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About Friend

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FRIEND is a farm animal sanctuary with nearly 200 animals. They find their way here through being unwanted, abused, neglected or abandoned. The sanctuary offers a free roaming (as far as possible and safe) home to chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, goats, sheep and one alpaca who thinks he’s a sheep, on a 10 acre site nestled in between the orchards and hop farms of rural Kent. The 35+ pigs live in their own paddock with wallows. 

We were established in 1994, when its founder Marion bought a disabled lamb at a livestock market. She then decided all animals that came would have a life of peaceful existence for the rest of their days. Today FRIEND Farm Animal Sanctuary is run with a vegan philosophy of education about animal welfare and the need for a world of compassion to all its inhabitants, fauna and flora alike. As well as educating visitors about the animals, we are working to make the sanctuary an example of ecological sustainability, for example planting native trees and growing food as part of a permaculture design.

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Our mission

Our mission is to offer sanctuary to unwanted, neglected and abused animals, while educating about animals, veganism and ecological sustainability. We hope to contribute to a world in which humans and animals can live in a mutually sustained environment through practices like vegan organic permaculture farming systems.

Our vision for the future of Friend

written on our 25th year anniversary by Mark Eaton sanctuary owner/trustee

‘As we celebrate our 25 years with love and fondness, we look forward with excitement to our future. It is with this in mind that i would like to present our new vision statement…..I have been living at FRIEND now for fifteen years, this is both a short and long time in the bigger scheme of things and my plan or vision for the future really does reflect what is happening to our global society in as much as there is now a huge rise in the interest in veganism which means a huge rise in peoples compassion so we now really have to start showing a way we can facilitate this compassion in a sustainable low impact way.

 Firstly i do really believe here at FRIEND we have a real and exciting opportunity to show a way or a model of how we can rescue the abused, unwanted and neglected while placing a unique permaculture design that could be a template for future rescues to copy. I wish to do for if we don’t change and don't change quickly there really is no future though while i could mention the doom and gloom i really want to be solution based.

 In my very honest opinion the best way to save animals is convincing people to go vegan. Also in my very honest opinion one of the best ways to convince people to go vegan is to meet rescue farmed animals. So the most important part of my vision is we will always be an animal rescue. I do wish to have a certain number of animals which is still a fair number but be able to sustain their welfare while keeping the land productive. This really is a very important balancing act that if it goes wrong you really lose almost completely the biodiversity of your immediate environment.  I wish to address the long term land managements issues which has been a problem for very long time by implementing land regeneration solutions by planting and taking large animals off sensitive areas, we will be replanting paddocks especially for the pigs. We will also be growing food for humans and animals to enrich both equally. We will be creating a orchard which in time will be returned to the grazing animals especially sheep.

 Wildlife fauna and flora  have always had a special place in my heart and i really think it is important to have some set aside for a wildlife haven as well as having as many native type trees for the maximum biodiversity possible. We will be encouraging wildlife areas in all zones.

Education really is the second part of my vision and just as important, really i cannot think of anything as exciting as growing food yourself using vegan organic methods then literally picking and cooking on a open fire pit also learning preserving techniques for different seasons. I  hope that in the future we will teach these techniques with workshops here at the rescue.

I also like differing medias to teach and inspire including music and art, this has actually been happening here for a few years now with great success, this i wish to continue for this really allies well to having a community vibe happening which is so important for support as well as education.

This leads into my last point about what defines FRIEND, for me it has always meant sanctuary  . I want this to be a safe haven for all  humans non humans alike. Our core belief is one of anti speciesism and anti oppression. Friend has to be a welcoming place where all can come to heal, revitalise, be educated and inspired. Sanctuary, this is what our legacy has always been in the past, now and future.’

The People

FRIEND Farm Animal Sanctuary is run by Mark Eaton and Mandy Wilkinson

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Mark

Mark has a passion for animal welfare and the future of vegan education, with an emphasis on growing food and planting trees, which will have a positive impact on wildlife. He is very excited about the future of the sanctuary and hopes that you will all support his dedication to carry on the legacy of FRIEND, and make his late wife Marion very proud.

