Dairy Farmer Retires Cows And Moves To Ethical Oat Milk Production

'We now working in a more ethical way...and can support the 17 cows in our retired herd who still live with us at the farm'
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Farmer Jay Wilde could no longer send his animals to slaughter (Photo: Jay Wilde)

Farmer Jay Wilde could no longer send his animals to slaughter (Photo: Jay Wilde)

A dairy farmer who famously retired his herd after he could no longer bear sending the animals to slaughter has now turned to oat milk production.

Jay Wilde inherited Bradley Nook Farm in Derbyshire in 2011 and initially produced dairy goods before moving onto organic beef. But by 2017, he and wife Katja could no longer 'send the cows to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death' and made headlines when his cows were rehomed at the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk.

The rehoming - which was immortalized in the BAFTA-winning film 73 Cows - was organized by The Vegan Society, which described Wilde as a 'pioneer' and worked with him to move onto alternative farming practices, alongside the Veganic Organic Network.

Refarm'd

Now Wilde is working with Refarm'd which works with farmers to 'transition from milk production to focus on producing plant-based drinks and convert their farmland into an animal sanctuary.

Geraldine Starke, CEO of Refarm'd, told Plant Based News that she started the organization for a number of reasons. "I always wanted to create a new model of animal sanctuaries that would not be dependent on donations, volunteers and require the use of more resources from a highly resource-consuming industry," she said.

"But I also wanted these sanctuaries to have a direct impact on animal exploitation. We can't continue saving animals if the animal farming industry continues to bring new lives into this earth, by the billions, each year."

The 'war' between farmers and vegans

Starke was also aware of increasing tensions between vegans and farmers - as well the many struggles faced by the latter. "I believe veganism is about compassion for all, human beings as well," she said. "And that we need to work together to bring positive change."

Starke believes that giving farmers a new business model that doesn't benefit from the exploitation of sentient beings is key to making it work and starting to have a real impact on animal exploitation.

"It also helps the farmer connect to his animals on another level, where they don't need to put any monetary value on them, and can truly see them for the individuals they are, who like uoptimizetrive to enjoy their lives," she said.

The failing dairy industry

Starke also pointed out that the dairy industry is struggling - and this mostly affects farmers who 'don't have a say on the price they sell the milk' and therefore 'often sell for less than production costs', leaving them struggling to make it work.

"It is a failing industry, that profits from the exploitation of non-human and human beings," said Starke. "I believe to help our farmers we need to help them get out of this system. And that's what we are trying to do at Refarm'd.

"We help them, without investment or major risks taking from their side, to make a smooth shift into a booming market that is the plant milk industry. Our model is conceived in a way that farmers still keep their identity, their farm and their animals. Something that is really important to them."

 Dairy calves in hutches on a UK farm

The dairy industry is failing, says Geraldine Starke Photo: Animal Equality)

A fairer and more ethical future.

According to Starke, more and more farmers from around the world are getting in touch with the organization, those who 'want to get out of the animal exploiting system' and who 'see that there is need for change', with more than 20 contacting her within the last month alone. This, she says, shows there is 'a real need that Refarm'd is trying to respond to'.

Under Refarm'd model, farmers 'continue feeding our countries and providing a healthy and fresh, handmade product that is only made with local ingredients and sold, in glass bottles, to customers locally'.

"The production costs are low and we help the farm overtime to optimise their global costs so that farmers earn a better life with less effort. We think Refarm'd can have a huge impact on how we view the agricultural industry and show the way to what the future of farming could look like," she said.

Jay and Katja Wilde

Jay and Katja Wilde were the first farmers interested in the project, and helped Starke draft the model Refarm'd has today, an experience she describes as 'really amazing'.

"They are really extraordinary humans with a huge heart and nothing less then very motivated. We are really lucky to have them as our first Refarm'd farm," she said.

"We are really excited to launch our first two farms in the coming months and help many more after that. Now it's time for the vegan community to show their support and help us make a change and bring an end to the animal farming industry as we know it. We need people to subscribe to the plant milk from our farmers to make this dream come true."

The Wildes will sell their oat milk in reusable glass bottles (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

The Wildes will sell their oat milk in reusable glass bottles (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

'An ideal complement'

Farmer Jay Wilde told Plant Based News that he and wife Katja were already being helped by The Vegan Society and the Vegan Organic Network to change to producing veganic vegetables when they started working with Refarm'd. They felt 'this project is an ideal complement for our original plans'.

"We spent time finessing our business model so we could ensure producing oat milk was sustainable and profitable – alongside providing us with a cruelty-free source of income," he added. "Adding another form of non-animal based food production to our business with the help of Refarm’d means we have a solid future."

Oat milk in glass bottles

He revealed that the oat milk produced at Bradley Nook Farm will soon be available 'throughout areas of England under a sustainable business model where it will be provided in returnable glass bottles'.

He concluded: "We're thrilled that not only are we now working in a more ethical way, but we can also continue to support the 17 cows in our retired herd who still live with us at the farm."

"Plant-based food production is the future, and I would urge more dairy farmers to contact Refarm’d to begin making the transition away from animal farming."

World Plant Milk Day

Global initiative World Plant Milk Day (WPMD), which takes place annually on August 22, is looking to increase demand for plant milks like Oat by highlighting the positive effects moving away from dairy products can have on health, the planet, and animal welfare.

Robbie Lockie, co-founder of Plant Based News, is the founder of WPMD. He said: "In recent years millions of people around the world have become more aware of how dairy production is harmful to animals, the environment, and human health. The current pandemic has shed a further spotlight on the role of animal agriculture in the genesis of new diseases.

"For these reasons and more, we call on everyone to try switching to delicious dairy-free alternatives for seven days. If you sign up for our challenge, we will send you a daily newsletter with recipes, tips, and hacks to make the switch.

"It's never been easier, tastier, or more important to start moving away from animal products towards the abundance of plant foods. So why not join us and give it a go - the future is dairy-free."

World Plant Milk Day is calling on people to sign its 7-day dairy-free challenge. Already ditched dairy? Nominate your friends and family to take part. Find out more here

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