Vegetarian Farmer Saves Beef Cattle from the Slaughterhouse
British farmer Jay Wilde found himself facing a dilemma after he inherited his father’s herd of beef cattle in 2011. A committed vegetarian, how could he reconcile his ethical beliefs wth the prospect of sending his cows to the slaughterhouse? This year, however, Wilde decided to draw a line in the sand, donating his entire herd to an animal sanctuary.
A vegetarian for the last 25 years, Wilde, 59, took over the family farm after his father passed away. Although he switched to raising organic beef from dairy farming, noting the pain caused by separating mother cows from their calves, he found that beef farming also did not sit well with his conscience. “It just seemed difficult to look after the animals for two to three years and get to really know them, and then send them to slaughter. It felt as if you were betraying them,” said Wilde. “It was very difficult to do your best to look after them and then send them to . . . what must be a terrifying death.” (Reuters, BBC)
In June, Wilde relocated the 63-strong herd—including 30 pregnant cows that will no longer need to be separated from their young—from the Derbyshire farm that has been in his family since 1956 to the bucolic idyll of the eastern county of Norfolk, England, where they will live out their natural lives in the care of Hillside Animal Sanctuary.
Having grown up herding the cattle, Wilde had few qualms about parting with the farm animals, which had a market value of some £45,000 (US$58,000): “Cows have good memories and a range of emotions. They form relationships. I’ve even seen them cry.” (Independent)
Hillside Animal Sanctuary founder Wendy Valentine noted that Wilde’s cows would now enjoy their full 25-year lifespans rather than being sent to an abattoir at the age of 2–3 years. The sanctuary, which was started in 1995 to highlight the plight of factory farmed animals and needs to raise a minimum of £5 million (US$6.5 million) per year to care for its rescued charges, is also home to more than 3,000 rescued cattle, horses, donkeys and ponies.
Blaming his own “lack of imagination” for not making the change sooner, Wilde is now converting his cattle farm into an organic market specializing in crops grown without animal products or fertilizers for the vegan market, keeping a handful of the cows at the farm to provide natural fertilizer. “Cows are conscious of what goes on around them—they have personalities and an inner life, they’re not just units of food. Knowing them personally makes it more difficult to think about eating them.” (International Business Times)
And while some members of Wilde’s family think he may be crazy for taking such a radical step, Wilde himself has no regrets. “I’m relieved to have made the decision to no longer farm animals, something which I always found quite upsetting,” he said. “I feel so much better farming this way. It’s a weight off my shoulders. It’s certainly not a normal thing to do as a farmer, but I’m happy about it.” (BBC, Metro)
Vegetarian beef farmer gives herd to animal sanctuary (BBC)
Vegetarian Farmer Saves Cow Herd From Abattoir by Donating it to Animal Sanctuary (Independent)
Vegetarian beef farmer moves herd to greener pastures (Reuters)
Vegetarian farmer gave £40,000 of cows to a sanctuary as he couldn't kill them (International Business Times)
Farmer gives up herd of cattle to animal sanctuary after becoming vegetarian (Metro)
Hillside Animal Sanctuary
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