Our work for Animal welfare

Our work with Compassion In World Farming

The Dispensary shop only stocks vegan and vegetarian products. We are committed to working for the ethical and humane treatment of animals and several years ago we started a local support group for Compassion In World Farming, Whitby Compassionate Food, find us here.

Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today, Compassion is the leading farm animal welfare organisation dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the UK, they have offices across Europe, in the US, China and South Africa.

We have worked to support the principles of the humane and respectful treatment of all sentient creatures and in our work with Compassion In World Farming our campaigns have been focused on Compassion’s mission which they outline below:

We believe every farm animal deserves a life worth living, free from cages, confinement, and suffering: free to roam and express their natural behaviours. The welfare and wellbeing of these intelligent, sensitive creatures is at the heart of all we do. 

In addition to causing immense animal suffering, factory farming is also extremely harmful to human and environmental health. So by campaigning to end it, we’re helping to shape a better future for animals, people and the planet.

Compassion in World Farming, 2021

Each year on June 14th we have taken action for Global Ban Live Transport Day, from petitions on the street, to awareness days in our shop, to displaying Martin the calf in our shop window with his message to Ban Live Exports.

Martin the calf

This year we sent this message to our members.

Worldwide, every year, millions of farm animals are forced to endure journeys of hundreds, or even thousands of miles, from countries with animal protection laws to those that have none, where they face terrible abuse.

14 June 2015 marks a live export tragedy where 13,000 sheep lost their lives. These sheep had been loaded onto the Trust1 cargo ship in Romania, initially they were taken to Jordan where it was reported that over 5,000 sheep had died from dehydration, starvation and exhaustion.

The Trust1 eventually set sail again – attempting, unsuccessfully, to dock at numerous ports over the next two weeks. By the 14 June the Trust1 finally docked in Somalia, by this point all 13,000 of the sheep had lost their lives.

Since this tragic event, similar live-exports-related disasters have occurred on almost a yearly basis all over the world. This year we’re also saying “never again” on behalf of the over 2,500 calves killed following the Karim Allah & Elbeik ships’ disaster, after over 2 months trapped at sea, as well as the hundreds of thousands of animals that suffered during the Suez Canal blockage. Both incidents took place in the first few months of 2021. Every year animal activists from around the world come together on 14 June to call for an end to this abhorrent trade. And there’s hope for a better future – just weeks ago New Zealand banned all live exports by sea. Now we need other countries to do the same. Enough is enough – It is time to #BanLiveExports

Years of campaigning have paid off as now the UK will become the first European country to end live exports.

The second Animal Welfare Bill was launched on 8th June as part of the government’s ambition to ‘protect pets, livestock and wild animals’.

On live exports, DEFRA said the practice caused farm animals to experience ‘distress and injury’ due to ‘excessively long journeys during export’.

“We will become the first European country to end this practice,” Defra explained.

“EU rules prevented any changes to these journeys, but the UK government is now free to pursue plans which would see a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening.”

The announcement was the second piece of legislation introduced recently aimed at boosting animal welfare.

It followed the government’s decision to formally recognise animals as sentient in law through the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

Though this has been hugely encouraging, we still have much work to do to ensure that no farm animal suffers here or abroad. It is a big task but if we work together, we can make a big difference.

We are privileged to work with such a dedicated team at Compassion In World Farming. Their many campaigns include:

Banning the caging of farm animals, banning the export of live animals, rethinking fish as sentient creatures, capable of suffering and feeling pain, campaign for honest food labelling, campaign to highlight the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming and more.

Please visit www.ciwf.org.uk for more info on how to help create a better world for farm animals  and if you would like to join us in our local group please contact us at info@thedispensary.org.uk we would love to hear from you.

Our work with Crustacean Compassion

Having grown up and lived in the Whitby area for most of my life, and as someone concerned with animal welfare, the fate of crabs and lobsters has been something that troubled me greatly. One particular evening early in a winter lockdown last year I saw an open – backed van containing crates of live crabs on the street near our shop. I went to get our car hoping to catch the driver and negotiate their release somehow, but on my return the van had gone. It left me with a deep sense of responsibility – that I needed to do something to help these vulnerable creatures who are routinely exposed to cruelty and inhumane slaughtering on a scale that would cause an outcry if it was meted out to a vertebrate. There is overwhelming evidence, supported by the British Veterinary Association that these animals feel pain.  I searched the internet and came across Crustacean Compassion, an award-winning organisation dedicated to the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans, (which include crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish).

