To start off the new years we have a motive to promote animal sanctuaries around the globe, and to get an insight into their lives. We start off with Hugletts Wood Farm.
In the depths of East Sussex, United Kingdom, lies an astounding animal farm sanctuary, Hugletts Wood Farm, home of many wonderful animals. We had the special chance to catch up with Wenda, who took her time out of her busy busy schedule for us.
Hi, Wenda. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to do this. I guess, firstly tell us a little about how the idea for an animal sanctuary first came about, and how it came to fruition?
Having been vegetarian from about three years old, upon discovering my parents were feeding me the flesh of animals, I was horrified. Also at the age of seven, to find out calves at my late Uncles dairy farm in Derbyshire were to be taken from their mothers and sent to market. I devised a plan to save them and with a bucket of milk in the dark of night, led the seven of them to a copse up behind the farm. I thought we would lay low until I had decided what to do. Sadly, before breakfast time our absence was discovered and we were found and led down to the livestock truck that would take them away. My punishment was being made to watch the calves being loaded, hearing their pitiful moos and seeing their frightened eyes peering out from the truck. I vowed to myself that one day I would create a place where no one was taken away and mothers and babies wouldn’t be separated and no one would be killed.
When I was 35 having lived a relatively normal life to placate everyone around me, I set up the sanctuary with the proceeds from the sale of my home, having already been renting land for two years before to maintain 19 cows, some sheep, three pigs and a myriad of birds all rescued from the slaughterhouse.
What’s the most difficult thing about maintaining the place and animals?
Funding a sanctuary is probably one of the trickiest aspects – we have always believed that its wrong for anyone running a sanctuary to expect people to fund their way of life and to this end we work the land and woodland, making a whole range of products that we sell to bring in just enough money to cover basic running costs – feed, bedding, some veterinary care so that donations can be used to provide tangible items or go towards building – all of which increase the comfort and well-being of the residents here. We think its nice for people to see what their kindness have provided. There is something else, which is all too common these days and that is the number of people who having raised a lamb or a pig as a “pet” suddenly dont want them as they mature and demonstrate their natural behaviour. Its quite shocking that they think they can simply unload them on to places like Hugletts Wood, when in reality Farm Animal Sanctuaries are there to take animals and birds whose lives are at risk; those who face imminent slaughter or on-going abuse.
Did you take any inspirations from anyone or anything?
Jainism is our one inspiration – the whole concept of living without harm; the principle of Ahimsa in its truest form; of respecting all life as equal; of living simply with the basics in life. Naturally as an initiated Hare Krsna devotee I am have to admit that I see protecting cows as serving Krsna, but if I am absolutely truthful it is the tenets of Jainism on which we base our lives, caring for not only farm animals rescued from slaughter but the wildlife around us who need us to help maintain their habitat and the environment. We don’t use fossil fuels for power, but rely on solar energy together with wind power in the winter months.
What’s the most unique thing about Hugletts Wood Farm compared to lets say other animal sanctuaries?
We actually don’t kill! By killing I mean we dont euthanise when someone’s care becomes too costly or time consuming. I guess it brings us back to the spiritual belief in that we dont have the right to take life. We counteract any possible suffering with the use of pain relief and 24 hour a day care. We nurse round the clock, giving water, food and treatments; we massage them, bathe them, keep them warm or cool as need be and are always with whoever is preparing to leave their body at the moment of transition. I can say, quite truthfully, that in 21 years, no one has left here with the slightest discomfort. Suffering is not a word we recognise and all too often you’ll find its used to mask the “human” fears and discomfort at the thought of physical death. Even death these days has to be clinical and pre-booked, so it’s convenient. To us it’s the time when our care is most needed, and everyone leaves here at the time that is right for them, not for us.
How do you usually go about saving animals such as cows and chickens whose destinies seem to be a burger?
We don’t actually go out and about looking for animals who need rescuing – we don’t have to as there are just too many who face slaughter – millions every day of the year. They come to us by one means or another. After twenty one years of being here, people know how to contact us – the right people who know how awful the meat and dairy industry are and who like us, are vegan. That said even farmers bring animals to us to save the cost of a bullet from the local Hunt Kennels or of calling out the knacker man. Many of the calves we take are rejects from the dairy industry and they come here in the most terrible state – a week old and separated from their mothers; they endure the fear and terror of the market to not sell and be destined for slaughter. When they arrive some are almost delirious with fear or illness; their legs give way from exhaustion and the battle begins to help them hold on to life. I don’t understand anyone drinking animals milk, especially cows milk, when it can never be produced kindly – there is always a cost!
How many animals do you have and which ones?
269 animals and birds; cows, sheep, turkeys, geese, ducks, cockerels, chickens, cats and two dogs. That’s not including the wildlife we care for, the numbers would then run into thousands, but who’s counting. Here at Hugletts Wood our aim is to provide the highest quality of life we are able; free from stress and fear, with adequate land for everyone to live freely. No one is caged; Everyone has the means to develop their own character and make their own friends. This is what life is about! Freedom of expression and the right to it. In our book, that isn’t just for humans!
Who’s the latest addition to the Hugletts Wood Farm family?
Shackleton, a tiny little Ronaldsay lamb who was born in a Petting Zoo/Farm and who at the end of the summer visiting season was due to go off for slaughter. Some tiny woodland voles were flooded out of their hole at Christmas so we have made a new home for them while the rains are flooding the land – as soon as we dry out they will go back to the woods and find themselves another place to live safely. There is always someone, domesticated or wild who needs a helping hand either permanently or for a short time.
Who’s your favourite? And who should the readers keep an eye out for when visiting?
In my humble opinion, that is like asking the parents of a large family which is their favourite child. How could we love one more than another? Each soul here has different needs. Each makes demands of us that is unlike any one else. Naturally the rescued animals grow close to us because they learn to trust and we interact with them all day long, every day of the year. The handicapped cows we work with to encourage them to develop confidence to live as perfect a life as their damaged bodies and minds allow, so it’s inevitable that we bond, but no…. no favourites in this place. We just love them all from the bald battery hen to the majestic bull!
I don’t think its a case for keeping an eye out for anyone when you visit. Here, it’s the animals who choose who they wish to associate with. You may be lucky enough to impress one of the bullocks to the point they will let you hug them and hug you back; Dino the gander may allow you to pick him up so he can wrap his long feathery neck round yours; the lambs may permit you to enter the lamb house and sit on their bed while they gather round to inspect you all over.
If someone wanted to volunteer and help, how could they go about doing this?
We don’t have volunteers here, nor paid help. In the early days we went down that route and were shocked to find that not many people share our work ethic, in that the work is finished before it’s time to play. So the two of us do all the work; we fund 90% of the running costs; give the care; nurse the sick and dying and for the last 21 years it has worked. I guess if it works we won’t change it.
Anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
Your life is worth nothing if you live it at the cost of others.
Hugletts Wood Farm host an open day for a visit. This year it’s on the 29th May, 2016. You will be able to meet the cows, and the other residents. A beautiful vegan cafe is run throughout the day, as well as a raffle stall selling merchandise, and an information stall for people wanting to know more on how they can help the sanctuary. The open day is ticketed so please keep an eye out on their Facebook page, they can be ordered from the second week of March. Open Barn Sunday dates will be released soon for the year. You can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you would like to donate to their wonderful cause then you can do so via paypal at email@example.com,
you can set up a standing order at:
A/c Name: Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary
Sort Code: 08-71-99
Please include a name as reference, and if any one would like a receipt, they will gladly send it. Email your address to: firstname.lastname@example.org.