Support grows to save British farm animal sanctuary

January 30, 2012

Janet Taylor has worked tirelessly to give 635 British animals saved from slaughter and neglect a happy life.

Some of the equines at The Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Agnes the sheep, who has recovered from a stroke.

Now, the lives of those animals are under threat as she faced eviction from the 67-acre farm in Evesham, Worcestershire, they have called home for 14 years.

A campaign is building to save The Farm Animal Sanctuary and its menagerie, with the help of actress Joanna Lumley, 65. The sanctuary is considered the oldest farm animal sanctuary in Britain.

It is home to 450 sheep, three cattle, 12 pigs, 10 horses and ponies, and a varied assortment of poultry.

It costs &poun;2000 a week, plus the support of volunteers, to care for the animals.

Lumley, who is patron of the sanctuary, said: "I have been an admiring and constant supporter of the Farm Animal Sanctuary for 25 years.

"It has always struggled to keep its noble head above water, placing the welfare of neglected and damaged animals at the heart of its operation. This is a body blow that has left us all reeling.

"There is nowhere for the animals to be moved to, even if they were well enough due to age and other welfare conditions to be relocated.

"I appeal to the good nature of the owner of the farm to show compassion and reverse the decision to evict Jan, her loyal workers and the animals they care for with such devotion.

"It is a cruel option to adopt in the current financial climate and with winter ahead of us."

Taylor, 74, a former journalist, reported on the sanctuary's website that the campaign to save the sanctuary was growing, and had made the television news in Britain.

"Our legal team have informed us that, depending on the eventual outcome of this threatened eviction, our animal and birds could face a very real threat of euthanasia.

"On their behalf we continue to campaign to procure a secure environment in which they can all live out their lives. We will not stop."

She appealed for support.

The sanctuary has had use of the farm thanks to the generosity of an animal-loving businesswoman, who bought it for the registered charity to use. However, it has been reported the land owner now wants to use the land herself.

Taylor's menagerie includes blind and three-legged sheep, a blind horse, and animals of a great age. She does not believe most of the animals could be moved to a new location.

Taylor was set on the path that established the sanctuary after walking into a Worcestershire livestock market one freezing, wet February morning 25 years ago.

"I felt as though I'd passed through the gates of hell. The noise, the frantic bleatings of distressed animals mixed with the loud shouts of men. Sheep running and slipping as they were chased down dirty, wet concrete passageways into pens. Cattle making loud noises of incomprehension as they stood at the top of steep ramps too afraid to move, men moving towards them with sticks.

"I watched orphan lambs being auctioned, some of them only 48 hours old, hanging motionless as they were held aloft by their front legs to show them off.

"One small black lamb was carried in in a box by an elderly farmer. The lamb wasn't moving so the old man was told to take him away as he wouldn't last until the end of the sale.

"I handed over £1 and with the lamb held inside my jumper and the car heater turned up high raced him to our vets. He survived hypothermia and dehydration and gut infection. We named him Taro and he lived until he was 15 years old.

"Each and every market I visited there were scenes of similar horror, except they weren't noticed by the people who worked and traded there."

The sights, she said, included horses and ponies covered in lice and with ribs showing, others showing obvious signs of illness, unwanted and knowing it.

Sad little featherless ex-battery hens with raw chests were sold for 10 pence, she said, along with old ducks who had never seen water with filthy dirt clogged feathers.

"I purchased over 60 of the sickest animals, nearly all of them survived with veterinary care, comfort and food.

"The story was taken up by the national and local press and the sanctuary was formed, not just for the sake of the animals already rescued but to be able to make people aware that in spite of laws meant to protect them, the woeful lack of welfare considerations surrounding all farm animals.

"Meetings were held with veterinary officers from the State Veterinary Service, private vets, market managers, Trading Standard Officers and representatives from the farming world.

"All of them agreed that the evidence presented to them was unacceptable and that improvements were to be made."