These Cruelty-to-Animals Cases Reveal What’s Wrong With FFA
Future Farmers of America (FFA) and other groups and classes focused on animal agriculture teach students to view their fellow animals as nothing more than a way to make money or win a competition—a speciesist view that’s dangerous to spread. Instead, students should be taught that all animals are individuals with unique personalities, needs, and feelings—not that they’re ours to use.
Schools with FFA or other animal agriculture programs often keep animals on a school farm or “land lab.” While it’s fairly common for the animals who are used in these programs to be killed or harmed in malicious acts, that should come as no surprise since the programs encourage students to view animals as “things” rather than as the unique individuals they are.
If your school is wasting valuable resources on animal agriculture programs, ask it to stop. Show your principal this list of violent acts that have reportedly occurred at schools and been perpetrated against animals being used for FFA:
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
The video reportedly shows an FFA adviser for Manteca Unified School District punching a sheep and wrenching the animal’s neck. One program participant demonstrates a disturbing lack of empathy for animals, stating, “Petting them like this isn’t going to do anything. You have to be physical to get their attention.” He also said, “Sometimes they get out of hand, so you check ’em with something, just a little hit on the side. … Just [so they] know that you’re the boss.”
MARION COUNTY, FLORIDA
A teacher in Marion County, Florida, avoided criminal charges after allegedly drowning an opossum and two raccoons in front of students. The former Forest High School agricultural science teacher apparently decided to kill the animals after one supposedly killed a chicken used in the school’s FFA program. The incident evidently became public after the parent of a student who attends the school contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about it.
After a Woodland High School student said that her pig—who was raised as part of the school’s FFA program—had vanished from the Laugenour Land Lab, a 17-year-old was reportedly arrested after being suspected of stealing and killing the animal. Authorities said that they found a bloody handprint on the gate leading to the missing pig’s pen and that the ground inside was covered with blood.
A 16-year-old Delhi High School student was reportedly arrested and booked into juvenile hall after allegedly admitting to torturing and killing a pig who had been used for the school’s FFA program. The pig had apparently been burned, stabbed, and hung.
Dozens of animals being farmed by students were injured after being set free at Davis Senior High School. Some of the pigs sustained scraped ears, and the sides of their bodies were slashed after they were let out of cages. Because chicken coops were damaged in the incident, birds were confined to the school’s gymnasium, where they languished overnight.
The “Hermiston FFA Chapter” Facebook account posted several photos of young people smiling while holding dead rats–whom they apparently stomped to death. The post reads, in part, “[We] wanted to have a good time, so Hawman rat stomping it was! It was the first time for a majority of us and we had a blast! #19 was the lucky number for the night.” The post has since been removed.
While these incidents may seem extreme, animal agriculture groups like FFA are inherently violent. The animals used in them ultimately face a violent, terrifying, bloody death because the programs are designed that way.
Given the current focus on the national epidemic of bullying and its often-tragic results, it’s vital that a standard of compassion be set and that students understand that harming any sentient being is wrong. The only way to ensure that animals aren’t subjected to acts of violence in schools is by not having them on campus to begin with. If you’re a member of FFA or another animal agriculture program, please quit, go vegan, and speak out against speciesism.
If you live near a participating animal sanctuary, you might be able to take part in the Leaders for Ethics, Animals, and the Planet (LEAP) program, which is a compassionate alternative to 4-H or FFA programs that harm animals. You’d have many of the same opportunities that other agriculture programs offer—working with other students from around the region, participating in local events, learning from experts and mentors, receiving financial compensation for your work, and, of course, spending time with the animals—without being encouraged to disconnect from your empathy for other sentient beings and forced to allow the animal you’ve cared for and bonded with to be killed for food. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that burying your compassion for animals deep inside yourself will make you strong. They’re wrong. Being strong means having empathy for animals, even when others tell you it’s a weakness. (If you’re not near an existing LEAP program, talk to your school about starting one!)