Dorset dairy farmer gives his cows to a sanctuary and turns his farm vegan after a ‘fight’ with his conscience

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  17th February 2023

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Dorset dairy farmer Laurence Candy decided to send his 38 cows to a sanctuary and grow plants instead of slaughtering animals


A former dairy farmer has opened up about why he gave his cows to a sanctuary to grow plants instead.

Laurance Candy, who runs 14-hectare Northwood Farm in Dorset, converted his beef farm to an organic dairy operation in 2019.

The farmer, who lost most of his dairy cows to bovine tuberculosis in 2017, says when his organic milk contract ended in 2020, he had to make the choice to ‘either to give up organic farming or carry on organic but do something else’.

Instead, he decided to send the 38 cows in his dairy herd at Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk, and transition to growing crops instead.

Mr Candy is now the UK’s first certified biocyclic certified farmer, meaning he is an organic farmer who does not rear animals or use any animal input in the running of his farm.

From dairy farmer to growing crops

According to Laurence, while many in the farming community believe animals are essential for multiple onsite operations – for example, soil generation – after doing extensive research, he became convinced it is possible to farm without them.

He told the Dorset Echo: “I want to demonstrate you can farm sustainably without animals…The idea is to demonstrate that you can farm successfully this way and once you understand soil biology, everything clicks.”

Speaking about his decision to send the cows to a sanctuary to live out their days, he described raising animals then sending them to slaughter at two-years-old as ‘sad’, saying ‘you have to question it’.

He added: “Farmers run businesses, but at the end of the day, we are human beings. I remember I had some beef animals to sell, but I couldn’t do it; this was probably the first time I had to fight with my conscience.”

Laurence now farms wheat and oats, and he plans to sow fava beans in the Autumn.

Northwood Farm now produces crops instead of dairy. Image credit: PETA

Northwood Farm now produces crops instead of dairy. Image credit: PETA


As a result of moving away from animal farming, Laurence has won an award in PETA’s inaugural Farming Awards.

Speaking about the award, PETA Director of Vegan Corporate Projects Dawn Carr, said: “By retiring his animals to a sanctuary, Laurence Candy is setting a beautiful example to follow.

“PETA is delighted to recognise this compassionate move and encourages all farmers to grow plants and leave behind the heartbreak and violence of raising animals for food.”

The charity added that farmers who switch to growing vegetables, grains, pulses, and fruits ‘not only reduce animal suffering but also help the planet’.

According to PETA: “Animal agriculture is a leading cause of environmental destruction, as it requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water while emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gases.

“Researchers at the University of Oxford recently determined that current agricultural systems make it impossible to meet climate commitments even if all other sources of greenhouse gas emissions were eliminated.”

Feature image credit: Peter Cade via Getty Images

Laurence Candy isn’t the first farmer to ditch dairy and grow crops instead. Read about Jay Wilde who also gave his herd of cows to an animal sanctuary to protect them from the slaughterhouse



Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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