Friday, September 18, 2009

Lamb to the Slaughter

I saw this news article posted on Facebook last night by a former art teacher. Her response was simply “hmmmm,” and I too found the implications somewhat unsettling.

It’s not that I find the slaughter of the sheep morally reprehensible. While I subscribe to my holier-than-thou vegetarianism, I still begrudgingly support the industry through my choices and actions. And I would have no problem with it whatsoever if the process was carried out humanely (as currently it so seldomly is). But I digress.

The problem I have is what I view as the indoctrination of children. Yes, they’ve got to learn about life and death sometime. Yes, they need to develop responsibility. Yes, they need to know where food comes from, and that the world isn’t sunshine and roses, and that sometimes bad things have to be done for personal benefit (but then again, is the latter something we really want anyone knowing or acting on?). Yes, I think in this case some of the parents may have been naïve and overprotective. But still.

Most children, particularly urban ones who were not raised in a farm setting, would find the idea of the intentional killing of a personal pet abhorrent at best, even if they knew that this was the intent all along. If anything, lots of kids seem to be overly-sentimental and clingy. It’s a developmental phase we all go through. My point is just that the majority of kids, it seems to me, would rather not condone the death of an animal they were so intimately involved with.

I read an update saying that some of the children were emotionally scarred following Marcus’ demise (gee, ya think?). And the headmistress is receiving death threats, and there’s been talk of burning down the school…that, of course, is taking it way too far. Again, I’ve got to reiterate that I don’t think the adults involved in sponsoring the project are evil murderers, but I do think they’re on the callous and irresponsible side.

My problem is this: Ethical issues and responsibility are things that take a lifetime to develop. I don’t think that schoolchildren have the age or experience required to cultivate a real appreciation for and understanding of moral issues this complex. Yes, at some point we all need to be disillusioned with our view of the ideal world, but shouldn’t we postpone the cynicism and disappointment as long as we can, letting kids be kids and breaking the news to them slowly?

This is a real life lesson for the students, isn’t it? Part of it teaches about the circle of life, and the food industry, and the role of agriculture, and the importance of responsibility. But part of it is more sinister: Don’t spare a friend in his time of need if you stand to profit from his loss. Money is more important than relationships. Love is weakness; emotional detachment is strength.

Scary stuff…


secret agent woman said...

I find that really sad and a little twisted. And not because I don't eat mammal, either. Why not a lesson in compassion instead?

Mozart said...

And I didn't even notice (until after I hit "publish") the obvious references to religion/ Christianity. That just adds a whole new layer.