You come across some weird and wonderful characters in this crazy little thing called life. A lot flutter in and out of your existence like butterflies, here one minute gone the next. But every now and then you meet someone who makes an indelible and defining impression on your whole being. Someone to admire. Someone to aspire to. Even someone you are in awe of.
For me, Carole Webb, founder and owner of the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary near Stratford-upon-Avon in England, is one such person. Of all the extraordinary people I have met in my 60 years on planet earth, she is without doubt the most remarkable.
Carole is to abused, neglected and unwanted farm animals what Mother Teresa was to the poor and needy in the squalor of Calcutta’s cluttered streets. She possesses the very same virtues of care, compassion and a lifetime devotion to her chosen cause.
A one-time veterinary nurse, Carole has become a real-life Doctor Dolittle, looking after over 400 animals, mostly sheep, but also goats, turkeys, ducks, chickens, pigs, a 15-strong clowder of feral cats and two rescued dogs. Oh and the hundreds of pigeons who descended on Woolly Park Farm one day and decided to stay. They knew a good thing when they landed on one.
What makes Carole’s story even more soul-stirring is that her life has been touched by intense personal tragedy. Her husband was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver and her disabled daughter, Melanie, died of a heart attack in Carole’s arms aged just 32. Not long after her mother passed away after a brave battle against breast cancer. Such devastation would have crippled most people, but not Carole. She refused to allow such profound heartache to distract her from her true vocation. She dug deep – and her beloved animals helped to ease the pain.
It’s a 24/7 hands-on job of caring, feeding and medicating that would tax the strongest and fittest, but Carole is a petite yet indomitable 71-year-old with a shock of grey hair who lives on site in a rickety old mobile home. Her strength is drawn from her unstinting passion to help animals of all shapes and sizes. She does have several volunteers to help but FARS is Carole’s labour of love and has been for the best part of 30 years. Three-legged sheep, pigs with digestion problems, pigeons with broken wings … FARS is a haven of humanity in this increasingly messed-up world.
Best-selling American author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson visited Carole when he was researching his book The Pig Who Sang To The Moon that was published in 2003. The sanctuary was then sited in Cambridgeshire, and in between times, it briefly moved to Hertfordshire before finally relocating to the rolling hills of Shakespeare country. Masson wrote: “I don’t think I have met anyone to whom sheep are dearer … many of the sheep at her sanctuary had various disabilities such as Remus, a three-legged ram who seems unaware of his disability … Carole Webb knows the name of every sheep she was caring for (at least one hundred) and what I was able to see with my own eyes was that the sheep felt similarly about her.”
Rightly or wrongly, I have always railed against donating to ‘big’ charities, even those that do such sterling work for animals, mainly because I am put off by the indecent salaries that a lot of the CEOs of those charities ‘earn’. FARS is funded entirely by donations and every penny raised is used towards the care and upkeep of the animals. There are no costs for staff or offices. The only creature comforts are those enjoyed by the animals. To help, and find out more about this incredible woman and her amazing work – you can even adopt (sponsor) one of the animals at Woolly Park Farm – go to www.farmanimalrescue.org.uk. If you are an animal lover of any persuasion, I guarantee it will warm your heart.
Volunteer Administrator for Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary