A mistake during a People for the Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) protest on an elementary school campus has the animal rights organization apologizing.
Calabash Elementary, a charter school in Woodland Hills, California was holding a special school event where a live baby cow was being brought to the campus to teach students about dairy farming. The lesson plan did not sit well with one parent of a fifth-grader at the school. Also an animal rights activist, the parent organized a protest, which brought four PETA volunteers to the campus to hand out reading material. The intent was to have two separate types of literature, one given to the children and another given to their parents. However within what appeared to be the children’s innocent looking comic book entitled, “A Cow’s Life,” was a pamphlet with graphic images of animal cruelty.
Reportedly the images, meant for adult eyes only, included chained and sore ridden cows covered in fecal matter, bulls being de-horned, and an infected udder on a dairy cow. The pamphlets were handed out to elementary school children including one as young as three-years-old.
“My six-year-old daughter was handed one of these comics, opened it up, saw the insert of the mutilated cow which I ripped away right away. She started flipping through it and saw pictures of baby cows being electrocuted. Factory farms with machetes. I mean just really graphically horrifying images for a six year old,” said parent Claire Borsheim to KCBS Los Angeles. Parent Mak Abronson told KTLA 5, “My children started to open it and I saw two other children running and screaming, ‘Don’t open it! Don’t open it!’
To KTLA, PETA spokesperson Katie Arth said, “There’s nothing wrong with handing material that talks about how we can help animals, to children.” Arth also admitted to KCBS, “PETA creates material for kids and for adults and it looks like there was just a mistake and our volunteers put the materials together to get them out quicker.”
Some parents said they sympathize with the plight of the animal rights organization but that PETA’s pamphlets were far from appropriate for children. Parent Mor Top said, “I agree with the message. I mean, PETA I think has a great message, but the method in which they distribute the material, I think the message got completely lost.” Shawn Belschner, who has a five and eight-year-old at the school said, “There is a lot of animal cruelty in our food industry and we should do something about it but our kids are off limits,” adding, “Our kids still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. They don’t need to see dead bodies, mutilated.” Some parents are considering legal action.
Los Angeles Unified School District released a statement reading in part: “Principal Esther Gillis would never have authorized the distribution of those pictures or the message that milk is unhealthy. L.A. Unified is committed to providing a safe and respectful environment at our schools.”
As reported by the Los Angeles Daily News , since the incident, PETA has issued a public apology to the Calabash Elementary School principal. Tracy Reiman, PETA Executive Vice President, sent a letter indicating that the organization’s volunteers made a mistake distributing the adult materials to children. However, the Los Angeles Daily News noted that Reiman, “…stopped short of apologizing for the protest or the volunteers’ intent to distribute something to students without parental approval.” Ms. Reiman also offered to provide students and teachers with dairy-free ice cream sandwiches as a mea culpa.