Since then we have been working with Crustacean Compassion to bring about a change in the law which would mean crustaceans are protected by Animal Welfare legislation and cannot be, for instance boiled whilst alive and fully conscious.

We had a letter published in our local newspaper The Whitby Gazette early in 2021 and then very recently an article in the same paper, the text of which is below:

It’s time to protect some of our most vulnerable animals

On the 11 May 2021, the government announced a raft of animal welfare reforms, including the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which will ensure animals are recognised as sentient beings that experience feelings. This important piece of legislation could protect animals throughout the UK, post Brexit. 

However, many people are concerned that some of our most vulnerable animals might be omitted from the Bill – decapod crustaceans.  As a coastal town, these animals have a special significance for Whitby.

Decapods, including crabs and lobsters, are now widely regarded in the scientific community as sentient animals, capable of feeling pain. They are protected in the animal welfare legislation of several other countries, but not yet in the UK.

Crustacean Compassion is an award-winning organisation, dedicated to the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans. Many leading experts, professional bodies and animal welfare organisations, including the British Veterinary Association, supported Crustacean Compassion’s campaign to protect decapod crustaceans.

As a result, Defra commissioned an investigation into whether decapods (and cephalopods) are sentient animals, capable of feeling pain. This was completed last year, yet the findings have not yet been publicly released, resulting in a danger that these animals may be excluded from animal welfare legislation, including the Sentience Bill and Animal Welfare Act.

The Sentience Bill could provide the first ever reprieve for the millions of decapods who are boiled alive, or are otherwise killed in brutal ways without any pre-slaughter stunning. An edible crab, boiled alive, may remain conscious for at least three minutes.

Maisie Tomlinson, co-founder and co-Director of Crustacean Compassion said:

“We know that many people in coastal communities such as Whitby now feel that cramming animals into brightly lit and overcrowded tanks, leaving them for hours out in the sun, and sending them to processors who will boil them alive is no longer acceptable, now that their ability to feel pain and suffer is so widely accepted. We urge Defra to release the report into decapod sentience, and encourage the fishing and food industry to work with us to find solutions that put high welfare British shellfish on the map” 

Please write to your MP, requesting that s/he contacts Defra Minister Zac Goldsmith urging him to ensure decapod crustaceans are included in the definition of ‘animal’ in the Sentience Bill and any other relevant legislation.

You can use this link to send an email to your MP.

We have been privileged to support and help Crustacean Compassion which is run by a team of wonderfully dedicated people for whom we have so much respect. In their own words, they explain who they are and what they do:

Crustacean Compassion is an award-winning animal welfare organisation dedicated to the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans. We are a group of animal welfare professionals who are shocked by the inhumane treatment of crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish, particularly in the food industry, given what is now known about their sentience. We founded the organisation when we heard that crabs were being sold alive fully immobilised in shrinkwrap in a UK supermarket; and that the RSPCA were powerless to act as the animals were not covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Now we engage with legislators and policy makers to strengthen and enforce animal welfare law and policy; we work to persuade and enable companies to sell higher welfare products across their shellfish product ranges; and we seek to educate both the public and policy makers on the science of decapod crustacean sentience and on their humane treatment and care.

Our work is grounded in scientific evidence. Furthermore, we do not campaign against the use of decapod crustaceans as food. We welcome good practice in the food industry and merely believe that all sentient creatures deserve humane treatment, determined by the needs of their species. The sentience of any animal can never be 100% conclusively proven, but where doubt still exists alongside strong positive evidence, we believe that the benefit of the doubt should apply and simple measures should be taken to ensure that no animal suffers needlessly for our plates.

Crustacean Compassion, 2021

If you would like to find out more and support the work of Crustacean Compassion please visit crustaceancompassion.org.uk

There are many actions you can take which could have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the lives of millions of crustaceans.

