By Tom Collins
An Eastern Ontario beef farmer said she was “vibrating I was so angry” when her son brought home from school an animal activist propaganda booklet disguised as a comic book. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent boxes of comic books to the local school and a teacher, who judged the book by its cover, innocently passed them around to the Grade One class.
The farmer, who asked her name not be used because she fears reprisal from animal activists, said that at first glance she saw no issue with the comic as it looked professional and inviting. Then she noticed the PETA logo on the upper left-hand corner of the front page.
“When I read through it, it was just horrendous the stuff they had published in there and how they were making farmers out to be such evil people,” she said. “I was vibrating I was so angry. The graphics really told the story. Even if your child couldn’t read, he got the concept.”
PETA has become more subtle with their comic books over the years. A 2003 comic book had a cartoon woman looking like she was from a 1950s TV show stabbing a rabbit with a bloody knife and blood spurting all over the place. It was titled “Your Mommy Kills Animals.”
Now the covers look innocent. PETA has four comics. One has a image of a cartoon cow standing in the forest looking up at birds in the trees. Another has chickens playing in a grass field with a wooden fence and a blue sky in the background. But inside the pages show a cow being electrocuted or a garbage can full of live chicks being thrown into a dumpster. Both comic books say the animals are pumped full of drugs.
The innocent-looking covers are part of the problem, said the farmer. “It’s just horrifying to think how inviting it looks and then when you open it up to read the information, it’s just really scary,” she said.
The farmer complained to the principal. The book was recalled and the school sent home an apology letter.
“I was quite upset about the whole thing,” said the farmer. “Somehow we need to basically provide these students with the correct information. We need to promote the truth and promote what good farmers do.”
That’s when she hatched the idea of holding an agriculture awareness day. And the response from local farm leaders was impressive.
The event was held at her son’s school last month and included representatives from beef, dairy, grain, potato, sheep, pork, greenhouse and chicken sectors, as well as 4-H and an equipment dealer who arrived with a tractor and a bale wrapper.
The students were fed ice cream from a local dairy, potato chips made from local potatoes and barbecued hot dogs made from Ontario corn-fed beef. A greenhouse grower brought tomato seedlings for the kids to bring home and plant themselves.
As the theme of the day was mathematics, students looked at how farmers use math on a daily basis. Grades 7 and 8 were also tasked with coming up with a business plan on an area of agriculture they liked.
“In the end, good did come out of it,” said the farmer.