Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary owner Mark tells us what it’s like to rescue animals and how they end up in his care.
When did you go vegan and why?
I went vegan 16 years ago. I was visiting the animal sanctuary and being educated about the plight of farmed animals and – despite the multitude of horrors they endure – the clincher for me was the fact that animals are slaughtered so young. They are babies and that horrified me so much that I vowed to go vegan there and then.
How has your life changed since changing your diet and lifestyle?
My life hasn’t changed at all in that going vegan isn’t hard. Giving up dairy has been the biggest game changer – I used to get a lot more colds and was always bunged up. Also, going to the toilet is a pleasure now whereas it used to be literally a pain! I also think you are what you eat and I would say that I have less stress and anger issues since becoming vegan and I live a more holistic life. I feel more in tune with the rest of the world.
How did you come to run an animal sanctuary?
I came to run Friend Animal Sanctuary by the sad passing of Marion – the founder – who was my wife. I had lived at Friend for 10 years before I ran it myself. Before I met her I was a ground worker and my last job was building the The O2 Millennium Dome.
Where do your animals come from?
There are many reason why animals come to us – from being no longer needed in farms to unwanted pets. Friend actually started out with someone buying a disabled lamb for £1 from a livestock market. Lambs have a monetary value of around £50, so farmers want to take care of them and they do that by being very diligent with the orphan and abandoned lambs. They call on the local community to help hand rear them, so many people will take lambs home to bottle feed and hand rear and then when it is time to hand them back they realise what they are handing the lamb back for.
Often, they can’t bring themselves to do it, so they pay the farmer £50 and then phone rescues up like us to ask if we will take them. This has become a very common happening which actually gladdens me because it means seeds are being sewn in the meat-eating world.
How can readers help with the plight of farm animals?
Of course, going vegan is the biggest way of helping the farm animals. But above and beyond that is for vegans to always try to educate about welfare concerns – for example, sharing videos and documentaries about animals in distress and encouraging and educating people about the negative climactic impact of farming animals. Just generally try to be as good an ambassador for the animals as you possibly can.
What’s your ideal vision for the future?
Fundamentally, a vegan world with no farmed animals at all – only wild ones. I’d also like to see the development of vegan farming systems using vegan organic practices where we can cohabit with nature, feed ourselves and heal the Earth at the same time. These are the principles that we are trying to implement now at Friend – we are trying to run the site with a permaculture design, cohabiting with large rescued farmed animals which would represent the wild animals in a future vegan world and looking at how we can ecologically and ethically sustain that.