Our other support for animal welfare work

In addition to our work with Compassion In World Farming and Crustacean Compassion we collect money for several animal welfare charities such as

  • Our local Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, which does a brilliant job of caring for wildlife in need. In their own words –
    Providing a rescue, rehabilitation and release service for wild animals in Yorkshire and County Durham. We regularly take injured wild animals we find to Alex and her team at the sanctuary. It’s really wonderful to have such a dedicated charity so close to us.
  • SPANA – in their own words – Established in 1923, SPANA’s goal is simple: to improve the welfare of working animals in the world’s poorest communities. Through three key areas – treatingtraining and teaching – we’re inspiring others to act in the best interests of working animals while also providing practical, professional and sustainable solutions today. We recognise that the fortunes of working animals and people go hand in hand: in the developing world, just one working animal can support an extended family of up to 30 people. SPANA’s work improves the lives of working animals while supporting the communities that depend on them. We rely entirely on our loyal supporters to help us in our huge but vital task.
  • NAVS – National Anti-Vivisection Society – in their own words: The National Anti-Vivisection Society, founded in 1875, is the world’s first body to challenge the use of animals in research and continues to lead the campaign today. NAVS has spearheaded the adoption of advanced, non-animal methods; exposed laboratory animal suffering and breaches of regulations with our undercover investigations; funded non-animal scientific and medical research; educated public and media about the flaws of animal research and provided legislators detailed briefings to support the replacement of animals in research with advanced methods.

We would like to thank all of you who support our work to improve the welfare of animals. There is so much suffering and so much still to change, but together, step by step we can make a huge difference.

We can be a light in the world for all sentient creatures.

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”

The Dalai Lama

Food, Drink, Natural Medicines and Crafts Produced in North Yorkshire

At The Dispensary shop and our sister online shop The Futurehealth Store, we are committed to LOVE – Local, Organic, Vegetarian/Vegan and Ethical wherever possible!

We stock a range of locally sourced products which include:

  • Medicines from the beehive – produced by Beevital in Whitby.
  • Natural skincare products – produced by Sweet Cecily’s in Whitby
  • Local honeys – from various local apiaries including Beezneez at Malton, Little Scout honey from Fryup in the Esk Valley, The Beeshed at Castleton and Will Atkinson at Egton.
  • Locally roasted coffee – produced by Baytown Coffee, near Whitby.
  • Organic vegetables – from Newfields Organic Farm, Fadmoor, near Helmsley.
  • Organic sourdough and yeasted bread from Breaking Bread Bakery – our joint project with Esk Valley Camphill Community, situated in a micro bakery at the rear of our shop on Skinner Street, Whitby.
  • Cards and books by local artists and authors.

Beevital – medicines from the beehive.

Beevital is based in Whitby and is a brand of medicines and supplements, known as apiceuticals, which come from the beehive. Beevital is part of Nature’s Laboratory, where CEO James Fearnley has been researching and making natural medicines for over 30 years. James is also a director of Common Cause which runs The Dispensary Health Shop and Futurehealth Store. James brings a wealth of expertise and experience in regard to bee medicines as he has written two books on the subject of propolis, has been involved in research into propolis with several universities and spoken on the subject at many international conferences.

BeeVital Propolis Products

Propolis is a resinous substance that honeybees produce. They gather resins from trees and plants, then process it through their own bodies into a sticky substance which they use to keep the hive free from infection. Propolis has been found to have therapeutic uses in humans too, having anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, immune-boosting and other beneficial properties. James has also been instrumental in setting up the organisation IPRG (International Propolis Research Group) which has organised international conferences on the subject of propolis, he also sits as the representative for the UK on the ISO committee looking at standards for propolis. Beevital is a world leader in propolis research and uses this expertise to develop natural medicines to aid a range of common health complaints in addition to specific products to support oral health. We are very happy that we are able to offer these products for sale in our health shop in Whitby and through our sister online shop Futurehealth Store. We stock propolis in many different forms tincture, liquid, water soluble, tablets, capsules, throat sprays, cream, lip balm, mouthwash, toothpaste, B-Gel (a ground-breaking gel which sticks to the oral mucosa) and propolis honey. We also stock Beevital pollen which is an amazing natural food containing a range of substances including vitamins, minerals and protein. We stock pollen in granules, capsules and as pollen honey.

