Vegetarian beef farmer gives herd to animal sanctuary
A vegetarian farmer has given his herd of cows to an animal sanctuary to protect them from the slaughterhouse.
Jay Wilde, 59, who farms in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, sent 63 cattle to a Norfolk rescue centre as he could no longer bear to send them to be killed.
Mr Wilde, a vegetarian for 25 years, grew up herding cows and took over the family farm when his father died.
"Cows have good memories and a range of emotions. They form relationships. I've even seen them cry," he said.
"It was very difficult to do your best to look after them and then send them to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death."
The Hillside Animal Sanctuary near Frettenham said 30 of the cows are pregnant and all the animals "would live out their lives essentially as pets".
Founder, Wendy Valentine, said Mr Wilde is not the first farmer to have donated his herd.
She recalls a couple who "could not bear to continue dairy farming and kept their cows as pets with the help of the sanctuary".
Mr Wilde, who switched from dairy farming to organic beef production on the death of his father in 2011, said he always wanted to give up animal production because he "couldn't believe it was right to eat them".
He believes dairy farming is particularly hard because calves and cows would often become distressed on separation.
"I'm relieved to have made the decision to no longer farm animals, something which I always found quite upsetting," he said.
His brother-in-law told him he was "absolutely insane" to give away cattle which could fetch up to £40,000 at market.
He said "a lack of imagination" had previously stopped him switching to arable farming.
Mr Wilde will now be running a vegan organic market farm supplying garden produce without using animal products or fertilisers.