OVER 600 rescued animals are facing the slaughterhouse after Britain’s first farm animal sanctuary was served with an eviction notice from the land it has occupied for the last 15 years.
Animal lover Janet Taylor set up The Farm Animal Sanctuary in Evesham, Worcestershire, 25 years ago when she saved her first animal by spending just GBP1 to buy a frail lamb at a livestock market.
The sanctuary, whose patron is the famous actress and active animal rights campaigner Joanna Lumley, eventually found a permanent home after Janet secured a benefactor, retired businesswoman Patricia Bernie.
Animal lover Mrs Bernie kindly bought the 67 acres of land for Janet’s specific use and allowed them to live on and use it as they pleased without any terms and conditions.
But now the registered charity, which relies on public donations to survive, has been stunned after Mrs Bernie, who lives 20 miles from the sanctuary and doesn’t visit often, served them with an eviction notice – stating she wanting to use the land for herself. Britain’s first farm animal sanctuary looks after 635 animals, including sheep, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, cattle and various poultry, and Janet admits that due to their poor health it wouldn’t be possible to move the residents elsewhere.
“We can’t move because we’ve got nowhere to move to and no funds,” said the 71-year-old former journalist,who has dedicated her life to promoting the welfare of animals, particularly farm animals that have been mistreated or abused.
“They are all rescued and we wouldn’t be able to move a lot of them anyway because they are elderly. We have a blind sheep, a three-legged sheep and a blind horse. A lot of them came with us 15 years ago.
“You can’t just uproot 600 plus animals. We are a registered charity so we rely on public funds. The worst case scenario is if we lose the case we would have to get someone to euthanise the animals.
“The farm was bought for our specific use 15 years ago by an animal lover. I located it and she bought it, there were no terms and conditions required and we have looked after the place ever since. “And after 15 years she’s decided she wants it back again for her own use. So she’s seeking an eviction order. “We have a very strong case because it was given to us with no terms and conditions and she allowed us to put all this money and effort into the farm. “Her case depends entirely on her saying she made it clear at the beginning that we were only here for a specific time, which she didn’t.”
Although a definite date has not been set, the case is due in the High Court in Bristol for mediation in February and the charity’s patron Joanna Lumley says the sanctuary deserves to stay at its home.
“I have been an admiring and constant supporter of The Farm Animal Sanctuary for 25 years,” said the 65-year-old actress, who was awarded an OBE in 1995.
“It has always struggled to keep its noble head above water placing the welfare of neglected and damaged animals at the heart of its operation, but this is a body blow that has left us all reeling. “There is nowhere for the animals to be moved to even if they were in a fit state to be relocated. “I appeal to the good nature of Patricia Bernie to show compassion and reverse her decision to eject Jan Taylor, her loyal workers and the animals they care for with such devotion. “It is a cruel option to adopt in the current financial climate.”
Janet says the sanctuary, which needs to find GBP2,000 every week just to survive, was given the farm and land for as long as it required it – but Mrs Bernie disagrees and is seeking possession of the land saying that the charity is only a licensee.
A statement from Mrs Bernie’s solicitors says: “She has owned Manor Orchard Farm since 1997 and as an animal lover herself has generously allowed The Farm Animal Sanctuary to occupy payment free on a temporary basis for 14 years.”
A solicitors from Worcester have been appointed to represent the sanctuary in an effort to prevent Mrs Bernie from going back on her apparent promise and to prevent the destruction of the animals that Janet has tirelessly worked to protect.
“She (Patricia Bernie) has been in touch occasionally but not on a regular basis. She hasn’t ever said anything isn’t a good idea, it was a shock,” added Janet.
“We are just claiming that we have the right to be here. I’d be homeless and on the wrong side of 70 to be homeless. “All my money has gone into looking after this place because we thought that’s what she wanted and we have looked after it as if it was our own.”
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