The grade four class finally got their piglet. Their teacher, Mr. Yamamoto, had told them since their first class in April, that they were going to be raising a pig to slaughter and eat. The children were so excited by the news, they asked every day, “Is the pig coming today?” And one day in the middle of May, their teacher answered, “Yes.” The class cheered.
They kept the pig outside the class window in a little pig pen the students had made with the help of Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Suzuki, the school janitor. Mr. Yamamoto would spend the rest of the school year getting the students to stop looking out the window and watching the pig.
“Naoko! Yusuke! Eyes front !” Mr. Yamamoto barked. The children folded their hands on their desks and faced their teacher. When Mr. Yamamoto felt he had the students full attention, he began, “Now, what shall we call the pig? Any ideas?”
“Baseball!” cried Daisuke.
“Oh! I don’t like baseball!” Ryo let known. “And baseball’s a bad name for a girl pig.” Other students shared her sentiment.
“Let’s call her Hanako!” Aska’s suggestion got claps and laughter from her classmates.
“So, how many want to name the pig, Hanako?”
The class cheered; it was unanimous.
Mr. Yamamoto could see his pupils getting emotionally attached to what was supposed to be their supper. He thought it had been a mistake to suggest naming the pig. It’s easier to eat a nameless piece of meat than one you were on a first name basis with. The exercise had been to teach the children responsibility for a living thing, while educating them on the importance of producing for society. On the responsibility towards a living thing, the students were scoring high marks, taking turns feeding the pig, cleaning it and its pen. However, on the importance of producing for society, Mr. Yamamoto would wait before grading.
It was late winter, and the school year was winding down. The students had taken most of their final tests, there was just one more before the year was through.
“Now it’s time to go on line and find a butcher for our pig,” Mr. Yamamoto told the class.
The students sat, mouths agape, horrified.
“Why are we selling our Hanako? She’s been so good!” Aska, the same girl who’d named Hanako, asked on behalf of the class. The students had been told that they were getting close to slaughtering the pig, and each student, except, Yusuke, were against it. They had met after class the week before, and elected Aska to ask their teacher not to kill their pig.
Mr. Yamamoto had been expecting this. “Children, the exercise has always be to produce for society. If we keep her as a pet, we are actually using more of society’s resources, without contributing any of our own. When we slaughter the animal, we can share it its abundance and have a delicious dinner of pork ribs.
The children screamed and cried. Mr. Yamamoto had just made vegetarians out of half of them.
“I’m not eating Hanako!” was a popular cry amongst the wailing students. Only Yusuke kept his cool. When the moans and cries tapered off, Yusuke spoke.
“You are all selfish. And disrespectful of Mr. Yamamoto and Japan. You will only eat from the work of other people, but, you won’t do the work yourself to feed others. I am ashamed to be in this classroom.”
The pig would be spared, sent to a petting zoo in nearby Fukuoka, and Yusuke would be the only student to get an A that year in Mr. Yamamoto’s grade four class.