Jenny Canham visited Hillside Animal Sanctuary to see the amazing work they do, giving all types of animal a place to call home
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon at Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk. There are two sanctuaries in the area, but I visited the Horse Shire Sanctuary as this was the one open to the public on that particular day. Whilst driving up to the entrance, I was immediately surprised by how huge the area was. There was a vast amount of open land, and straight away I could see cows in the distance, visibly happy and enjoying their surroundings. I made my way into the sanctuary to be greeted by several horses; the sanctuary is actually home to over seven hundred horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, with most of the residents saved from the farming industry.
As I continued my journey around the sanctuary grounds, I was pleased to see there was clearly no prejudice in regard to the type of animal offered a home here. The sorts of animals cared for at Hillside ranged from more traditional farm animals – including pigs, cows, chickens and sheep – to the more exotic ones from parrots to llamas!
It seems any animal that needs a home will be given one at Hillside. It was also really comforting to see that the sanctuary is kept to a very high standard, and is constantly cleaned and monitored, with each animal given plenty of space; a strong contrast to the short sad lives they would have had lived on factory farms. A highlight for me was seeing the families of pigs who all seemed so happy to be out in the warm fresh air, cooling themselves off in the mud. I got to meet a pig I had previously adopted, Billy Griffin and read about his journey to Hillside. Billy was rescued in 2009 as a two-month-old Piglet, so it was lovely to see him enjoying life as a full-grown pig.
During my visit, I was lucky enough to meet Wendy Valentine, owner of Hillside, who explained that the other sanctuary was full up with such a number of farm animals, which is why it is only open to the public on rare occasions. She also talked about how buying a horse shire sanctuary had generated a lot of public interest – people primarily want to see the horses but are of course free to walk around and see the other rescued animals too. With its very own vegan café and a wide selection of cruelty-free products available to buy in the gift shop, Wendy has ensured that the sanctuary stays true to the morals that lie at the heart of Hillside. As well as the animal rescues, Hillside also organises investigations and is one of the UK’s most successful campaigning organisations for animal welfare. They recently obtained undercover footage of serious animal abuse at a butcher’s abattoir and this was picked up by numerous national news outlets. They do such valuable work in bringing the brutal realities of the industry to light, trying to make consumers aware of what they’re funding whenever they buy meat and animal products. Wendy explains that the reason so much suffering takes place in the farming industry today is that people are unaware of the cruelty involved, so Hillside aims to inform and educate the public on these matters, in hope of a better future.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Hillside Animal Sanctuary and would definitely recommend it to anyone; there’s a lot to be learned by simply taking the time to walk around, discovering the incredible journey these animals have been on. With an open mind, everybody can learn something from this friendly and unique place. Although the sanctuary is ultimately a very positive place, there’s some sadness in the fact that this is one of a very limited number of places in the country where farm animals are free to enjoy their lives. I left Hillside hoping that more sanctuaries like theirs will open, but also that the desire for meat will drastically decline, so there’s less of a demand placed on these wonderful places.
For more information on Hillside Animal Sanctuary and to sign up to regular updates, please visit: hillside.org.uk
Taken From May 2015 (Issue 5) Vegan Life Magazine