A new farming future

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Vegetarian ‘beef’ farmer Jay has made the first step towards a more ethical and environmentally beneficial future by turning his cow farm into a stock-free one, thanks to the help of The Vegan Society’s Grow Green campaign. This is his, and our, story.

A vegetarian beef farmer is an unlikely thought, but this is exactly the contradiction Jay has been living with since he inherited the family farm.

Cows eating

Jay grew up working with the family’s herd of dairy cows. During this time, he grew to realise that there was much more to these animals than we are led to believe. “I began to see that cows recognise each other, and they’ve got very good memories. They experience a range of emotions – they can be sad, happy, bored or excited. They do also have facial expressions. You can tell what a cow is thinking by looking at them. I’ve even seen cows cry.”

As time went on, Jay made the decision to stop eating meat. He explains, “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.”

As time went on it was plain to see that managing business on a beef farm was out of line with Jay’s personal ethics. But he struggled to see a way out of the situation.

Grow Green

Grow Green

This was until a chance conversation between Jay and Patrick Smith, the owner of Veggies Catering Campaign. The Vegan Society’s volunteer Local Contact for Nottingham, Pat handed over a copy of the society’s Grow Green report, which immediately sparked an interest.

The report was launched 18 months ago and sets out some of the aims and opportunities at the heart of the society’s Grow Green campaign. This long-term initiative aims to influence the government to stop subsidising unsustainable animal farming and support farmers to transition to farming plant protein crops instead. It seeks to address the inherent inefficiency involved in animal farming – after all, growing crops for humans to eat is always going to produce more food than growing crops to first feed to farmed animals.

Jay says, “I think we can change the way we live here, to something more suitable for the future than simply continuing to eat animals. That isn’t a very efficient way of feeding people after all. If I’d been content with what I was doing, I would have brushed off Patrick’s comments and said this is the way the farm works, this is the way things have always been done. But I was very sympathetic, and I decided to do something about it.”

First steps

After a phone call to The Vegan Society, staff members organised an initial meeting at Jay’s farm. Jay says, “After that visit, it all started to seem possible.” Discussions began about the fate of the last herd of cows. When winter came, instead of sending them to slaughter he continued to care for them, hoping that a permanent and secure location would be found. 

Tom Kuehnel, Campaigns Officer for The Vegan Society, was tasked with finding a home for all of the remaining cows. “It seemed like an impossible task,” says Tom. “There are so many great vegan sanctuaries around the UK, but I wasn’t hopeful about finding somewhere with the space and capacity to take on 90 cows. 

“But then I got in touch with Wendy from Hillside Sanctuary in Norfolk – and she said that she was able to take all of them! It was a great moment at The Vegan Society office. Hearing that these cows are going to live out their natural lifespans in a loving environment was a really special moment for us.”

A new farming future

Katja (left) and Iain Tolhurst (right)

But this is only stage one. Following on from the rescue of the cows, The Vegan Society will help Jay to find a new direction for the farm – one which can support itself without the use of any animals or animal products, and can be profitable in the long-term. We have assembled a team with expertise in stock-free farming to facilitate the farm’s transition, including Iain Tolhurst and the Vegan Organic Network.

This transition signals the beginning of a new future of farming. Currently the industry is in crisis. Farms are closing weekly due to financial pressure, mental health among the farming community is suffering, and consumers are turning away from animal products. We need something to change, to support the UK’s new and changing dietary habits, to help protect the environment, and to secure a stable future for the British farmers.

Read our Grow Green report here.

Support Hillside Animal Sanctuary here.

By Elena Orde

The Vegan Society with the farmers

 

Comments

What a lovely, heart-warming story. I'll be sharing this. Thank You.

Amazing this is actually happening. So happy the 100 cows were found a safe haven. Stock free farming has got to be the way forward & helping farmers achieve this by supporting them through the transition and beyond is clearly sensible. Stock free farms could also be used as educational settings for children and young people, learning from a young age about sustainable stock free farming, the environment etc.

Happy to read this news. What a team effort to make this happen. Very interesting idea to help animals. So pleased they are homed, Hillside is a fantastic place, which we support.

Hi, I've just read the story about a dairy/ beef farm turning all the cows over to a sanctuary and can't believe such a wonderful thing can happen. I am so happy for everyone involved and hope a success can be made of this. And who knows how many more might follow in the same lines.

What an amazing story. I wish Jay every success for the future and hope that he continues to receive the support and advice he requires to sustain this positive change for the future. Hillside Sanctuary is simply wonderful.

This is brilliant! Great to hear the cows were re-homed and well done to the farmer, for taking this big step forward and deciding to be brave and make the change. He is setting an example to other farmers and showing that other ways of farming are possible, without anything being killed. Well Done!!

This is brilliant! Great to hear the cows were re-homed and well done to the farmer, for taking this big step forward and deciding to be brave and make the change. He is setting an example to other farmers and showing that other ways of farming are possible, without anything being killed. Well Done!!

This is wonderful news. Thank you Vegan Society, Hillside and Farmer Jay. I hope that more farmers will follow Jay's example.

Oh this article has made my day, I'm so pleased, in tears with happiness. Farm animals (and all animals) deserve a full, happy, natural life. Wishes do come true. I will be donating to Hillside. Well done all involved! What a beautiful thing to do. They are free! :) :)

Change sometimes takes time to happen however this story highlights that change can happen. A step towards the right direction and a more ethical direction. Fantastic news!

