By Alex Matthews 

A lifelong cattle farmer has given his £40,000 herd of cows to an animal sanctuary – after he became a VEGETARIAN.

Jay Wilde moved his 63-strong herd over 150 miles from his farm in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, to a sanctuary in Norfolk as he could not bear to see them killed and eaten after he stopped eating meat himself.

Pic by Luke Johnston / Caters News

The 59-year-old organic farmer felt so guilty taking his cattle to slaughter that he completely changed his business – growing wheat to be used for bread.

But he’s kept a handful of the cows on the farm to provide natural fertilizer for his crops.

Jay said: “I feel so much better farming this way. It’s a weight off my shoulders.

“It’s certainly not a normal thing to do as a farmer, but I’m happy about it.

“I miss the cows, however it’s nice to think of them living a nice life in a sanctuary now.

“It just became more and more difficult taking them to slaughter.

Pic by Luke Johnston / Caters News

“You know they have thoughts, dreams, and personalities, so being taken to be killed was a horrible experience for them too.

“I’m glad to have saved them from that.

“Giving them away was definitely the right option. I run a vegan farm now and selling the cows to be slaughtered did not seem like the right way to get the business started.”

Jay’s family bought the farm in 1956 and he grew up helping his dad to run it.

It was originally a dairy farm until his father’s death in 2011. After taking it over completely, Jay turned it into an organic beef production farm.

Pic by Luke Johnston / Caters News

However, he found taking the cows to the slaughterhouse increasingly upsetting.

He also hosts festivals on his farm, and some attendees expressed their discomfort about attending a celebration on his farm when cows were sent to slaughter.

After one such festival, he was put in touch with the Vegan Society, who advised him that he could send his cattle, 30 of which were pregnant, to a sanctuary.

Jay said: “One of the people attending said some people were unhappy celebrating in a beef farm.

“I took that on board. It made sense. I was already questioning whether what I was doing was right.

“I was put in touch with the Vegan Society and they suggested other types of farming to me.

Pic by Luke Johnston / Caters News

“When I agreed to begin farming crops instead of animals, I had no idea what to do with the cows.

“They suggested that I could give them to sanctuaries, which seemed right, but we were expecting to have to give them away in twos and threes and for it to be a very long, complicated process.

“However, Hillside Animal Sanctuary came forward and said they could take all of them. It was remarkable.”

Jay claims his wife Katja, 52, has been very supportive of his move, although she misses the cows.

The couple still keep 11 of the herd to provide natural fertiliser for the land.

Pic by Luke Johnston / Caters News

His brother in law, however, had a harder time understanding what Jay had done.

Jay said: “My wife misses having the cows around, as they did feel like part of the family.

“But she is really supportive and thought it was a good idea.

“My brother in law thought what I was doing was completely crazy.

“It’s difficult to switch from one type of farming to another, and he also couldn’t understand why I would sacrifice so much money.

“But I could not start my new business off the back of selling the cattle to market when that was exactly what I was escaping.”

The Hillside Animal Sanctuary, near Frettenham in Norfolk, agreed to take all of the cattle in one go two months ago. They were moved to a suitable site earlier this month.