Mandy

Mandy is passionate about promoting change through education. Her background is working with children, teaching organic growing and as a forest school leader and storyteller. She is a mother to a beautiful 13 year old daughter. She loves animals and is interested in vegan, permaculture based design and creating models for a sustainable future.

In loving memory of Marion the founder of Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary

Marion’s Story

Marion was born in New Cross, South London in 1958 and moved to Kent as a very young girl where she spent the remainder of her days. The house she lived in backed onto a beautiful fruit orchard, which in years to come became our sanctuary. 

Marion always loved animals, she wanted to stop consuming animal products from a very early age but her parents who’d lived through the scarcity and rations of war, believed this was a dangerous thing to do, so like many young vegan souls she wasn’t allowed. She finally became vegetarian as a young woman in her mid twenties.

Marion with one of the many sheep at FRIEND

Marion loved animals and began by breeding and riding horses, giving her daughter and the local kids of the village a safe place to ride and play. It was when her daughter had grown that Marion became more aware of the ethics of vegan living and realised that horse breeding was not something she wanted to continue to support.

According to her husband and FRIEND’s current owner Mark, Marion was a very talented and driven person, she would always take on new tasks, master them then move on to something else, for example she decided to learn martial arts and became a black belt in karate and teacher to the village children even today Mark still get’s approached by adults today telling him how Marion had taught them about discipline and control. Marion also became a prolific artist, a singer, a sailor, a vegan chef, a high skilled driver, a self-taught animal medic, and the list goes on…

After a while Marion's love of animals became the focal point of her life, and she turned 100% of her determination and inner strength to advocating and fighting for animal rights. She used to visit a ‘livestock’ market in Sevenoaks to check on the welfare of the animals being bought and sold. It was at this time she found a tiny disabled lamb in a pen who was very unwell and after negotiating with the farmer Marion was able to buy the lamb for a pound, she bought him home and named him Tim. Marion was so enamoured by this tiny baby she invested all her time and energy into looking after him, Tim was the first little resident rescue, and this was the beginning of FRIEND Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Marion was totally amazed at how clever this little boy was, she would invite the neighbours over to show him off, he would recognise his name, recognise her face, come to her when she mentioned food, and follow her everywhere. Marion really believed she had the most intelligent sheep in the world until she rescued a second lamb from the same market and was totally amazed to discover that she now had the second most intelligent sheep in the world, the penny dropped and she realised that of course ALL farmed animals are clever we have just been indoctrinated to think they are not, this was a very powerful realisation for her and motivated her to dedicate the rest of her life to vegan outreach, animal rescue, activism and running an animal sanctuary.

Mark describes Marion as an animal whisperer, he tells the story of when a very young baby bat came to the sanctuary:

‘She was the size of a thumbnail, Marion tried to feed her milk from a syringe but she wouldn’t take it, so after a think Marion asked me to go out side and get a chicken feather which I did. She put a small amount of milk on top of the feather, which ran down to form a tiny globule at the bottom, which the baby could take. To say I was shocked was bit of an understatement but not as much as when Marion then passed me the bat so she could go out to the kitchen, the little bat had a complete sonic hissy fit! She was screaming so loudly I really did not know what to do but the second Marion took the bat back she became calm and quiet again! This really was the essence of Marion, a true Earth mother to the animal kingdom and her capacity to rehabilitate the abused and very young was a joy for me to watch. She always had a menagerie of dogs, cats, pigs, sheep, geese following her around at her feet, baby animals down her top, and I swear I thought if I would upset her a swarm of angry bees would fly from her hair to sting me’

Marion sadly passed away after a long term illness January 11th 2016 but she will never be forgotten for her legacy will be continued by FRIEND Farm Animal Sanctuary, she was buried here and we have a wonderful memorial garden for her which we hope people will visit.