'Graphic' Meat Industry Movie Has Nobles Students Thinking Change
On a two-day retreat, Nobles eighth graders watched a documentary on the meat industry in the United States and worked on four local farms.
The school year at Noble and Greenough doesn't begin until Friday, but eighth grade students earned an impactful education on their two-day retreat.
The retreat didn't take them far – to four local farms on Tuesday and the Dedham Farmers Market on Wednesday – but the lessons learned will stay with them, and maybe change their eating habits, students said.
The movie focuses on four major meat companies that control 90 percent of United States meat consumption, and practices that students called "graphic."
"It was horrifying to see images of those animals," said Jamie McNamara, an eighth grade student from Dedham. "For lunch I had a grilled cheese sandwich because I didn't want to eat meat."
Katie Graham, also an eighth grader from Dedham, said the images of pigs, cows and chickens being brutalized brought tears to her eyes.
"[The movie] makes you want to become a vegetarian," she said.
The message of the retreat centered on hunger and food awareness, said John Gifford, the assistant head of school.
As seventh graders, Nobles students studied hunger in other countries, with a hunger banquet as the centerpiece to their learning.
This time around, Gifford said the school wanted to go from the "macro to the micro" and have students look at their own food consumption habits – and perhaps change some minds.
"We said, 'you guys have the big picture idea, but what are the sort of things that kids might impact?'" he said.
Gifford admitted that it would be "crippling, immobilizing to avoid" products from the major meat companies, but together students could affect decisions the companies make.
"And that is really empowering," Gifford said.
While lessons learned will enter classrooms, and the students and teachers will debrief, what students do with the information is largely up to them, said Gifford.
"For some of them it is going to hit them between the eyes and it will impact their behavior.
"For others, they may think back on it in 5 years and that is when it will have an impact on them," he said.
Both McNamara, a cellist and three-sport athlete, and Graham, a three-sport star, lessons from the two-day retreat hit them between the eyes.
"I changed my view on what I eat," said Graham. "I will definitely check labels before I buy meat next time."