Sanctuary for William at last
William reaches Hillside – and sanctuary!
"After a tough, epic journey (in more ways than one) William is finally safe at Hillside Animal Sanctuary! Thank you so much to everyone who helped to make this miracle possible. We arrived just after midnight on Friday 1st February and were met by Ann Vincent, the sanctuary manager for the West Runton site, who settled William into their spacious quarantine barn in no time, where he temporarily has the company of three rescued horses (all of whom were mercifully spared at the eleventh hour from the notorious Nantwich slaughter-house which has been in the news recently.)
Poor William is almost half the size he was when I first met him back in August. Although the second farmer has been frantically feeding him up for the past six weeks (almost certainly to avoid a prosecution), he’s down to about 800kg from his original 1.1 tonnes. William nearly died back in November. He was so ill that his nose-ring had to be removed. When farmers show bulls that sort of mercy, it’s a very grave situation indeed. He’d completely given up eating apparently – and very likely, the will to live too. Having gone from the familiar place of his birth, where he was well looked after and properly fed, he unfortunately experienced the far more common, coin side of British farming; a harsh, de-personalized world of bare minimums, profit over ethics – and complete empathic disconnection." He had been made to breed with 48 cows already (10-20 should be the maximum at this time of year, especially in harsh moorland conditions) – and almost certainly on not enough feed. I think that he was also depressed, having lost all that was familiar to him, including his friends Hamish and Dougal.
Getting the second farmer to agree to sell him was a complete nightmare. Having promised that we could have him, he went on to play a cruel power game for several months, threatening to keep William, to sell him on or to hire him out to other farmers, asking me to call at particular times, promising decisions and then not being there etc - but the tide finally turned in our favour on the night of Sunday 27th January.
He had been very anxious for me not to see William in the state he was in too, wouldn’t reveal his location, and kept telling me how “plain” William looked; a Cornish expression for ugly and unwell. When I finally got the bill of sale he insisted on adding a “sold as seen” clause – to make sure that if William were to die in the next couple of weeks (which I know he won’t under Hillside’s loving care), there would be no ‘refunds’!
With five days notice everything had to be sorted out very quickly, but our transporter Manningtree Horse-Box hire were on standby and that Thursday night Richard, their driver travelled through the night from Essex, arriving with me in Devon at 6am. After a rest and a meal, we headed off to Cornwall and finally picked William up late that afternoon.
Loading him wasn’t easy. Poor William was panicky and unsure, and there was an awful moment where the farmer hit one of the cows in the face for daring to try and eat the corn nuts that were being used to entice William into the truck (she was clearly very hungry), but once William was on board he was unbelievably calm and relaxed and lay down for a good part of his journey. It was as if he knew that his rotten ordeal was finally over and that he was in kind hands now. Kim and Richard from Manningtree Horse Box hire had made his deluxe horse-box really comfortable, with lots of straw on the ground, and plenty of haylage, nuts and water for him to access, and we were able to watch him constantly on their internal, infra-red camera system.
I would have given anything to get the rest of the animals away from that bleak, moorland farm too and I will never forget that old, black and white girl, but with our laws so pathetically weak when it comes to protection for farmed animals, this farmer is only doing what so many are – treading the finest of lines between “legal” and illegal, and he’s just about the ‘right’ side of the wall to make him probably untouchable, unfortunately (although I am taking advice from the RSPCA about this). As he told me brazenly “I’m not the best keeper in the world, but I’m not the worst neither.” The only humane option when the world is as cruel as this, as we all know, is to adopt a vegan diet. My days of being naive about farming – despite growing up in the country - are well and truly over, having seen the horrific realities first hand. At least William, Hamish and Dougal are safe now and from their woodland-fringed meadow, they can act as ambassadors for other less fortunate animals, while we work together to finally make these ‘farming’ atrocities history.
In fact, the boys have already helped to make a difference. They’ve become something of minor celebrities, and I’d like to offer special thanks to those who have really taken William into their hearts and helped spread the word for him: Happy Cow, Quaker Concern for Animals, Fry’s Vegetarian Foods, Banana Moon Ethical Clothing Company and the Totnes Times.
By the time Richard got back to base in Essex, over 150 people had already enquired via their Facebook page to ask if William was OK too.
My MP wanted to know the same a couple of weeks ago, and today the first farmer told me he plans to make a special trip up to Hillside from West Cornwall to visit the boys too! Current meat-eaters are wearing Hamish and Dougal T-shirts and have donated funds to Viva!. The paradigm shift that we’re all waiting for might still be nascent, but change is definitely in the air.
Thank you again to all of you who helped to give this story at least, a happy ending.
Heidi Stephenson on behalf of Hamish, Dougal and William
P.S. Once William is fully well again, and has been castrated (a necessity in any animal sanctuary for obvious reasons) he will finally be reunited with Hamish and Dougal and will join their small, Highland herd. We will make sure that special moment is filmed for everyone, of course, as it will be quite something to behold!"
Hillside Animal Sanctuary
Thanks to everyone who made this possible including Banana Moon Ethical Clothing.
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