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Horrible Story or April Fools Gag? You Decide

John on April 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

I didn’t post this yesterday because I thought people would assume it was an April fools joke and because, frankly, I wasn’t completely sure Der Spiegel hadn’t posted it as a joke. I’m still wondering, though I note that the date on the story is 3/31 not 4/1. Of course the date could be part of the gag:

The farmer from the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein had brought the gray-and-white rabbit to the school in the town of Ratekau as part of a week-long project focusing on the Stone Age, which has for years been part of the fifth-grade curriculum. Among other things, the children were to be taught that in earlier times, people couldn’t just grab their food out of the freezer and throw it in the oven…

It was 10 days ago, at the very beginning of the unit, that he proposed the idea of slaughtering a rabbit to fifth-grade teachers at the school. “My point wasn’t to show children death,” he said. “We wanted to demonstrate the larger context: that killing animals involves taking on responsibility. Only after than can we eat the animal.”

The fifth grade teachers at the school weren’t sure at first how to react to the proposal. But then they took a vote: six in favor and two against. They failed, however, to inform the parents of the decision.

At this point, I’d be thinking lawsuit:

In total, some 100 children took part in the Stone Age project — and late last week, 50 of them voluntarily surrounded the farmer and the rabbit in the school courtyard. Before he began, the farmer told the children that what they were about to see wasn’t disgusting nor was it monstrous — and that they would agree once it was over.

Then the farmer hit the rabbit with the hammer. One child fainted, others burst into tears. Next, he slit the animal’s throat with a knife, gutted the body, skinned it and hung it up to drain.

I don’t think this falls within an elementary school’s purview. This isn’t the Stone Age and it’s not necessary for 11 year olds in much of the world to watch rabbits be killed with hammers. Yes it is a responsibility but not one that tweens in the modern world generally have to take on.

As they get older, these kids will have a chance to find out exactly how food is produced and then decide whether they are comfortable eating rabbit or other meat. When I was in college I dated a girl whose professor did a similar presentation using a chicken. He electrocuted it in class to make some point that I don’t really recall. Honestly it seemed more like a stunt to me. My girlfriend, who’d grown up in the suburbs, cleaned the chicken and cooked it for dinner. It was tough.

My point is that there’s a time and a place for things. I don’t think killing a “bunny rabbit” in an elementary school in front of a bunch of 10 year olds (without telling their parents) is the time or the place.

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