Are 4-H clubs teaching kids traditional values, or desensitizing them to violence?

What is 4-H Teaching children about animals? From Flickr Commons

According to their website, the mission of the 4-H Club is to “…empower youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.”   When you think of 4-H Clubs, however, different people get two distinctly different visions in their mind. For one group, it’s kids nurturing sweet little calves, children winning ribbons, urban gardens and proud future farmers grooming prized pigs for show. For the other group, it’s the youth of America slowly being turned into cold, unfeeling animal killers.

When CNN’s Eatocracy ran a feature with chef Kelly Liken on the topic of  reasons to buy from your local 4-H, the comments posted emphazised the two distinct perceptions of the organization – which was originally set up by the United States Department of Agriculture to train the rural youth of America in hands-on skills like agriculture and raising animals. One view was that 4-H promotes the responsible raising of animals and the cultivation of food resources in a responsible, ethical way and the other was that it serves to desensitize children to the suffering of animals.

Here’s what some commenters had to say:

“Have you ever been at a 4-H auction? Most of the younger kids end up crying after their animal gets bought and not donated back. As they grow older, they wrap their head around the idea, but when they’re first starting out they have a hard time accepting it. It doesn’t mean they’re “desensitized” to it, it’s the fact they they’ve matured and understand that animal’s purpose more as time goes on. – Brianna”

“It is really so unevolved. Why are people proud that the kids are crying as they lead their animals onto the trailer to be killed for food? You are teaching them that relationships are disposable. That animals are disposable. NOT A GOOD LESSON, and these poor animals raised as pets are off to the slaughterhouse where they will be tortured before they die. – Kathy”

While animal husbandry is the source of the conroversy, it should be noted that it is only a portion of what 4-H clubs do. Former members described activities like pottery, painting, camping, canoeing, kayaking, rock-climbing, cooking, photography, jewelry making and others.

Source: CNN Eatocracy