Sweet Cecily’s

Sweet Cecily’s is a pioneering natural skincare company which is based in Whitby. It is part of Nature’s Laboratory and produces a range of high quality natural skincare products including hand and face creams, lip balms, toners, body butters, face masks, soothing bath infusions and very popular Make–Your-Own kits for products such as face masks, lip balms and body scrubs. The Sweet Cecily’s team strives to produce products free from harmful additives and all their products are produced in small batches with great care taken to ensure high quality.

Sweet Cecily’s use various kinds of plants and herbs known for their beneficial properties regarding skincare. They also produce a popular soothing skin cream which contains propolis, well-known of its antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects.

Sweet Cecily’s Natural Skincare

As well as being effective skincare products the Sweet Cecily’s range is beautifully packaged and very popular as gifts, especially the fun lip balms (in flavours which include espresso martini, earl grey, gin & tonic, plus many more) and the make your own lip balm kits which have proved a hit as Christmas presents with the young and not so young!

Local Honeys

We are very grateful to the honeybee for producing such health-giving and beautiful honey and sharing some of it with us. We regard the honeybee as an extraordinary and complex being and are indebted to its selfless work of pollination without which our food supply would soon diminish.

We pride ourselves on stocking honeys local to our area surrounding Whitby and the area of the North York Moors.

One of our main suppliers of local honey is the Beezneez Apiary which is situated near Malton, on their own fruit farm and is run by Allan and his family.

Bees

We stock a range of Beezneez honeys, which is always very popular, and includes a runny flower honey, a soft set honey, a moors honey (you can smell the heather fragrance) and a variety of smaller honeys with a twist –  honeys with ginger, whisky, chilli and aniseed.

When available we also stock beautiful local honeys from Julie at Little Scout Honey, Marion at The Bee Shed and Will from Egton. These honeys are available in smaller quantities and are keenly sought after.

Baytown Coffee

We have supported the Baytown Coffee Company since they first came into being in 2013, when we ran our health shop from a smaller premises on Hunter Street in Whitby. It was started by four friends who wanted to provide good quality and ethically produced coffee on the Yorkshire Coast. Although a fairly young company, the people involved have a lot of coffee expertise, being linked with HR Higgins Ltd suppliers of coffee to the Queen. The beans are hand roasted and you can buy them either as beans or ground. The company puts importance on fairness and traceability and that growers are paid above the fair trade minimums, so they work directly with farmers and importers who share their values. They give an example of Coope Tarrazu RL, a Costa Rican cooperative that was established in 1970 by 228 small coffee farms. Now it’s a major contributor to the economic development of the Los Santos region of Tarrazu. Around 10,000 people work with the coop, which looks after the interest of these small producers.

Baytown Coffee believes it has a moral responsibility to make a positive social impact on the communities in which it operates, whether that be the Yorkshire coast or the places it buys its coffee from. At the moment it is working with Dalewood, a charitable trust, which offers support services for adults with learning disabilities in the Whitby area. Baytown coffee is working with Dalewood on its café and communications to increase its appeal and income.

In The Dispensary shop we stock a range of Baytown Coffee in both beans and ground varieties.

The most popular is definitely Boggle Hole, a deep robust coffee, followed by The Bolts, an intense espresso, but closely chased by Albion Street, with ripe cherry tones, Coxswain (a donation is made to the lifeboat charity for every sale), Ness Point (Decaff) and Bay Bank (Organic). The Jingle Blend at Christmas is also seasonally popular with its flavours of spices and nuts and a hint of chocolate orange.

Organic vegetables from Newfields Farm, Fadmoor

Every Tuesday afternoon one of the team drives over to Newfields Organic Farm at Fadmoor and picks up a selection of vegetables that have been grown on the farm. Recently we have had some delicious bunched carrots, beetroot, onions, cabbages and kale. While we are there we also pick up an order from wholesaler Organic North, which includes items we cannot get locally such as lemons, figs, oranges, bananas and other fruit and veg from farther afield. We also pick up organic free range eggs and milk. Our display of organic fruit and vegetables is impressive and we have a steadily growing local following, which we would like to increase!

Organic sourdough and yeasted breads from Breaking Bread Bakery, Whitby

The bakery opened in 2018 and in January 2019 Lukas, Daniel and Ruairidh proudly carried through our first organic sourdough breads for sale in The Dispensary health shop. Baked in our micro bakery at the back of the shop, they were the first produce of Breaking Bread Bakery – a joint project between the Esk Valley Camphill Community* and Common Cause Community Interest Company (which runs The Dispensary shop).

