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The Quiet Resilience of Willowbrook Farm

Willowbrook Farm is a fifty-acre plot near Oxford on which the Radwan family grows vegetables and rears chickens, cows and sheep to produce ethical and sustainable Halal meat. Throughout the tumult of the pandemic, this farm’s small-scale model lent it incredible resilience; while much of the UK’s food system was disrupted, Willowbrook, the UK’s first Halal and Tayyib farm (meaning a farm where Muslims can be assured that their meat has been reared according to ethical principles & which has been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic scripture), sustained a steady supply of meat to its customers, thanks to its deep roots in an established local and faith-based network. As they closed the farm’s gates to its usual visitors at the start of the lockdown, the Radwans had time for deep reflection, and a chance to finish ongoing projects, without having to worry about massive income loss.

COVID-19 has raised significant questions about meat production, and Lutfi and Ruby Radwan have added their voices to the chorus of environmental campaigners, scientists and animal welfare advocates arguing that the pandemic is a direct result of industrial-scale meat production.

“Healthy animals can withstand environmental and health stressors; when their bodies and immune systems are functioning well, they are able to fight off a host of viruses and diseases,” Lufti said. It is only when the animal’s health is compromised, as happens in intensive meat production, that these illnesses are able to develop into a more dangerous form.

“The whole issue is actually an environmental issue,”’ he said. “You can’t separate the morals and the ethics, and you can’t keep seeking profit by stripping farming of any connection to sustainability and the land.”…

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