March 16, 2008
Deconstructing Dinner in our Schools
At only ten years of age, Kodiak Morasky is deeply concerned about where his food comes from.
"I'd discovered that whenever someone sits down and eats a pizza, they don't really think about it, they just go, 'oh, this is so good'", says ten-year old Kodiak Morasky. "They don't think this [food] came out of a factory farm where all the animals are sick, where disease is ending up in the milk, or where tonnes of pesticides are used."
Morasky is a grade four student at Blewett Elementary School in Nelson, British Columbia. In January of this year, Morasky was profoundly impacted by a series of short animated films available on the Internet and designed by Free Range Graphics as a creative spoof on the hit Hollywood trilogy, The Matrix.
Known instead as 'The Meatrix', the series was launched to educate a younger audience on the conditions found at factory animal farms.
While the Hollywood version stars Lawrence Fishburn playing the part of Morpheus, The Meatrix instead stars 'Moophius' - an animated cow wearing a slick pair of sunglasses and dressed in a long black coat.
The Meatrix begins beside a cute red barn, and is home to Leo – an unsuspecting pig who believes all farms are as idyllic as his. Moophius enters into the picture and poses a tempting question to Leo, "do you want to know what [The Meatrix] is?" Leo chooses to learn more. "It is the story we tell ourselves about where our meat and animal products come from," proposes Moophius. "This family farm is a fantasy. Take the blue pill and stay in the fantasy, take the red pill and I'll show you the truth."
Kodiak Morasky was shocked to learn 'the truth'. He now refuses to eat any foods unless he knows where they came from; however, his individual choices were only the first step.
Morasky was concerned that too few people were aware of such conditions, and he chose to share this information with his grade four class in a presentation titled, "What's in Your Pizza".
Standing in front of a posterboard of images taken on factory farms, Morasky's first step was to deconstruct the pepperoni. Pointing to images of hogs standing in stalls not much larger than themselves, the class was shocked to learn that such stalls are the norm. "They can hardly lay down, and most animals can't turn around in the stall," said Morasky to his class. "In the factory farm, they're fed and given water, then all the rest of the time, they just stand there. They don't have any space to get exercise, which leads to muscle disease. Then they'll be turned into pepperoni for the pizzas, and they'll be turned into ham and pork chops and bacon until they're left with the hide and hooves which is boiled down into gelatin, which is an ingredient in Jello, and is also found in marshmallows, jelly beans and other candy."
Not surprisingly, the jaws in the room dropped, but Morasky was only getting started.
Next on the list of pizza ingredients was cheese. He pointed to an image of a cow with mastitis – a disease affecting roughly 38% of all dairy cows in North America. Mastitis is more prevalent on 'modern' conventional farms than on those depicted in children's books where a farmer is seen sitting on a stool and milking a cow. The class was appalled to learn that mastitis increases the presence of pus and blood in the milk. "[The pus and blood] goes into the milk which goes into the cheese on your pizza," said Morasky. "That's what we eat."
Sharing such information in a grade four classroom is certainly far from the norm, but the children were nevertheless intrigued to learn more about 'what's in their pizza’.
When given a chance to respond to the presentation, the children expressed deep concern about the information that had just been presented. "I don't want to eat candy anymore, that's kinda nasty," said one child. "Why doesn't the government do anything about this," asked a girl at the back of the room. "Can I sue the government?" she added!
While the lessons learned in Morasky's presentation are indeed valuable, his choice of topic raises some important questions parents and educators could be asking ourselves. Is it more distressing to expose such shocking stories to children at a young age, or more damaging to keep them in the dark and insist that all farms house a small red barn and are operated by 'Old McDonald'?
Kodiak Morasky believes the subject of factory farming belongs in schools. "If there was a program on what you eat in your common restaurant, I would love it if they could do that in a school," says Morasky.
Deconstructing Dinner is heard on radio stations across Canada and is available as a Podcast. Kodiak Morasky is featured on the March 13, 2008 broadcast, which can be found at (www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/ddinourschools.htm).
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