It’s been a strange week for food. Andrea Charman resigned as head teacher of Lydd Primary after a hate campaign waged against her due to her respecting the vote of the pupil council and allowing a lamb the school had kept to be sent for slaughter. One parent has claimed that her child needed psychiatric help due to the trauma suffered by knowing that the lamb had been sent to be killed. Others are furious at how upset their children are and the fact that some of them have decided to be become vegetarians.
Having worked as a teacher for quite a few years I would venture to postulate that a child who needs psychiatric help after finding out about the slaughter of the school lamb, in a rural farming area where he or she is surrounded by animals reared to be eaten, may not be the most well-adjusted child in the first place. Rather than waging a campaign of hate against a head teacher the parents in question would do far better to look at how best to equip their child with the tools to cope with life, with or without professional help.
That children became vegetarians after realising that meat does not miraculously appear wrapped in plastic on the shelf at Tesco is an issue which, to be honest, can be put down to bad parenting (and every parent is bad at something). Did these parents never tell their children that meat came from animals? Is it because they are unaware themselves?
My mother, the daughter of a butcher, did not realise that meat was a dead animal until the age of 8. As her Mother never bought meat and my Grandfather would always take the meat he brought home straight to the kitchen my Mother never saw raw meat and never made any connection until she was that age. When she first found out, she vowed never to eat it, much to my Grandparents’ consternation, ever again. The ‘ever again’ lasted all of a fortnight as my Grandmother wisely decide just to ignore it and only served her the 2 veg at each dinner until my Mother realised she was actually missing all the things she liked. To this day, however, she gets squeamish discussing the animal origin of her meat while eating it. My persistent childhood questions of which animal does this meat come for again were met with a sharp,” I am not prepared to discuss this at the dinner table.”
What really struck me about this story, though, was not how pampered the children are, how vicious the minority of parents are, but how cowardly we in Britain have become.
This hate campaign has all been waged virtually with personal insults against Mrs Charman and even death threats from extreme animal rights groups (being extremely pro animals is far more acceptable than being against Jews nowadays and every fascist has to find their cause). A real pro-animal rights group with an actual interest in animals would be brave enough to take on supermarkets and the pressures they apply on farmers to get their meat for the lowest price possible. A real pro-animal rights group would not simply issue death threats against a lone primary head teacher who has approved the decision of a pupil council.
Parents with traumatised newly vegetarian children rather than looking at their child and thinking ,’If this is the biggest trauma they have to face then they will have one of the easiest childhoods in the world’ are getting angry and vicious all from behind the safety of a Facebook group and virtual campaigns. They have no need to actually face the person that they have a disagreement with unless they form part of an angry mob. There is no consideration of Mrs Charman as a human being, it is simply vitriol and rage poured out from behind a computer screen. Many, if not most, of these people would not have the bravery or the decency to air their views in person in a calm and thought out manner. I imagine it would be, if they actually dared show their face, to quote Congressman Barney Frank ‘like arguing with my dining-room table’
The moral cowardice of hiding behind screens to attack people seems to be a feature of modern life. It as if we are constantly at the mercy of cowardly mob rule. Look at the comment sections of newspapers. A story about street food in LA gets turned into a diatribe against white racism, almost everything in The Telegraph turns into ‘this country is going to the dogs and we have too many immigrants’ People (real live human beings with emotions and feelings just like you) mercilessly attack others anonymously or even using their real names but from behind a screen because they can. Because it’s easy and because it gives them relief from their own bile and pent up frustration, albeit for a moment.
The interesting thing is when you meet most of these people in real life face to face, when they venture out without their PCs, it is completely shocking how insecure and inarticulate they actually are. Many of them would run a mile if you said boo to them too loudly (I used to be involved in the Reiki world and, aside from extreme animal rights activists , there is almost nothing as vitriolic and nasty as an aggrieved New Ager). Faced with a real live human being and away from the safety of the mob, they retreat into a stammering mumbling apology or say nothing at all for fear of being confronted with their actual words and having to present a proper a proper defence for their argument. The entire experience is rather like, to quote another politician, being savaged by a dead sheep.