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Cattle farmer donated his cows to an animal sanctuary because he could not bear to send them to slaughter, and became a vegan campaigner. 

After his decision became known, local residents mocked him and began referring to his property as the funny farm. His brother-in-law, who runs a cattle farm six miles away, told him that he was mad to give away animals worth £40,000 at market. 

Jay took over Bradley Nook Farm in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, when his father died in 2011 and for the next few years found it “soul-destroying” every time he consigned an animal to “a terrifying death” at an abattoir. 

He also felt guilty about the environmental impact of rearing cattle for beef and first tried to offset the harm by installing solar panels. 

Eventually he decided to stop farming animals and worked with the Vegan Society to donate 59 of his cows to live out their natural lives at Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk. He kept a small number to graze parts of the farm where their trampling and feeding benefits wildlife. 

“They do have personalities and they experience the world,” he said. “They are not just robots that eat and sleep.” 

Jay, whose story features in the Bafta-winning short film 73 Cows, is now applying for permission to build three polytunnels in which to grow organic vegetables and hopes to open a vegan restaurant and possibly a vegan cookery school.