DON'T eat meat, vegetarian Grade 9
student Sydney McMahon implored fellow students at Churchill High School
-- and she stirred up so much grief that she's being home-schooled the
rest of the year.
Two days later, the controversy escalated
when parents called Churchill to complain that children who'd heard the
presentation were refusing to eat meat. McMahon said the youth wanted to
tie animal rights and vegetarianism into "humin" rights. She explained
the unusual spelling of the word was to avoid the word "man" in humin or
womin, or "male" in the word femail.
"I don't really want to be there,"
McMahon said in her Riverview home, where her parents and two
grandparents will home-school her through the end of June.
McMahon said she and three friends formed
their own animal rights/vegetarian group this summer, then asked in late
September to make presentations to two classes, grades 7 and 8.
She said they downloaded and copied at
their own expense a DVD called Meet Your Meat, produced by People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and made copies of their own anti-meat
The principal said they could not show
the DVD, but could offer it to any student who wanted one, McMahon said.
The first presentation went well, the
second not well at all. The second class heckled the four students, and
the four raised their voices in return.
"That was the point of the presentation,"
A subsequent meeting with homeroom
teachers went badly, McMahon said, and the situation deteriorated
rapidly when the four students and their parents sat down with the
McMahon has withdrawn from Churchill.
She's turned down the school's offer to
transfer her to Grant Park or Kelvin, and has started ordering curricula
and textbooks from the department of education.
Winnipeg School Division would not make
the principal available for interviews. The division said provincial
privacy laws forbid officials from discussing individual students.
"There was a lot of clash going on," said
McMahon's mother, Karen Hanuschak-Williamson. "We decided to go with the
option of home-schooling."
Said McMahon's father, Jim Williamson:
"There was a backlash. What did these kids do that was so bad? We had a
bad feeling that these were people we could not reason with."
The four vegetarians handed out their own
pamphlets that claim, without citing scientific sources, that eating
meat causes a wide range of deadly illnesses and major health problems.
They described severe environmental hazards and "torture" in raising and
"We just asked our teachers. We said we
were going to talk about vegetarianism," she said.
McMahon said that when her group was
heckled, they lost it "to some extent. We raised our voices. We were
just like, 'can everyone be quiet please?'
"We expected a little feedback," she
said. "In the halls after, there was a lot of screaming at us," and
other kids continued to give them grief in ensuing days.
Her three friends have stayed at
Churchill, and their families declined to be interviewed.
McMahon's parents said the school staff
had talked about possibly not allowing the four to go on a field trip to
Quebec later this year. "They talked vaguely: 'This will be a mark
against you,' " said Williamson.
"They were treating a good cause like
'something we'll punish you for,' " he said. "What will they do when
something serious happens?"
Meat of the matter
HERE are some examples from the pamphlet
Sydney McMahon and three friends distributed to grades 7 and 8 students
at Churchill High School. There are no footnotes or bibliography to cite
* "The prions (a particle in protein) in
animal protein also cause Alzheimer's (disease), as well as a multitude
of other diseases (i.e. cancer)"
* "It is perfectly legal to sell an
animal with cancerous lesions and gangrene as food. Countries who eat
the most fish have the highest counts of stomach cancer."
* "Arteries are clogged by the intake of
fat, causing heart attack and hurray hurrah!! IMPOTENCE!!!
* "Femail (sic) hormones induced in the
animals are linked to high counts of violence, depression, premature
sexual development, anger, man boobs (moobs, if you will, which allow
males to contract breast cancer), and rape, all from activating our
* "Obesity is an international (U.S. and
Canada) crisis, which is primarily (ah who we kidding??), which animal
product consumption is to blame."
* "Lips, snouts, eyes, intestinal
linings, spinal cords, and brain stems are used in mainstream hotdog
* "Alcoholism has been linked to animal
product assimilation, and has been treated with a vegetarian diet."
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