding animal out in the parking lot. Kewl.

I say that watching things die tends to desensitize a person to the cosmic reality of “death”, that the issue of “death” is something that’s too important to be left up to an emotionally distant school system, that learning to cope with “death” requires a moral system of some sort, and that the experience, for a child, especially his first personal experience, should be filtered through a parent’s experience and interpretation. You shouldn’t just take a child out to the parking lot and kill an animal in front of him and expect him to take away some sort of learning from it.

And why stop with cows? Why not drown a guinea pig in a bucket of water, to demonstrate that they can’t swim? How about demonstrating carbon monoxide poisoning with a canary and an acrylic euthanasia box? Why not shoot a horse in the head to demonstrate how crippled racehorses are humanely put down?

And from there it’s a short step to, “Today, class, we will watch Timothy McVeigh die. It will teach us a valuable lesson about the American legal system.” :rolleyes:

Carry on.

I don’t see a problem with showing kids where their hamburgers come from. I grew up watching and participating in animal slaughters, and it didn’t harm me one bit.
If the parents thought it would be OK for their children to see it, than I don’t see a debate. Animals die. Animals are killed. Animals are eaten, every single day. So what if kids know the process? Isn’t that part of fighting ignorance? They have to learn sometime.

I think it’s quite a reach from demonstrating to children that cows die in order to make steaks, and having them watch a (public) execution of a man. It’s most certianly not a short step.

Definitely gross, but I’m glad they saw it. I’m a vegetarian, so I’m hoping that the demonstration will convince some kids to give up eating meat. But even if it doesn’t, at least they’ll be practicing an informed carnivorism. Kids (hell, everyone) should know that meat doesn’t just go straight from the farm to their stomach, but that that there’s a long, disgusting process involving death, blood, guts, etc. If you don’t have a problem with that, fine, but it’s better than being totally uninformed.

I will add another shrug to the thread. I don’t agree with this at all. (Of course, to extrapolate to a modern market-bought, much less McDonald’s, hamburger, they’d have to start with about two dozen animals all being ground up and thrown together, but that’s another topic.) Children aren’t stupid until around 14 when they magically cease to be (possibly the other way around, but that’s a less serious topic).

I can’t really see where you are making your point here. You say that witnessing death, even for the first time, will “desensitize” the child. How can this possibly be the effect, if the cause of desensitization is repeated exposure to something of shock value until the person no longer sees it as shocking. This is the first time any of these children have seen anything to this effect. I’m sure it will be an experience they will never forget, and you maintain that it was not a learning experience. Will they forget what they saw that day? Probably not. Do you remember a single thing from elementry school that you have even the faintest memory of today? Again, probably not. So you see, this was a learning experience for those children. They now know the depth of their actions the next time they order a hamburger. It’s not just the mystery-pattie from behind the counter at Burger King. Sometimes learning, if it is expected to sink in, must be done on the hands-on level. I agree with the majority here, and I think you’re the only one who seems to have a big problem with it. Besides, if it were as big of a deal as you’re making it, more kids would have stayed inside at the request of their parents.


At the very least it taught the children exactly how a cow is slaughtered and prepared for slaughter. I wonder if they got to see the cow sectioned into different cuts of meat.


Maybe if they spent time explaining things to the kid they’d have an easier time making the connection. And even if they didn’t make it at that exact point maybe they’d be able to look back at that experience and recall something.


Somehow I think an eight year old should be able to understand the concept. When I was four I understood that the chicken that had its head chopped off would be dinner.


I think television and movies desensitizes a child more then watching a cow die. In most action movies/cartoons violance has very few long term consequences and the heroes are almost always ok by the end of the episode.


Woah. By the thread title, I thought… oh, nevermind. Watch those dangling participles, people.


Children don’t have the experience to be able to really extrapolate from that big bleeding animal in the parking lot to their McDonalds hamburger. Teacher can say as much as she likes, “Now, see, Johnny, that’s where your hamburger came from”, but if Johnny’s younger than about 14, he just doesn’t have the experience and the imagination to really grasp it. To him, it’s just a big bleeding animal out in the parking lot. Kewl… You shouldn’t just take a child out to the parking lot and kill an animal in front of him and expect him to take away some sort of learning from it.


As I understand form the OP, the kids raised this steer for 2 years. It seems that the lesson plan was to teach the children the whole process of life continuing by eating another organism. If we’re talking about meat, butchering the animal is a very important part of the process. I think this school gave the kids a resource (not now, but maybe in a few years) to arrive at their own philosophy. That sounds pretty valuable to me.
Do you think it would have been more educational for the critter to just disappear one day, then magically appear on their cafeteria trays a couple days later?

