Most elderly Brits suffer "worse deaths" than slaughtered animals, a sustainability chief has claimed.

Richard Young, 70, said he'd rather be shot twice in an abattoir than suffer a "long, lingering" death in care.

The policy director at Sustainable Food Trust and organic farmer drew the comparison as he defended slaughterhouses from militant animal rights activists.

He told the Daily Star: "Based on my own experiences, with humans and animals, I would say that the vast majority of animals slaughtered in a small, local abattoir, get a better death than the vast majority of people.

"It is effectively instantaneous and with only rare exceptions animals do not know or even fear they are about to be slaughtered.

"Very rarely, a slaughterman might have to have a second shot, but even that for me is better than a long, lingering death in hospital or at home if pain is involved, even where that is eased with morphine etc."

Richard Young

Mr Young, who ploughed his first field aged seven, has been a livestock farmer myself for more than 50 years.

He lives and runs his Cotswolds organic farm, Kite’s Nest, with his sister Rosamund and her partner Gareth.

They have more than 100 cows and up to 500 sheep at the farm which was the setting for Rosamund's popular book, The Secret Life of Cows.

Richard Young at his farm

He said: "I understand why animal rights activists are so against farm animal slaughter.

"We take all animals to the abattoir ourselves and stroke and talk to them before they go in.

"The most important thing for us is to give the animals a good life while they are alive and let them develop their own personalities and make their own friends and feel happy in family groups.

Richard Young with his cows

"Animals left to themselves do not die painless and stress-free deaths, they can suffer dreadfully. Every year or two I have to intervene and shoot an animal on our farm that has broken a leg or had some other mishap. If they were all left to die of old age there would be dreadful suffering.

"They can develop arthritis or cancer or other diseases, just like humans. As such, it is better to intervene and slaughter animals at the most appropriate time. Within reason, the length of their life is far less important than the quality of the life they have while they are alive."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Director Elisa Allen said: "Richard Young is right to say that animals in today's meat industry are treated as 'components, not as individuals'.

Nurse holding hands with elderly patient

"The indefensible habit of eating burgers, nuggets, and bacon means that sentient, intelligent beings are bred by the billions and kept in dark, dirty cages or warehouses, where they're deprived of the opportunity to do anything that would make their lives worth living.

"At the end of all this suffering, they're hauled off to the slaughterhouse – a place we all know reeks of blood and offal and into which they don't go willingly. They're slaughtered and dismembered for a fleeting moment of taste. We can reject this cruelty by choosing healthy vegan food for which no one had to die.

"Whether a slaughterhouse is large or small, the clue is in the name. These animals aren't cuddled to death. They're shackled, electrocuted, or gassed, and their throats are cut open – a gruesome, bloody death by any standard, made all the more reprehensible because we don't need to kill and eat animals.

"There's a great deal of suffering in this world that we're powerless to do anything about, but we can do something about the billions of cows, sheep, pigs, and other farmed animals being exploited and killed for their flesh, fleece, or skin by going vegan."