It was an emotional moment. Years of planning, followed by crowd-funding and private donations, converting, equipping and testing had brought us to that special day. The loaves smelled magnificent. I watched our customers reactions as they wandered into the shop. They stopped, took a deep breath and smelled the air, remarked on the beautiful aroma of freshly baked bread and admired the crusty loaves as we described each type in detail. There’s a trio of sourdoughs; Country Seeded, Czech Sourdough (specially from our baker Lukas who hails from the Czech Republic), and Volkornbrot, a dark German rye bread. In addition some prefer our large yeasted Malthouse bread, perfect for toast. We now also offer wholemeal and gluten free loaves on certain days.

Our Bread

I am moved by how fundamental good bread is to nourishing not only our physical bodies, but our souls. Customers share their memories, indeed often smelling and holding the bread in a way reminiscent of childhood, hugging the parcel to themselves like a treasure and commenting that it probably won’t last until they get home. It has been described by some as the staff of life and we see this connection rekindled. Our customers are delighted to share their own experiences of baking. Bread is again personal, we have a relationship with it, we know where it is made and who is making it. We know it is made with love, care and a reverence for the craft and the place that bread holds for us, in our culture, in our psyche, and in our hearts.

At present Breaking Bread bakes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and supplies our not for profit shop, The Dispensary, at 25 Skinner Street, Whitby, Danby Health Shop and the Esk Valley Camphill Community, in addition to Lythe Community shop and The Railway Community Shop. We are in the process of reaching out to other shops and cafes and intend to expand our production, once we have an additional oven. We also hope to open up opportunities for our communities to get more involved with the baking and also, in time, to offer classes and workshops in baking. If you’re interested in ordering bread, finding out more or getting involved, contact us at info@thedispensary.org.uk

All our bread is baked using certified organic flour.

*Esk Valley Camphill Community is a not-for-profit organisation where people of all abilities have chosen to live, work and celebrate life together. The community comprises 19 households in Danby Dale and runs Danby Health Shop, a bio-dynamic garden and a craft room.

Cards and books by local artists and authors

We are very pleased to be able to showcase some of the area’s local talent in the form of cards by local artists and books by local authors.

We stock beautiful Anne Ward cards which are a variety of hand-painted and printed cards depicting scenes from the coast and Esk Valley. Anne very recently moved away from Whitby, but she lived in the area for many years and her cards are so popular and expressive of the local landscapes that we wanted to continue stocking them.

We also stock cards and books by local artist and author Maria Silmon. Maria works in the mediums of photography and montage, creating images inspired by the natural world. Her overriding passion and inspiration is an observance of the life force and energy inherent in all things.  Her curiosity leads her to explore the paths of energy within the earth, to the awe-inspiring formation of rock, and flower, water and  air – as well as the energy field of the human being. She explains ”I find my inspiration from walks in nature, in forests, on cliff tops looking out to sea, sitting under the stars and under moons, and ambling through areas of wilderness and  flowers.” All of Maria’s work is produced with earth-conscious means, and carry earth, people and animal-friendly credentials.

We also stock popular Whitby Celtic themed cards by Anthony Hodgson who is originally from the local area.

We stock a small selection of books by local authors, including writers Elizabeth Cheyne whose work includes the history of theatre in Whitby and Alastair Laurence, a local historian who has written books on local villages including Egton and Danby.

Finally, we are always open to stocking new local products that are in keeping with our ethos, such as keyrings, from our youngest supplier, Edmund, who handmakes these very useful items and is also a keen bird-watcher!

Our Shop in Whitby

Like all good stories, the story of The Dispensary and Futurehealth Store has seen some highs, some lows and major challenges but the thread running through our story has been one of perseverance, the warmth of humanity when it’s at its best and some wonderful moments that have delighted us and reinforced our belief in what we’re doing.

