A South Hams farmer who became upset when driving his lambs to an abattoir took a diversion – and drove the flock to an animal sanctuary instead.

Sivalingam Vasanthakumar, 60, was travelling to the slaughterhouse where he was due to make £10,000 from the animals being turned into meat.

But the farmer – known as Kumar – says he was overcome with emotion and had a change of heart on the way.

He said the process had always been a challenge for him and it broke his heart to see the animals cowering in the back of his trailer.

Instead he drove the 200 miles from Cornworthy, near Totnes, to Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, to find them a happy home.

Kumar says he has been a farmer for 47 years after starting on his parent’s dairy farm in Sri Lanka.

But he says the last trip and changed his whole outlook – and he’s now turned vegetarian.

He said: “The main reason was because I didn’t like them being killed.

“It was a very emotional time, I would have to watch all the animals I raised be lined up for slaughter.

“I’ve always taken my animals to slaughter and killed the pork myself, I’m not ignorant to how farming works but it always made me stressed. It would stress the animals out too, they knew their fate.

“They would try to hide in the back of the trailer and wouldn’t want to come out. I would have to push them out, it was very stressful for me and the animals.”

Kumar said there was nothing unique about this batch that helped spare them but it was a decision built over many trips.

He added: “It’s been difficult for me for many years and having always worked on farms this has been in the back of my mind.

“For the last three months I was getting a batch ready to go and I decided I couldn’t do it any more.

“It took me a while to make this decision, there was nothing special about this batch. I just couldn’t do it any more.”

He said the attitude towards animals in the agricultural trade was different in his home country

He continued: “In Sri Lanka my parents ran a dairy farm and all the animals were our pets.

“They provided our livelihood, but they were still pets to us. We knew all of the cattle.

“I used to eat lamb but not any more, I’m a vegetarian now. I’ll still be farming and I’ll grow vegetables.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but the right one.”

Kumar said he would no longer be raising animals for slaughter. He still keeps some cattle, which are free to roam and graze on his land.

Dave Bourne, manager of the animal sanctuary, said it had never received lambs from a farmer before. He said there were only a “handful” of sanctuaries the UK that rehomed rescued farm animals and that the “lucky” lambs would have been worth around £9,000.