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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December, 2004, 10:57 GMT
Christmas turkeys - vegan style
Rescued turkeys
Fiona is caring for 38 turkeys which were too ill for slaughter
Getting into the Christmas spirit for most people means frantic shopping trips or escaping to somewhere warm.

For Fiona Oakes Christmas means staying at her home in Asheldham, Essex, caring for her 264 animals, in particular, 38 turkeys rescued from a breeding unit.

"They were sick turkeys who were not well enough to be slaughtered for Christmas dinners," she said.

"They are all now in a stable together on a new bed of straw and lots of food and clean water to drink."

Fiona said it normally took the rescued birds a while to settle down and realise that they are safe.

Saving sick turkeys is just another day in the life of Fiona Oakes, who also finds time to work as a retained fire fighter.

Fiona, 35, has been taking in injured and unwanted animals from just about anywhere over the last 11 years at Tower Hill Stables in Essex.

When I win at local races, people are shocked. They don't expect someone who is vegan to do well
Fiona Oakes, Animal Carer

"I love animals," she said. "My objectives are to give every animal in my care, love and the best possible quality of life I can, and when the time comes, dignity in death."

On top of the 38 turkeys her stable now houses 26 pigs, 21 horses, 50 cats, 10 dogs, and dozens of rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and hampsters - all of which live in relative peace side-by-side.

"I take them when they're at the end of their life - when people don't want them any more," she said.

While her day mainly revolves around the feeding and care of her animals, Fiona also finds time for her other passion - running.

Last month she took fifth place in the Florence Marathon, beating 21 professional athletes.

'Outstanding Vegan'

Fiona also runs to promote veganism, which she has practised for 20 years.

"When I win at local races, people are truly shocked. They don't expect someone who is vegan to do well.

"They think that you're weak and must be pale and unhealthy looking because you're not getting any meat protein."

Sleeping pig
The turkeys have 26 pigs for company in the stablehouse

Her efforts led the Vegan Society recently to award her the Outstanding Vegan Achievement award.

"That was a big honour from them for everything I've done," she said.

Running the animal sanctuary on her own, keeping active in the vegan community and running international marathons makes for tiring living - but Fiona has no qualms.

"I have not had a holiday in eight years. But I know what I'm doing is right. This is what I've always wanted to do, " she said.

"I'm not interested in living my life in small doses. You're not here for very long on this planet, so it's about helping others.

"I don't really care if the price I have to pay is that I'm tired most of the time."

A day in the life of Fiona Oakes
26 Dec 04 |  In Pictures

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