Common Cause Community Interest Company, which is not for profit, runs The Dispensary. The Dispensary is a community health initiative in Whitby North Yorkshire, which includes a health shop, community library, jointly run community bakery and hub for supporting local and national initiatives as well as hosting local events. The Futurehealth Store is our online shop linked to the physical shop and runs with the same ethics. The Dispensary was the impulse of James Fearnley, who believes that we cannot be truly healthy unless we are healthy in all realms of our lives, in the realms of the social, cultural, physical and economical. James is an anthroposophist. Anthroposophy is a way of researching and inquiring rather than a fixed set of ideas. Integral to understanding anthroposophy are the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, who explained that there is a fundamental social law and that any arrangement in a community that is contrary to this law will inevitably produce distress and want:

“The well-being of a community of people working together will be the greater, the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of his work; that is, the more of these proceeds he makes over to his fellow-workers, and the more his own needs are satisfied, not as the result of his own work but as the result of the work done by others”

Rudolf Steiner

I am Lucy, James‘s partner and together we began The Dispensary shop back in 2012 in a very small premises on a side street in Whitby called Hunter Street.

For us, the impulse propelling the idea forward was very important, that is, to try to balance out the way we live and look after ourselves, each other, our environment and other sentient beings. We were not setting out to put economic viability at the forefront of what we did. We set out to try and help people to take back responsibility for their own health and to see that although at present money is a significant factor in most of our lives, it has become the most important and weighty issue for many, to the detriment of relationships, spiritual happiness and for many, physical health.

I must admit, there was some scepticism amongst the circles of people we know as to the viability of such a project. Many could not understand it, as it sat outside the parameters of a usual “business” where we would spend inordinate amounts of time on community projects and relationship building rather than focusing on things that would help us to be sustainable financially. We were lucky initially to be awarded some grant funding which allowed us to offer some paid positions for a period of time, however, after this we put our own money in many times to keep the project going.

We both believe that if you are truly doing the right thing, from your heart, then it doesn’t matter whether you see success in conventional terms. We believe that if an impulse is truly meant to be, then to start it is the important thing and its fruition may come next week, next year, or not even in our own lifetimes, but the important thing is to begin.

As Goethe said:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

And so, we started The Dispensary shop at 6 Hunter Street, Whitby, in a tiny ground floor room, with a community library on the first floor and an office on the top floor. At first we stocked a very small range of products, such as essential and carrier oils, natural supplements and medicines from the beehive such as propolis and pollen products, in addition to honey. One of our major impulses was to try and help people take back responsibility for their own health. We developed information sheets on various natural products and remedies and encouraged visitors to the shop to consult our extensive range of books in the community library in addition to searching for information online if they wished.

In our time it is a challenge to listen to our own bodies and intuition, we have become separated from the deep instinctive knowledge that we have and very often look to others for the answers. Of course, there is a time and place to seek further help, but many times we have the resolution to our ailments within ourselves if we can recognise this and act accordingly.

We offered people a chance to join our community for free, to receive a 5% dividend on anything they bought and receive mail outs from us about events and activities we were organising or initiatives we felt they may be interested in. We were instrumental in developing the community organisation We Are Whitby and were integral to planning and putting on Whitby Winterfest, a celebration of community at Christmas, with stalls, activities, performances and much more. We also facilitated regular health related initiatives such as meditation sessions, movement therapy and Biomusica sessions.

On 8th December 2012 David Bellamy, now sadly passed away, launched The Dispensary at a community event in The Coliseum venue in Whitby. We arranged for local practitioners to give ten-minute talks in different realms of promoting whole health, such as counselling, reflexology, bee medicines, medical herbalism in addition to poetry, crafts, movement therapy and many more. These talks can be found on The Dispensary website under the sections physical, social, economic and cultural. We sold good food and health products and let people know about our Dispensary initiative. The day was a great success, where we met many local and not so local people and chatted about our and their ideas concerning health, what it means and where we are headed.

Through James’s link with Botton Village, a local Camphill community, we gradually branched out into providing products from this community. Camphill communities are based on anthroposophical ideas where disabled and non-disabled people live, work and celebrate life together.  Botton Village produced bread, cheese, jams and crafts, all hand -made by the community and we offered these as part of our range of products in the shop. It also gave us the opportunity to tell customers about the Camphill Community and a different way of living together.

We soon became involved in a struggle to support Botton Village and James was integral to a group “Action for Botton” which sought to help the village defend its way of life where disabled and non disabled community members lived and worked together. The battle was high profile and went to the High Court. There is not sufficient space in this article to explain the David and Goliath struggle which took place. The cost was high, not only financially but also physically and emotionally for many people. If you’re interested in finding out more please visit Action For Botton.

