If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit F.R.I.E.N.D animal rescue centre in Kent, you’ll know just how hard the staff work to care for a whole host of animals – most having been saved from the meat industry.
The sanctuary is now due to feature in an upcoming documentary, The End of Meat, which will premiere in the UK this week.
The documentary, already available in the US and Canada, seeks to encourage people to think about our relationship with animals, envisions a world where animals cohabit with us as equals, and discusses the future of our dietary choices.
F.R.I.E.N.D features in the documentary thanks to its charity trustee, Lee Cash, who is executive producer of the film and wanted to showcase the sanctuary.
Mark Eaton, who runs F.R.I.E.N.D alongside three live-in volunteers, is due to talk at the premiere of the documentary on Friday 5 October at the Vue Cinema in London Piccadilly from 8pm.
Veganuary caught up with Mark to find out what’s it’s like to run an animal rescue, what’s leading the rapid rise in veganism, and how the public can get involved at F.R.I.E.N.D.
The rescue centre was founded 25 years ago by Mark’s late wife Marion, who originally used the land as a plant nursery. Marion bought the plants from a market which had a livestock area next door, and she would check on the animals there.
One day she spotted a tiny, disabled lamb completely distressed in a pen. Marion asked the farmer if she could buy the lamb, so she purchased him for a pound, took him home, fell completely in love with him, became vegan and decided to rescue more animals.
Marion sadly passed away in January 2016, but F.R.I.E.N.D continues her legacy and is now home to around 200 animals, including pigs, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, dogs, cats and even alpacas.
Mark says many people go vegan after visiting the centre as once people encounter the animals up close they often make the connection and decide to stop consuming animal products. He commented that he can’t over exaggerate the education the animals themselves provide in convincing people to go vegan.
Encouraging the public to consider a more ethical lifestyle is one of the factors that Mark says is great about running an animal sanctuary, alongside saving lives and fixing animals who have been physically or mentally traumatised.
Conversely, the worst things about owning a rescue centre is when he’s unable to save an animal, and having an insular life with very little social time. Mark said winter in particular can be unforgiving, as can all extreme weather.
But the benefits outweigh the negatives, and Mark and his team work very hard to maintain the upkeep of the sanctuary, supported by volunteers – many of whom arrange day trips to F.R.I.E.N.D to offer their help.
The general public is also able to visit on the sanctuary’s open days, which usually take place on a Wednesday and Sunday throughout the spring and summer months.
F.R.I.E.N.D also hosts a music festival each summer, which Mark hopes will return next year:
“We always hope to do new things to help the cause of a sustainable and ethical world, for instance we hope to implement permaculture designs and have workshops about all manner of vegan related issues.”
Alongside the festival and his upcoming appearance at The End of Meat premiere, Mark also hopes to speak at more vegan events to discuss topics relating to animal rescue. He thinks the upsurge in veganism is thanks to the rise of social media and the simpler way in which it enables people to communicate:
“Young people also now understand that not to be vegan results in complicity of animal cruelty, which will also result in the basic killing of the planet.”
His one tip for people wanting to sign up to the Veganuary pledge is to keep remembering why you want to go vegan, whether it’s for ethics, health, or the environment: just keep focused.
F.R.I.E.N.D relies on donations from the public. People can support the sanctuary either by volunteering their help, sharing details about the centre on social media, and financially by becoming a Patreon.
F.R.I.E.N.D aims to secure 1,000 Patreons who are able to each donate £5 per month. Alternatively, one off donations can be given – more details can be found at the sanctuary’s website.
For help and support in taking the next steps to go vegan, sign up to the Veganuary email series to receive advice straight to your inbox.