A primary school is facing a huge wave of criticism over plans to slaughter pigs kept on its farm to teach children about the food chain.

The Gloucester Old Spots have been reared by children as young as four at Farsley Farfield Primary in Leeds, West Yorkshire, since the beginning of the school year.

However, the decision to turn the pigs into meat has been met with controversy and a petition has been set up by a former pupil campaigning against the slaughter.

Ix Willow's online petition has already received more than 2,000 signatures.

The headteacher said he wanted children to become 'more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare'. Credit: PA

She writes online: "My main concerns are with the well being of these pigs who don't deserve to die, and the message that we will be teaching the children at Farsley Farfield that it is okay to exploit and kill animals with the only justification being that people enjoy eating their bodies."

Her campaign has received support online, with people commenting the idea of killing the animals the children have raised as "dreadful" and another saying "it's never ok to exploit animals."

Ms Willow adds: "Pigs are more intelligent as dogs, and at least as smart as a three year old human child.

"They are friendly animals that can live for about 12 years or so.

"Schools have a duty of care to support children, teach them fair values and to provide a safe and happy environment for them.

"By teaching children that it is okay to exploit and kill animals they are in breach of this, and this could also be traumatising for children getting to know the animals and then knowing they are going to die."

Peter Harris, headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary, said he wanted children to become "more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare" as a result of raising the pigs.

Mr Harris said in a statement: "There was consultation on this before the pigs came and the project has the overwhelming support of the school's families.

"The pigs have never been pets. Our animals are just one part of a comprehensive, award-winning farming, food and cooking curriculum that means our children are much better-informed than most about where their food comes from."

In further comments on the school's website, Mr Harris writes: "I think that we are raising awareness of the meat industry, and some of the issues around animal welfare and sustainability.

"The pigs will live twice as long as commercial pigs and appear to be enjoying their outdoor life with plenty of opportunity to root around. "Their welfare standards are much higher than most pigs.

"I don’t think that we are desensitizing the children: I suggest that our children will be more knowledgeable and sensitive to animal welfare than most of their peers."

Online users have defended the headteacher, calling the idea "brilliant" and another writing "what a great way for the children to learn the true food cycle."

The Gloucester Old Spots breed pigs are part of the Farfield Farm on the school's grounds, which also include vegetable patches and hens.

When the pigs were introduced to the farm in October, a post on the website said "the pigs will not be pets and will only be with us for 9 months."

The primary school was named ‘healthy school of the year’ in the Times Educational Supplement in 2017.