Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News What started as a hands-on lesson about dairy farming may end up in court.
Students at Calabash Charter Academy elementary school in Woodland Hills, Calif., were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a dairy calf as part of lesson on dairy farming, an industry responsible for contributing upwards of $63 billion into the state’s economy.
According to a local CBS news affiliate, the excitement was cut short as a group of PETA volunteers handed out pamphlets to the students. The pamphlet was designed as comic titled “A Cow’s Life,” and most parents assumed the handouts were part of the presentation.
But to the horror of parents, the comic was filled with graphic images, including the electrocution of calves.
“The images are pretty graphic,” parent Shawn Belschner told CBS news. “They’re of mutilated cows, infected cows, cows being dehorned, cows in bad conditions. I don’t think it’s good for any child.”
The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reports in an article here that Katie Arth, campaign manager for PETA, said the organization was contacted by the parent volunteers who wanted to show some concerns about the dairy industry at the same time of the planned dairy event.
"We've worked with educators to create the comic book, to present some of the other side of the dairy industry in a way that is age appropriate," Arth said.
Arth also noted the more graphic images in the handout were not intended for children and were included accidentally by a volunteer.
A spokeswoman for the district told the Los Angeles (Calif.) Daily News the district knew in advance that there would be a protest. However, a statement later released by the district disputed this claim.
Either way, parents believe PETA crossed the lines and are now considering take the issue to court.
“There’s plenty of time as an adult to learn about the horrors of the world,” said parent Shawn Belschner, who has reached out to the district and PETA to express his outage. “If they would have had a sign, if they had given it to parents, we probably wouldn’t be here right now. But they were handing it to little kids, asking ‘would you like a book about a cow’s life?’ That’s really sleazy tactics.”
PETA has since issued a public apology to the school’s principal and has offered to provide dairy-free ice cream sandwiches to both students and teachers. Read more.
This isn’t the first time PETA has targeted school-aged children. In 2012, a person dressed up as a carrot appeared outside of a Spokane, Wash., elementary school just as students were dismissed for the day. Last year, the group also cyber-bullied at 14-year old raffling a beef animal given to him to help pay for a trip to Europe.