The 15-minute short film 73 Cows has just scooped the prestigious BAFTA award for best British short film. Already a winner at last year’s inaugural Ottawa International Vegan film festival where it won awards for both Best Overall Film and the Best Lifestyle Film.
The BAFTA is further recognition for what is a wonderful heart-warming short film and the growing popularity and awareness of veganism in society. 73 Cows is a zero-budget film directed by Alex Lockwood an award-winning filmmaker. It follows the journey of Derbyshire organic beef farmer Jay Wilde a vegetarian for over 25 years who after his father died felt obliged to continue the family tradition.
An Amazing Story
The story is told via interviews with Jay and his wife Katja as well as with footage of the farm and of course the cows. In the film Jay talks about how he became friends with the cows realising that they all had their own unique personality.
He discusses the pain of spending time nurturing and creating a bond with them only to feel that he was betraying them when he took them to slaughter in what he describes as a ‘terrifying” experience for them. We see how the couple explored alternative options to maintain the farm in a sustainable way, finally deciding on pursuing vegan organic agriculture.
This decision was made in part after Jay heard about the Vegan Societies Grow Green Report which encourages farmers to move away from animal agriculture towards growing crops for human consumption. We see the couple decide to try to find animal sanctuaries to re home the remaining cattle.
The process of finding sanctuary space for the cows was long and stressful and also meant they would lose out on the over £40k that they could have earned if they had sold the cattle for beef. Eventually the Hillside Animal Sanctuary, in Norfolk, agreed to take the entire herd and we see what a profound and positive effect this had on both Jay and Katja as well as the heard.
This is such a heart-warming story and the good news is that Jay and Katja continue to grow their new farming business and you can follow them on Facebook at Bradley Nook Farm
How The Film Was Made
Filmmaker Alex Lockwood first heard about Jay and Katja and their plans in a national news report and the message immediately struck a chord. He contacted the couple to see if they would allow him to tell their story. Lockwood believes he was very lucky that the Wildes agreed to allow him to tell their story.
He says the Wildes are both incredibly humble people and allowed their story to be told more as a favour than to bring attention to themselves. The making of the film also threw challenges Lockwood’s way. He was completely self-financed with no budget and the really poor weather meant that planned shoots had to be cancelled.
The weather also affected the release date of the cattle with a delay of a couple of months until it was suitable for both the animals and the filming. On top of all the delays on the day of the animals release the truck drivers refused to be filmed due to the stigma attached with taking farm animals to sanctuaries.
Despite the delays Lockwood says one of the most rewarding moments of the whole process was seeing Jay with the cattle in the sanctuary, knowing that they were free because of the tough decisions that he had made.
73 Cows – All With a Personality
One of the many reasons I was so pleased that 73 Cows won this award is, well, I love cows. Having been brought up next to a dairy farm I am well aware that cows are gentle animals who are affectionate, emotional and intelligent. So as a celebration of 73 Cows winning the BAFTA for best short film I thought I would I share with you 7 things about cows that you might not know.
- Cows are clever, yes that’s right, the old saying of big head, big brain is actually true here. It is a myth that cows are stupid and in fact studies have shown that cows are capable of critical thinking to resolve problems. They are also capable of learning by association which means they can use previous experiences to determine future actions.
- Cows are emotional, yes that’s right just like human’s cows have emotions and can be happy, sad even moody or sensitive. You have probably seen pictures of cows when allowed outside for the first time after being couped up for ages, they run and prance and that’s right literally jump for joy.
- Cows form close relationships, I have seen this first hand with a cow from our neighbouring farm and one of our dogs. When they were both outside they were inseparable and would lick each other continually. Cows do actually form particular friendships and have “best friends” studies have shown when they are with their “close friends” their stress levels decrease and vica versa.
- Cows have great memories, yes we know an elephant never forgets but cows also have great memories and are very good at remembering things even after long periods of time. Cows also have an excellent spatial memory enabling them to remember where things are located such as food, water and shelter.
- Cows love their babies, the maternal bond between a cow and her baby is tremendously strong which is why dairy farming is so sad. Cows have very strong maternal bonds and make very attentive and protective mothers. The bond continues after weaning with mother and baby actually remaining close to each other for life.
- Cows grieve, one of the saddest things I have ever seen is a cow running after her baby which is being taken away by a farmer on the back of a tractor. When a baby is taken away the mother will cry, often for days and fall in to depression.
- Cows can live to over 20, yes that’s right outside of the farm environment a cow can live up to the ripe old age of 20. Of course not every cow would do this but it still far exceeds the 18-24 months that cows who are raised for meat get. Or the 4-5years for dairy cattle once their milk production slows or of course the worst of all the calves slaughtered for veal at just a few months old.
So if you want to find out where to watch 73 cows go to their Facebook Page to view the options available. And once you have watched this wonderful little short film, how about taking a visit to one of the animal sanctuaries that rescues cows, just to say hi, you never know it might make their day and yours to.