The farmer who took his flock to a sanctuary instead of the abattoir

Someday Sivalingam Vasanthakumar determined to drive his lambs to an animal sanctuary as a substitute of the slaughterhouse. Now, the farmer says his future is plant based mostly

For many farmers, taking animals to the abattoir is an element of their working life. However Sivalingam Vasanthakumar – who is called Kumar – by no means felt that manner. Driving his animals to the slaughterhouse was at all times uncomfortable.

“I labored in farming for 30 to 40 years and have taken so many animals to slaughter, however each time I’d query whether or not it was proper,” he says. “After I’d again the trailer into the slaughterhouse, the animals didn’t need to go; they might scent it.” 

Whereas Kumar grew up on a small dairy farm in Sri Lanka, they by no means killed the cattle there. “It was for cultural and partly spiritual causes. Dad was vegetarian anyhow, and I grew up to not be an enormous eater of animals,” he says. 

Finally, the guilt turned an excessive amount of and in 2020, as a substitute of taking his 20 lambs to the abattoir, Kumar determined to drive them to an animal sanctuary in Worcestershire. “It was a great resolution,” he recollects. “I couldn’t deal with it any extra. I needed to allow them to dwell.” 

Workers on the sanctuary ship him photos of his flock. “They’re all residing fortunately,” he says with aid. 

Kumar, who lives in Devon and has a grasp’s in sustainable agriculture, says the apply additionally went in opposition to his more and more sturdy environmental beliefs. Although the subject of consuming meat v vegetarianism or veganism is advanced (there are fascinating alternatives in regenerative, native animal farming, for instance, and vegetable cultivation is just not essentially low-carbon, relying on how and the place it’s grown) for Kumar, rearing animals for consumption “is just not ethically or morally justified within the western world”.

‘I couldn’t deal with it any extra. I needed to allow them to dwell,’ says Kumar of his flock. Picture: James Bannister

“The best way we’re consuming meat now isn’t proper,” he says. “We develop grains to make use of as animal feed and import soya from Brazil. We are able to survive on veg. Livestock farmers would possibly ask what they will do as a substitute however simply have a look at Riverford [the veg box supplier] for instance. It’s fully rising greens on a business scale and making good revenue.” 

Kumar now focuses on promoting south Indian meals twice per week at Kumar’s Dosa Bar stall in Totnes, Devon, however he’s plotting a return to farming. He’s within the course of of shopping for a smallholding in Somerset by way of the Ecological Land Cooperative, which works to supply inexpensive land for sustainable companies in England and Wales. 

“The plan is to purchase the lease, dwell on the land and develop greens to make use of in my dosas,” he explains. “I need to develop tropical greens like eggplant [aubergine], okra and ginger in tubs.” 

Livestock farmers would possibly ask what they will do as a substitute, however have a look at Riverford – it’s rising veg and making good revenue 

Kumar plans to observe many ideas of permaculture and natural gardening, with out pursuing natural certification. “The remainder of the land may have fruit bushes like apple, pears – varieties native to Somerset – and crops like potato, onion and barley.”

He additionally desires to put money into a meals truck. “I need to supply subsidised wholesome meals to individuals residing in low-income areas,” he enthuses. 

Kumar is optimistic about what he sees as a shift in society’s meals consumption habits. “Extra individuals are shopping for domestically sourced merchandise, turning vegan and vegetarian, and establishing cooperatives,” he says. 

Solely in hotspots of ecological considering, like Totnes, one may argue? Maybe not for for much longer: this 12 months’s Veganuary – the annual problem for individuals to eat solely plant- based mostly merchandise in January – attracted 629,000 sign-ups, some from almost each nation. 

As a substitute of lambs, Kumar tends to dosas nowadays. Picture: James Bannister

It’s unimaginable to make persistently saintly choices in the case of meals, when the subject is so advanced and trendy life is so busy, not to mention if households are teetering on the poverty-line, however extra data can solely be a great factor, Kumar displays. 

“Folks want to know how meals is produced, the place it comes from, and the way animals are raised and slaughtered – then they will resolve whether or not to go plant-based,” he says. However he acknowledges that change received’t occur in a single day. “It took a very long time for me to resolve to cease promoting my animals.” 

Farmers want extra authorities assist to modify from cattle- rearing to rising crops, he believes. That mentioned, trying forward, he feels “largely hopeful” in regards to the rise in plant-based consuming and the rise in consciousness that younger individuals, specifically, “have about local weather change, agriculture and livestock”.

Principal picture: James Bannister

This text is the second in our ‘job swap’ sequence. In latest weeks, Constructive Information has been profiling people who swapped high-carbon careers for environmentally minded jobs.

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