Never too young to watch a throat getting slit

Here's a story about six- and seven-year-olds sitting around watching the bloodbath when a pig's throat is cut. It's good for them, don't you know.

Monica Eng, the Chicago Tribune's food writer, apparently thought as much when she took her  daughter, Miranda Zanca, 7, out to the farm to watch a pig slaughter--so she can appreciate where her food comes from. Judging from the amount and tone of responses to the story, the idea didn't go over too well with many of her readers.

But, what the hell, why shouldn't kids be exposed to the cruelties of life? The earlier the better, I always say.

Summer camp in Afghanistan? Spend a night in Englewood, hoping to catch sight of a drive-by shooting? That will make them appreciate how safe their own neighborhood is.

Remove warnings of "graphic violence" on movies, television programs and video games. Take them to the clinic to watch an abortion?


Abigail Faith Snyder (left), 6, covers her eyes while Tribune reporter Monica Eng holds her daughter Miranda Zanca, 7, as they watch a pig getting its throat cut at Faith Farm in Bonfield. (Heather Charles/Tribune / August 15, 2010)

You get the idea. But apparently some folks don't.

What has made so many of us abandon the traditional role of a parent as a protector, and replaced it with a requirement that we become extreme reality coaches? 

Rush them through childhood as fast as possible. Deprive them of the joys of childhood, plunge them into "reality" as fast as possible. Sex education in kindergarten. Maybe even pre-school. Steel them against the worst. Don't leave the fashioning of their nightmares to their own imaginations; we can do better by feeding them our own blood curdling experiences.

Yes, farm kids are not traumatized by the sight of a slaughter. But they've grown up with it. Kids from the city haven't. We're each vulnerable in our own way, and searching for ways to play on the vulnerability is, to my mind, cruel.

You can teach children where meat comes from without the violence. As a city kid, I can remember going to the old Techny farm near Northbrook, where the Divine Word religious order produced their own food. No one thought it necessary to show us an actual slaughter for us to learn how it works. Even as seven-year-olds we weren't stupid.

I'm not claiming to be the better parent, and I hope that Monica doesn't take this personally. But she has opened up for discussion one of the most important issues that I think this generation of parents faces: How do you introduce children to the realities of the world without traumatizing them?



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  • Seriously? As someone raising a child in a challenging neighborhood, I find your approach to disagreeing with Ms. Eng more than a bit offensive.

    So, I take it you've never taken a kid fishing? There are free programs supporting it all over Chicago. Your kid can - completely on his/her own - stick a hook through a worm and watch it thrash, pull a hook out of the mouth of a fish...or sometimes it's eye, or gut. Yet I don't see anyone comparing this program to Afganistan.

    Life is messy. Get over it.

  • I've read the article, many of the related comments and now this blog post. I'll start with my comments here. Ms. Eng knows her child. She has given her the knowledge about the origins of the food they eat. No one except Ms. Eng has the right to decide if her child is ready to experience the reality of the world. I'm glad she shared her and her daughter's experience.

  • What an ignorant and mean-spirited column. Before the industrial revolution every kid in the world, for all intents and purposes, was raised on a farm, and would have been exposed to this kind of thing from the day they were born. The pathetic disclaimer that city kids will be traumatized by this as opposed to farm kids is silly. What I do find troubling are the astounding number of malicious hypocrites ready to go for someone's jugular under the saccharine auspice of "protecting children."

    My take on the "debate" is that sheltering kids too much and trying to shove some faux Candyland worldview down their throats is likely to result in mental disturbances later on.

    I'm not saying that every parent needs to take their kids to watch an animal be slaughtered, but judging Monica this harshly for her decision to show her kids is arrogant. In any event, if I was choosing a parent, I know who I would choose.

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