School targeted by animal rights activists after vegan parents criticise decade-long pig rearing project

rural secondary school was targeted by animal rights activists after a newly vegan parent raised concerns about a pig rearing project.

Priestlands School, in Lymington, Hants, had allowed four female piglets due to be sent to the slaughterhouse next month to be cared for by pupils since their birth.

Their meat would then have been served in the canteen and sold back to the school to teach children about the food chain.

But the project, which until now had been conducted without complaint every year for ten years and has been supported by Prince Charles, angered the father of an 11-year-old pupil so much he started a petition which garnered more than 36,000 signatures and led to school staff verbally abused by campaigners.

Vincent Cook, 45, also found an animal sanctuary that would take the Tamworth & Gloucester Old Spot piglets and look after them for free.

Chris Willsher, the school’s executive head, declined to acquiesce to Mr Cook’s demands, telling him in an email: “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.”

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?

“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, who is understood to have turned vegan around three months ago,  said he started the petition when Mr Willsher told him the animals would be slaughtered to teach children about where their food comes from.

“We should be teaching children compassion towards animals,” he said.

“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.

“I find it difficult to see how we can teach them to be compassionate to all around them when we choose to exploit the most vulnerable in the most hideous of ways.

“We can teach children where meat comes from without engaging them in the slaughter process.”

He said the school was “endorsing the act of killing animals” when it “should be teaching how bad eating meat is for you and the environment.”

Mr Cook, who runs his own yacht-building company had hoped to have the pigs sent to Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary – a farm run by vegan ultramarathon runner Fiona Oakes and her partner Martin Morgan.

A spokeswoman for Priestlands School, which has 1,200 pupils, said: “We respect the vegan philosophy but Priestlands School is proud to serve the whole community.

“We want to educate our students about where their food comes from and to do this in a sustainable way.

“Our preferred outcome was for this year’s cohort of pigs to enter the food chain as planned and for us then to sit down and have a rational discussion about whether or not we continue to have pigs in the future.”

In 2008, Prince Charles gave the project a royal seal of approval by placing an order for a batch of sausages made by pupils from pigs reared at their farm.



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