Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hogging the News

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools have a lot of issues on their plate: crumbling schools, the possible loss of $40 million from the state based on a reconfigured funds distribution formula, and the pressure of No Child Left Behind. So what did they spend precious time on during their monthly board meeting on March 17? A pig.

Pig lover wants to bring home Bacon

BY MATTHEW I. PINZUR

With a picture of his dearly departed pet pig in his suitcoat pocket, Miami-Dade County School Board member Frank Cobo on Wednesday promised to try to buy a 200-pound pig being sold this weekend by a Southwest Miami-Dade high-school club.

”It’s sad when we’re raising animals to have the slaughtered,” said Cobo, whose pet, Petunia, lived with him for eight years before succumbing to cancer in 1996.

Cobo said he was willing to bid as much as $1,400 for Bacon, a pig raised by the Future Farmers of America club at Coral Reef High and facing the auction block Saturday at the county fair.

When Coral Reef’s student newspaper reported earlier this month the FFA club was going to sell Bacon, presumably for slaughter, a group of students enlisted help from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

”I understand the importance of raising the pig to teach students how the farming industry works, but I don’t think Bacon should pay for that with her life,” said Coral Reef student Natascha Patterer, whose family gave Cobo at $500 check toward bidding on Bacon.

PETA not only sent an organizer to help the students, but persuaded actor James Cromwell — who played Farmer Arthur Hoggett in the 1995 movie Babe — to write a letter in Bacon’s defense.

”Making the movie Babe opened my eyes to the intelligence and personality of pigs and their capacity for love, joy and sadness to such an extent that I have now become a lifetime advocate for them,” Cromwell wrote.

PRIVATE MONEY

The Coral Reef club used private grant money to buy Bacon as a 90-pound piglet for $175, and has already turned her over to the fair to be sold at Saturday’s 7 p.m. auction.

Club members said they were dumbfounded at the outcry, noting that three other Miami-Dade schools raise dozens of animals that are sold for slaughter.

”Agriculture is my future,” said Melissa Hanna, a club member who helped raise Bacon and is eager to see her sold. “By being involved with this program, it is preparing me for my future.”

Cobo said he could not afford to bid on the other animals: 17 pigs, 12 cows and seven lambs.

”I’d love to be able to do it, but I’d need to be a millionaire,” said Cobo, showing off a snapshot of himself walking with a leashed Petunia.

Regardless of whether Bacon is purchased by Cobo, by a supermarket or by the Coral Reef alum who wants the pig as a main course at his Fourth of July barbecue, the club’s advisor said the proceeds will be used to buy more livestock next year.

”Maybe next year you can raise five or six and the fuss will be made and Mr. Cobo will write you a check for four or five thousand dollars,” quipped board member Solomon Stinson.

Cobo, however, may not give them the chance: He said he plans to introduce a bill that would bar schools from selling animals for slaughter. [Miami Herald]

Okay, just to be clear, this pig is owned by the Future Farmers of America. Raising livestock for slaughter is what farmers do. If they were to be raised as pets, it would be the Future Pet-Sitters of America.

We’re taking up a collection in my office to buy Mr. Cobo some chickens so he can have the makings of a good breakfast.