We have seen even very young children recognize their betrayal. It stares these children in the face, smiles, wraps its greedy hands around their small shoulders and says, this death, this slaughter, this is okay. For months, children have fed, watered, groomed, handled, socialized and, dare I say it, loved these animals. They have gazed into blameless eyes, have nursed them to health, and when it comes time for the fair, for the inevitable auction, children weep for their beloved friends, they cry tears of pain and anger that this animal who they have devoted heart and soul to is slated for death.
We all want children to learn how to be responsible – that is not in question. My concern is what the animal-rearing projects of 4H and FFA are teaching kids. Does "responsibility" include killing an animal you've named, socialized, nurtured? If we replaced "cow" with "dog," would our feelings change?
Teaching children compassion and justice is vital to creating engaged adults. Needlessly killing animals doesn't seem like the best education we can offer. We should be encouraging critical thinking, embracing experiences of empathy and compassion, not squelching these qualities by teaching impressionable children that it's okay to love someone fiercely, protect them, care for them, and then kill them.