The result was that the Botton Village community split in two and a new Camphill Community, The Esk Valley Camphill Community emerged who live and work, disabled and non-disabled people together under the auspices of a Shared Lives Scheme, whilst the other half live supported by care workers.

We focused on our links with the new Esk Valley Camphill Community, whose ethos we shared and began to wonder if it would be possible to open a community bakery as a joint project between ourselves and the Esk Valley Camphill Community. In 2016 a larger shop on Skinner Street, a busier street nearby, became available and we were fortunate to be able to move there. It was quite a leap of faith, as we had and continue to have some valuable and very much appreciated help at times, but no permanent addition to our team of two.

The move made our shop and community library much more accessible, as it was in a larger space on ground level. The premises at number 25 Skinner Street had been the photographic studio of the famous Victorian photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe and we felt it was a special space imbued with a great deal of history. In our larger space we were able to offer a more varied range and branched out into chilled and frozen products, some children’s clothing and expanded our wholefood, natural skincare, supplement and remedy range. LOVE became our byword – Local Organic Vegan or Vegetarian and Ethical wherever possible.

We settled into our new place and welcomed members of the community in, people helped in different ways and became part of our community, one person came every day and registered all our community library books online so that anyone can look on our Dispensary website and search to see if we have a book available and if they are a member they can borrow it free of charge (this has been put on hold temporarily during the pandemic but we will get back to lending books again soon). We very much appreciated the community of people that grew up and shared in our initiative. We made soup every lunchtime and invited anyone who was around and wanted to, to join us for soup and bread, We had some very nice and warm times around a big table during those lunch breaks at the shop.

The flat at the back of the shop became available to rent and we took on the tenancy, with a view that our idea of a community bakery with the Esk Valley Camphill Community could come to fruition. After much planning, meetings, fundraising and alteration work, we were ready, and opened late 2018. Breaking Bread Bakery was born. I remember the first days of the bakery, when the bakers brought out the first loaves, still warm from the oven and the customers picked up the loaves and in holding them, were really transported by such a simple but pure delight of handmade, warm bread. It brought home to me the true meaning of bread as the staff of life and for me it was a moving and spiritual experience.

We arranged the shop space so that we could move everything to the sides very easily and put chairs out for evening events and in this way we hosted events which included meditation courses, musical celebrations, talks by Lama Lhakpa Yeshe who is a Tibetan Buddhist monk, talks on nutritional health, courses on raw food and fermentation, vegan food tasting days and more. We’ve also supported local causes such as raising awareness and funds for a local child desperately in need of a stem cell donor.

We were also able to focus on our passion for animal welfare and founded the local Whitby support group for Compassion in World Farming, Whitby Compassionate Food. We hosted information days and petitions and took information and fund-raising stalls to local events raising awareness of the vital work that Compassion in World Farming does to end live export of animals and end the factory farming of animals. We use our prominent place on a busy street to get the message out there and mail out on these issues to our members. We have also recently become involved in working with Crustacean Compassion, an award wining organisation which campaigns for the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans, which include animals such as crabs and lobsters, and have been raising awareness of the suffering of these creatures and campaigning for their inclusion in animal welfare legislation which would offer them the protection they deserve.

When the pandemic struck, we were one of the few shops in Whitby classed as essential, as we sold food and health products and so with the help of wonderful volunteers, we stayed open throughout the entire pandemic, through every lock-down. It was through these times that we truly saw the benefit of what had grown through The Dispensary – a community initiative, there in times of need. People could come in and see a friendly human face in a world that had become frightening and isolating. Many had tears and felt reassured of our shop as a sign of stability and contact in a world that had turned on its head. Our bakers kept on baking, our volunteers kept on delivering to those who couldn’t get to the shop, and we witnessed at first hand a realisation of what matters, real community, kindness, not just to each other, but to our environment and every sentient being. As restrictions gradually ease, we hope that the realisations we first witnessed will not be lost in the rush to get “back to normal”, that we will perceive the harm we do to animals and nature and take greater care. We also hope that we will remember now, more than ever, that we have an innate wisdom regarding our own health, that we will ask questions, and once we know the answers, we will take back responsibility for our own health.