Unfortunately, most kids growing up in America today don’t get the opportunity to go on this imaginary hunting trip.
You can read about lots of things in books, but seeing it for yourself really teaches a lot more.

The Carbon County Christian School? I bet this whole experience is being filtered through some kind of morals. Maybe not yours or mine, but I bet the parents see this as acceptable.

I dunno, I think you guys are missing a larger agenda here. If the school just wanted to show kids how animals are killed, it could have just carted them off to the nearest rendering plant. This was different. This was an animal that they named, that they raised for two years. It seems to me that there was an intent to build an emotional connection between the children and the animal before killing it.

I grew up on a farm, and this would have disturbed me. I had a pet pig when I was a kid, and when it was time to go to slaughter, it was done when I wasn’t around. When I got older, I realized that farm animals aren’t pets. You don’t name animals destined for the slaughterhouse, because it just makes a distasteful job that much more unpleasant. To let children name and care for an animal as a pet for two years, and then kill and butcher it in front of them is cruel and a bit twisted, if you ask me.

Without seeing the article, was there any apparent political bent here? Was the teacher in charge of this a vegetarian? Or a staunch ant-vegetarian?

I don’t buy the argument that kids should see animals being killed just because they eat meat. There are lots of things we do in life that are distasteful, yet we don’t rub our children’s noses in it. Maybe next week they’ll force all the kids to watch someone take a dump. After all, we all do it, so kids should have to see it, right? After that, we can take them down into a sewer and make them wade around in all the sludge. Hey, they helped create it, so they should wade around in it to see what it’s all about, right? Next, a trip to the morgue, to watch an autopsy. Hey, we all die…

If I had been forced to watch what was essentially a pet be slaughtered in front of me, it would have been pretty traumatic. When I was a kid, our dog was hit by a car. We found him in the ditch, still yelping in pain, and we had to shoot him. I still carry the scars of that event, and I’ll do anything I can to prevent my daughter from having to go through something similar.

Yes, I know - the kids had to have parental consent. So what? That just means the parents were also wrong.

There is something seriously wrong with our schools. Kids get expelled for drawing guns on paper (something EVERY little boy does), and then have to watch a pet animal be killed in front of them. Jesus. Whatever happened to the 3 R’s? At the very least, can we agree that the animal butchering might best be left until we’ve actually managed to teach little Johnny to read and write?

I feel compelled to point out that this ain’t my school:

I don’t object; they had parental permission and I think it’s good to see the source of your food.

When I was in high school, I spent a year in Denmark and they did some very interesting field trips. In a unit on death, we went to a slaughterhouse, where we saw the whole process from live pig to leftover bits going into sausages. (We also went to a crematorium, but I missed that one.) It’s not exactly a totally new idea.

I’ve got no problem with visiting a slaughterhouse - in fact, our school did that when I was a kid.

I have a problem with having small children raise an animal as a pet, name it, feed it, etc., then having it killed and butchered in front of them.

I’m surprised no one else seems to be bothered by this.

There is educational value in just about everything. Certainly there is something to be learned from this. Many things, in fact, and yes, some of them disturbing. However, I’m willing to bet that the net effect overall will not be desensitizing the kids, but sensitizing them. They’ll never look at a hamburger the same way again.

I am. It struck me as the wierdest part of this story. It reminds me of the opinion some of the farmers I grew up around had of 4H, and “4H calves”. As you suggested earlier, farm animals are not pets.

Well, I did have a jr. high science teacher who obtained some human tissue from the local hospital, and showed us all an appendix, an ovary and some lung tissue that had been removed from people. And he made us all participate in a nice letter to the hospital pathology department thanking them for mailing him the bits. I’m still rather surprised they did it - watch out, a bunch of school kids may be ogling your removed tonsils.

That teacher was a remarkable man with a great deal of inventiveness and a gift for motivating his students, but he was very heavy on the biological sciences. He also had us dissect cow eyeballs obtained from a slaughterhouse. Apart from what we were supposed to learn about the structure of eyes, we all learned that the lenses were rubbery, bounced, and were terrific fun to play with.

I still don’t see a problem. Pets die. Big whoop-de-do. I’ve probably have had more pets come and go in the past 16 years than some people do in their whole lives. Animals die. Pets die, everything dies. If a school and parents feel that it would be best for children to understand that now, than I guess they have that right.