Kill it, skin it, eat it: What every American school-kid should see

November 21, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

“Teacher kills, skins rabbit in class,” read the breathless headline, with a “Boise, Idaho” dateline and just a few tantalizing sentences that basically repeated the headline a few more times, adding in a nice touch about the teacher snapping the rabbit’s neck right there in class, but leaving all the other details to your shocked, animal-loving imagination.

“Fluffy bunny dies at hands of callous educationalist in ruthless bloodletting,” might have been slightly better, but that’s just nitpicking.

But then, closer inspection: The teacher in question was actually a farmer, one who raises rabbits and other livestock for food, and he was invited to the 10th-grade class to discuss animal slaughter and processing, a sort of “where it comes from” demonstration in front of a bunch of rural Idaho kids who aren’t, it must be noted, exactly unused to this sort of thing.

What’s more, said farmer had already been asked, by students themselves, to demonstrate this exact technique once before. And he let anyone out of class who didn’t wish to participate. And he seems very nice and apologetic about all the fuss.

Oh. Well. Fine, then. But, you know, still. That poor bunny! Those poor kids! What is the world coming to?

Calm down. Here’s the thing: Say what you will about Idaho and its backwards, libertarian nutball politics, its hilarious gubernatorial debates, its gun-fetishism and meth labs and unhinged white people galore. This slaughter-a-live-rabbit-in-the-classroom thing? This is a brilliant idea. It should go nationwide. Starting with every urban elementary school. Can you imagine?

Firstly: This is, you can easily argue, the singlemost desperate problem facing American kids in our educational system, next to lack of funds, underpaid teachers, over-powerful teacher’s unions and a major restructuring of the whole entity: Lack of direct experience. Hands on, knives out and no iPads allowed. Get in the dirt, in the blood, in the meat of your reality, you over-coddled, helicopter-parented plebes.

When asked "Where does meat come from?" 9 out of 10 not very bright Americans said, "The store."

When asked “Where does meat come from?” 8 out of 10 not very bright Americans said, “The store.”

See how the sausage is made? Sort of. But far more importantly, see your role in it, farm to snapped neck to table. What a fantastic, unforgettable lesson! (And the truth is, that Idaho farmer’s technique was probably more humane than most cruel, industrial slaughterhouses).

Secondly: American obesity rates are still off the charts. We are the fattest, unhealthiest major nation on the planet, with Mexico a close second. And our tech, our garbage food and our social media addictions ensure we have an almost non-existent connection to the planet, to nature, to where our food actually comes from. And to top it off, thanks to Big Ag, we still eat way, way too much cruelly processed, chemically blasted, hormone-ravaged meat.

So then. Want to snap kids out of their urban lethargy? Break Instagram? Change lives, improve diets and reduce meat consumption overall? Do this: Bring a live, preferably fluffy farm animal to a classfull of jaded teens, and snap its neck. And then skin it. And then cut it up into perfect chunks, roll it in a nice soy/sesame sauce, hand it all off to the lunch lady. Who wants kebabs?

You think PETA would have a hissy meltdown over this? Probably. But they really shouldn’t. In fact, PETA should endorse the hell out of this idea, right along with every vegan and animal rights activist in the country. Don’t you see?

Imagine, why don’t you, just how many kids would be forever put off meat and animal slaughter if they actually saw the process just a few feet in front of their wide-eyed, terrified faces. Imagine the instant awareness-raising, the sudden comprehension of the harrowing/beautiful life/death/food cycle. How many instant vegetarians per class? Half? A third? Far more than veganism’s stupefying sloganeering, that’s for sure. The rest would have a far finer appreciation, going forward. Small price to pay, really.

Remember high school biology class? Dissecting a frog? Hugely valuable educational tool, still used to this day. This would be like that. Times 100. With a fine soy sauce/garlic reduction, a green salad and some good, crusty bread.

Perspective. It's what's for dinner.

Perspective. It’s what’s for dinner.

Of course, not all kids would swear off rabbit stew forevermore, just as not all your high school pals freaked out about the frogs (many, in fact, became surgeons). Some might sort of, you know, take to it. Some might hurry home and ask mom and dad for a Ryan Farr/4505 Meats hog butchery class for Christmas. And we’d all be the better for it.

Meanwhile, this direct-experience thing could become a larger trend. Want to really wake kids up about food production? Shock their wary world-views into decisive action? Take them to a toxic industrial feedlot. A real slaughterhouse. Then to the Coca-Cola plant, where the awful, diabetes-enhancing goop is made and forced into their mouths via savage marketing and unchecked lies. Then to the statehouse, where they can watch politicians, particularly the GOP, take a rusty knife to every helpful social program involving schools, immigrants, poor people, tuition reform, health care, the environment, humane slaughterhouse rules, you name it.

Of course, none of those social entities would ever let a bunch of impressionable kids see how the world is really made and molested. After all, who wants kids to learn the harshest lesson of all? That when all is said and done, the rabbit is really them?

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Mark Morford

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