Jan Taylor


Whoever believes that farm animals can be reared and killed humanely should  be aware of the numbers of lamb deaths in the lambing season.

Born at the coldest, wettest time of the year when there’s no grass for the ewes to eat to help them produce milk. Freezing,wet windy weather will soon cause vulnerable lambs to die from hypothermia, they’re unable to maintain their own body temperature for the first three days of life. 

Their bodies  are collected in large bags, numbers aren’t recorded, they’re just “a bag of dead lambs for incineration”.

The survivors are ready for market/slaughter anytime from 24 weeks of age. 

Ewes grieve, lambs, trapped either in a lorry or pens in a noisy, crowded market can only become stressed, they can’t escape. Good ewe lambs can be kept for breeding more lambs,and so the cycle continues.

Humane slaughter? How is it possible to take away the life of a healthy animal, whatever the age, who most definitely would not choose to die, in an atmosphere that reeks of fresh blood and are forced/led into the killing pen by who? Realistically, not someone who is there to care for sentient beings. It’s just a job for someone who hasn’t any feelings one way or the other to watch a healthy animal killed.

Walking through a Worcestershire Livestock Market one freezing, wet February morning in 1984 I felt as though I’d walked through the gates of hell. I was just an ignorant freelance journalist who liked animals and ate meat.

The noise, the frantic bleats and calls of distressed animals, mixed with the loud shouting of men. 

Sheep running and slipping in the wet, soiled narrow passageways, crashing into each other in their panic.

Old sows and boars, finding themselves at the end of their useful life, penned in isolated stress,  chewing on the bars of the pen until their mouths bled, fear in their eyes.

Cattle bellowing, not comprehending where they were, why they were there? They didn’t want to move because they didn’t understand where they were meant to go, men trying to move them forwards using sticks, more shouting. 

Orphan and unwanted lambs, some of them little more than 24 hours old, hung  aloft by their front legs to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Sometimes 50p would buy a small, weak looking lamb, as much as £5 for an older, stronger lamb who looked as though it could last for more than 24 hours.

A very small black lamb was brought into one market, carried inside a box by an elderly farmer. The lamb wasn’t moving, he was icy cold to touch, the advice to the farmer was to take it away as it would be dead before the end of the sale. 

I bought the lamb for £1, held him beneath my jumper, turned the heater up in the car and drove to the Vets. The lamb, who we named Taro, survived hypothermia, dehydration and a gut infection, he lived with us until he was 15. 

Word got around that I wasn’t a farmer, auctioneers began to refuse to take my bids, I was threatened by a dealer ” stop interfering, I know where you live”.

I’d seen sheep with gangrenous mastitis, a peach sized tumour growing out of a sheeps’ eye, burst abscesses, feet so infected by footrot the sheep were unable to stand, an old ewe taking her last painful breath as she lay dying from pneumonia. 

Cows with dripping distended udders and overgrown feet, calves a few days old shaking with fear and cold, already showing signs of infections. Their destination, a cold, dark, veal unit somewhere in Holland or France, kept in isolation in a narrow crate, no bedding, no company, just fluids. All for those people who demand white, tender meat. 

Sad little featherless ex battery hens sold for 10p. Listening to the comments “she won’t even make half a sandwich.”

Ducks, feathers clogged with filth, never having had access to water in their short lives.

Turkeys,Geese, Guinea fowl, the list went on, even pet rabbits, all seen as food, never as living, sentient beings.

That was how the FarmAnimal Sanctuary came about, it wasn’t planned, but what I’d seen couldn’t be ignored.

I bought 68 of the worst animals from several different markets in England and Wales, all were seen by my Vets straight after purchase.

One ewe had to be put down in the  market as I was too late to save her life, the others all survived to lay down the foundation of the first Charity formed to give a home to all abused, neglected and abandoned  farm animals. 

Currently we are caring for almost 600 animals, all have the right to a life of respect

Have things changed in the markets? 

Farm animals are right at the bottom of the heap when it comes to the monitoring of welfare issues. I’ve heard this saying so often from the farming community, “if you have sheep, you need a shovel”. Why? “They can’t wait to die, they’ll find all ways” .

One conversation I will always remember. In the days when three tier lorries didn’t have a roof on the top tier, (presumably to save money), I asked a haulier, ” what would happen if one happened to jump out or be squeezed out? ” 

“Stupid bugger would only do it once”.