WATCH: Five Times Dairy Farmers Went Vegan


5 Minutes Read

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World Plant Milk Day, which takes place every year on August 22, is fast approaching.

It offers a great opportunity to celebrate all the healthy and delicious plant-based alternatives to milk – and even encourage ourselves or those around us to try a 7-day dairy-free challenge.

This exclusive Plant Based News video looks at some remarkable people who have done a 180 when it comes to dairy – ditching farming and becoming vegan.

1. Jay and Katja Wilde

Jay and Katja Wilde are perhaps the most famous former dairy farmers who are now vegan. Their story of giving their herd of dairy and beef cows to a sanctuary featured in the BAFTA award-winning, heart-wrenching documentary, 73 Cows.

Jay Wilde was born into a farming family in the late 1950s. His father milked around 60 cows at the time, and expected Jay to work on the farm in his free time and during school holidays.

In his late 20s, Jay joined a meditation group to alleviate the stress of 15-hour days. There, he met people who chose to be vegetarians for ethical reasons. This chimed with his own feelings for the animals, and he chose to go vegetarian himself, while still farming.

Eventually, the immense guilt Jay and his wife Katja felt when sending animals to slaughter meant they could no longer be part of the animal agriculture industry, and they made the huge decision to save the lives of their remaining herd of cows.

2. Jess Strathdee

In 2013, Jess Strathdee and her partner lived and worked on a dairy farm in West Canterbury, New Zealand.

Jess was tasked with milking the cows, and said she felt a sense of pride, solidarity, and sisterhood with the animals. She was honored she was privileged to handle such a private area their bodies.

After her first season on the farm, Jess fell pregnant. When recalling this time, she describes hazy memories of standing in the dairy shed weeping with nausea, struggling to take the cups off the cows she was milking, because she felt so weak and dizzy.

Now, Jess puts those moments down to her truly appreciating what those pregnant cows were being put through again. But it wasn’t until her baby was a year and a half old, and Jess had begun her fourth calving season on the farm, that she really woke up to the reality of dairy farming.

Jess knew she had to leave the farm and was even prepared to leave her partner of 16 years, the love of her life and father of their son. Luckily, Jess’s partner agreed he too was broken and so miserable that he couldn’t do another season. Together, they left the farm.

3. Andrea Davis

Andrea Davis is a former slaughter-free dairy farmer and cheesemaker who had a change of heart after recognizing that her work, like all dairy farming, depended on bringing more and more babies into the world.

She went vegan and in 2017 founded Broken Shovels Farm Sanctuary, a home for formerly neglected farm animals.

The farm was turned into a full-time animal sanctuary, and Andrea’s life, possessions, and income all changed so she could become a full-time rescuer.

Between the ex-dairy residents and the many rescues they have taken in, Broken Shovels Farm Sanctuary now has more than 250 animals in its care, and is contacted about dozens more in need every week.

4. Leandra Brusa and Vrs Marti

Leandra Brusa and Urs Marti are transforming their former dairy farm in Kallnach, Switzerland into an animal sanctuary, and are now working towards making plant-based drinks, including oat milk.

Urs Marti is a farmer’s son – and in fact, he comes from a long line of animal farmers. While he was in high school, in 2002, Urs decided to go vegan – and it became clear he would no longer follow his family’s tradition of farming cattle. When he graduated from school, he became a primary school teacher and had little interest in agriculture. His parents were a little surprised in 2014 when he announced he wanted to take over the family farm. But Urs didn’t want to continue to run the 250-year-old farm by breeding animals for food.

In fact, Urs and his wife, Leandra, founded the Tierarche Seeland animal sanctuary for farm animals. The sanctuary, situated on the Marti’s now former dairy farm, aims to allow the animals to live a long life without being exploited by humans.

5. Jan Gerdes and Karin Muck

Hof Butenland is a farmed animal sanctuary in North Germany founded by Jan Gerdes & Karin Mück. 

Jan was a dairy farmer for many years but after a change of heart that included the decision to go vegan, he converted the farm into a sanctuary and vowed to devote the rest of his life to caring for farmed animals and working to end their exploitation.

Speaking about the animals he once used, ate, and routinely sent to slaughter, Jan says: “You talk to a cow as well as to a cat or to a dog. I don’t see any difference. They all have their qualities and they are happy when I talk to them, and they tell me something. It really is a great way of living together.”

Going dairy-free

It’s not just these farmers who are ditching dairy – all around the world people are discovering the joys of ditching milk and opting for plant-based drinks instead.

With the plant-milk industry booming and set to be worth more than $21 billion by 2024, more and more farmers are likely to diversify and embrace more sustainable and cruelty-free farming methods.

If you want to try World Plant Milk Day’s 7-day dairy-free challenge, or you want to nominate friends or family, you can find out more here

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