What is he doing in the mean time now to earn money? He's stopped producing beef how is he sustaining himself and his family until he takes what ever the next step is and when and what is the next step?

Well done jay, you have done an amazing thing. Along with the help of the wonderful hillside sanctuary 100 cows will live out their natural life in a safe and happy environment. How my heart sings,

I loved reading this. There is so much bad going on in this world, it's great to read about someone making a big change like this. I agree with a comment above about using the farm to educate people and especially the young. I work with children who often ask me about being a vegan. A couple of yurts as vegan friendly holiday lets would bring extra income in too.

Well done Jay and Hillside, as well as the Vegan Society of course. For anyone who is interested and hasn't yet seen it, there is an online video, see above, in which a former American cattle rancher features. He went vegan and now lectures on the subject. Brilliant! We do, and will continue to help fund Hillside and the Vegan Society. Gary and Jane Colbourne

This has truly warmed my heart and made my year! To think a traditional farm can change to non animal due to the sheer cruelty of farming is wonderful.

What an interesting and heart warming tale indeed! I'm so pleased, heartened and inspired at the decision to go animal free and move to a kinder, friendlier and ultimately sustainable option! Hats off for such a compassionate move! This's certainly showing the way!

Fantastic story! Amazing to hear that real change is being made for the animals, the farmers, the land, the Earth and our health all through stock free green growing. Hope VS is documenting this story as it happens, particularly usefully for farmers as a how-to convert from high potential to a sustainable future. Congratulations to all concerned! Steve :-)

We did it in Texas! We are here if you need us.

The way to go thanks farmers to release cows to sanctuaries good news

Stroud District Council on which I sit as vice chair of environment band the cull on its land some time ago. It now looks like the cull will be rolled out in Stroud and when it is all he'll will break loose. At a time when farmers need all the help they can get they are taking a huge retrograde step egged on by the NFU. Soya beans don't get TB and everyone can eat them guilt free. When employees come to me with problems I tell them don't bring me problems bring me solutions. Good on you Vegan society and good on you Jay. If you ever have the time to come to Stroud and tell us about your project drop me a line. Good luck!

What a wonderful Outcame, makes me so happy when animals are saved very well done to everyone involved, really admire you all

This is wonderful. Thank you and well done to all involved :-)

One thing is what will happen to biodiversity levels which grass-fed, healthy cattle can help to maintain and even promote? Fields full of soya and such like simply cannot promote the vast number of species [flora and fauna] that traditional hay-meadows do. These types of meadows owe their health, in large part, to the animals that graze them. I am a vegetarian cattle breeder in south-west France and the sheer variety of colours, sounds and scents in the species rich meadows we have is truly a wonder to behold. Our farm is organic and the cattle are raised for other breeders to buy, not for slaughter. Without or cows, the meadows would rapidly revert to scrub, woodland or bramble covered thickets that harbour a greatly reduced number of species.

It woukd be mavervous if more Farmers woukd tirn awy from cattle breeing Profitable growing of barley eect, can be achibe

It woukd be mavervous if more Farmers woukd tirn awy from cattle breeing Profitable growing of barley eect, can be achibe

A very close friend of mine is a dairy farmer on a small, 5th generation farm here in the US. Her family farm is going through some changes and I'd love to provide them with some information so they can see that this too is an option. Do you all have any resources available and applicable to farms in the US? Thank you for all that you are doing!

A very close friend of mine is a dairy farmer on a small, 5th generation farm here in the US. Her family farm is going through some changes and I'd love to provide them with some information so they can see that this too is an option. Do you all have any resources available and applicable to farms in the US? Thank you for all that you are doing!

When I read about Grow Green last year I thought it was something that you should be doing in about 50 years. But I now see how important it is to make a start to push veganism forward. This is what you should be doing in the future. Who are the people in the photo at the bottom of the story?

Hi! Is there any way to find out Jay's progress in making this transition? Very interested to know how he has managed it and if it was successful. Thanks!

Very interesting story would love to hear more about the pitfalls such as if you can't use manure are you using man made fertiliser. Is this really practical to do with every farm and if we all went vegan would that mean that there would be no domesticated\ farm animals except for pets or horses?

I fundraise for Hillside because I think they are wonderful in the way they take in unwanted and sometimes badly treated animals. Giving a home to Jays cows is pretty amazing so please give them lots of monetary support to keep the sanctuary going!

This is the most wonderful thing I've heard. Farmer Jay you are amazing, and very brave! I hope people follow you. Well done all x

This story has made my day, wonderful news!! It's good to know there is still kindness and compassion out there!

This story has made my day, wonderful news!! It's good to know there is still kindness and compassion out there!

That is such a heart warming story! Well done farmer Jay, hope you will have great success with your non-animal farm!

How absolutely wonderful. I cried tears of joy and happiness at the thought of this fantastic move and those beautiful animals lives spared. Well done Jay. Your future will be a huge success.

This unbelievable story reminds my own; I worked on dairy farms 7,5 years during which time I became vegan and finally quit the job and am studing a completely new job! Everything animal rights-groups educate about the treatment of farm animals and they being like us is true. All animal factories should be turned into vegetable factories! I think there're so much capacity in our imagination to create perfect subsitutes to all animal- based foods!

This is just a brilliant story and brings hope for the future. The increase in both vegetarianism and veganism in the past few years shows that a change most definitely needs to happen. I wish Jay and his family the very beat if luck for their greener future. And a very happy life for his beautiful cows!

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