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Meet the farmer who could not bear to send his animals to slaughter

Vegan farmer Jay Wilde donated his cattle to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Frettenham. Picture: Katja Wilde.

Vegan farmer Jay Wilde donated his cattle to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Frettenham. Picture: Katja Wilde.

Katja Wilde

A vegan farmer was so guilt-ridden over sending his cows to the abattoir he instead packed them off to a Norfolk animal sanctuary to end their days peacefully.

The documentary 73 Cows won the best short film category at the 2019 Bafta awards. Picture: 73 CowsThe documentary 73 Cows won the best short film category at the 2019 Bafta awards. Picture: 73 Cows

And now the unlikely story of how the herd was saved has won a Bafta.

Jay Wilde, who re-homed 59 of his cattle at the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Frettenham, is the star of the documentary 73 Cows, which won the award for the best British short film on Sunday.

It tells the story of the crisis of conscience which prompted Mr Wilde to stop rearing cattle for beef and give away animals with a market value of £40,000 in 2017.

Now the 61-year-old hopes the documentary – which has also won praise from the Duke of Cambridge – will inspire more people to question the impacts of their diets and perhaps choose to join him and his wife, Katja, 48, in becoming vegans.

Some of the 59 cows donated by vegan farmer Jay Wilde to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary. Photo: Wendy ValentineSome of the 59 cows donated by vegan farmer Jay Wilde to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary. Photo: Wendy Valentine

“I hope it helps people to look at their wider lifestyle and to reduce their impact on the plant,” he said. “Turning vegan is a very important thing to do.

“It’s probably the one decision that an individual can make that’s easy to make without permission from someone else.”

Mr Wilde took over Bradley Nook Farm in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, after his father died in 2011 and for the next few years he said he found it “soul destroying” every time he consigned an animal to its death in an abattoir. He said he also felt guilty about the environmental impact of rearing cattle for beef.

READ MORE: Farming must change to avert a ‘catastrophic collapse’ of insect life, says study

He worked with the Vegan Society to donate 59 of his cows to Hillside, but kept a small number to graze parts of his farm where their activity benefits wildlife.

Director and producer Alex Lockwood said it was “surreal” to win Bafta recognition for the “zero-budget” documentary, filmed during breaks from his job shooting corporate videos. He said had been approached by Prince William at the Bafta awards ceremony to talk about the film, which he described as “really thought-provoking”.

The film-maker said the experience of making 73 Cows and spending time on Mr Wilde’s farm had persuaded him to change his own diet choices from vegetarian to vegan.

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