grass on the other side…
The future’s bright, the future’s
green with the growing popularity of vegan organic farming
Food scares, health concerns, pesticide problems, environmental
worries and animal welfare issues have brought farming methods
into the spotlight. Most farmers are dependent on chemicals and
animal by-products – and even those specialising in organic
farming use animal manures and slaughterhouse by-products. This
presents a difficult dilemma for vegans who refuse animal-derived
food yet are still linked to the meat industry by their seemingly
innocent groceries. However, despite popular beliefs, animals aren’t
necessary to agriculture.
The number of farmed animals in the world has quadrupled in the
last 50 years, and food production no longer nurtures the land.
Both animals and soil are pushed to their limits to satisfy the
West’s demand for animal products and profits. At present
modern agriculture is far from sustainable and the meat industry
directly contributes to all the major environmental catastrophes:
- Rainforests are still being chopped down at an alarming
rate either for grazing or to grow crops to feed to animals.
(mostly grown for animal feed) are doused in pesticides and fertilisers
that leach into waterways and cause massive pollution.
- The increased number of animals means more manure, which contributes
to acid rain and river and lake pollution – rendering drinking
Soil is pushed beyond its fertility limits, is
not replenished or fallowed and becomes prone to erosion.
are being destroyed by over-fishing, which is devastating entire
marine ecosystems, while coastal fish farms are causing
extensive pollution and wildlife decline.
- Growing feed for livestock requires intense use of synthetic
fertilisers and thus causes the release of nitrous oxide into
Producing feed and heating buildings that house animals uses
fossil fuels, emitting CO2. And the decomposition of liquid manure
large amounts of methane as well as forming nitrous oxide – all
of which are contributing significantly to global warming.
- Millions of consumers in the West are dying from diseases
such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer, caused by
animal products, while the world’s poor are dying from
diseases of poverty. Children in the developing world starve
next to fields
of fodder destined for export as animal feed, to support the
rich, meat-hungry cultures. Livestock farming is generally inefficient:
an area of land the size of five football pitches will grow enough
meat to feed two people; or maize to feed 10; or grain to feed
24; or soya to feed 61. If everyone in the world ate the typical
US meat-centred diet (where 35% of calories come from animal
the world could support only 2.5 billion people. On a vegetarian
diet all 6 billion of us could be fed healthily. The world can
feed less than half its present population on a meat-based diet.
In order to feed the world it is imperative that vegan organic
farming becomes widespread.
But it’s not all bad news!
Recent years has seen a growth in awareness and popularity of
vegan organic farming. Vegan-organics is any system of cultivation
that avoids artificial chemicals and sprays, GMOs, livestock manures
and animal remains from slaughterhouses or fish processing etc.
Fertility is maintained by vegetable composts, green manures, crop
rotation, mulches, and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically
viable and not dependent upon animal exploitation. This ensures
long-term fertility, and wholesome food for our and future generations.
Organic growing involves treating the soil, the growing environment,
and the world environment as a resource to be husbanded for future
generations, rather than exploited in the short term. The maxim
of vegan organic growing is to feed the soil and the soil will
feed the plants.
Instead of scattering animal manures and slaughterhouse waste
products on the land the above time-honoured techniques can be
used to grow over 60 different vegetables in the UK climate. Perennial
crops including perennial vegetables like artichokes and asparagus,
perennial soft fruit like strawberries, raspberries and currants
and tree crops like apples, cherries and nuts can also be grown
The vegan organic system finally rejects the long-standing reliance
on animal products. It offers a different quality of food that
stands apart from the industrially produced, money-led foodstuffs
available now. Even small scale ‘grow your own’ farming
can help promote awareness of self-sufficiency and give something
back to nature – whether it’s a multi-functional allotment,
a small vegetable patch in your back garden or just a window box
containing a few herbs! It’s easier than you think!
A vision for the future
“If it was up to you there’d be no animals in the
fields anymore!” Vegans often hear this ignorant argument
from meat-eaters who like to see their food as well as eat it.
True, farmed animals are bred for people to eat and as the demand
for meat falls, less animals will be bred. But instead of being
the end of the countryside as we know it, like many imagine, in
fact a huge toll of suffering would be eliminated and wildlife
allowed to recover from the pressures of the animal industry.
The vast majority of farmed animals are kept in indoor units where
they never see the light of day. Those that are outside are only
kept alive for a fraction of their natural lifespans before being
slaughtered for meat – often in the most barbaric manner
Modern farmed animals have been bred and mutated over generations
to produce as much meat as possible, and have become a far cry
from their wild ancestors. For example birds are often so obese
they can barely walk and suffer from crippling leg disorders. Dairy
cows are bred to produce so much milk that their udders can become
painfully swollen and infected. Sheep have been genetically manipulated
to give birth earlier in the year, and as a result each year 20
per cent of new born lambs die within days of birth from sickness,
exposure, malnutrition and disease.
If people ate crops directly we would need far less land for food
production. In the UK, birds, butterflies and wild flowers would
even start to appear. And around the world the ancestors of today’s
farm animals could begin to thrive, as they would once again have
space. For example:
- Wild turkeys live in North and Central America. They
roost in trees and roam in woodlands, eating vegetation and insects.
An adult bird can fly up to 50mph.
- Chickens are decended from
the red jungle fowl (gallus gallus) in Asia. Wild hens like to
move around almost ceaselessly in
daylight hours. Also they lay only 20 eggs a year and need a safe, private
place for laying.
- It is believed cattle originally descended
from the wild auroch, of Eurasia and North Africa, a species
that did not become extinct
until the 17th century. Banteng are a shy species of wild South
East Asian cattle found in hill forests.
- The European Wild Boar is the ancestor of the farmed pig.
They live in forested areas, eating a wide variety of plants
small animals and insects. They lived wild in Britain’s
woodlands until hunted to extinction in the 17th century. They
be found in countries such as Germany and France.
- Most wild sheep
and goats live in mountains but some inhabit desert grasslands,
tropical forests or Arctic tundra. Habitat loss,
hunting and resource competition from farmed animals have resulted in most
species being classed by the IUCN (World Conservation Union)
as threatened, endangered or critical.
Going veggie is a big step, going vegan is huge, and going
vegan organic is even larger than that. Although the option
cruelty free food is available to very few of us at the moment,
the ethos of animal free farming is spreading. And, due to
the number of support groups setting up, anyone who wants to
it themselves will not be alone.
Support Viva! and help us spread the vegan word. Click here to
Another organisation that helps is the Vegan Organic Network: “Our
commitment is to peace and justice for people, animals and the
environment in a sustainable balance. To achieve this we must change
our lifestyles and introduce a philosophy which will continue to
maintain our unique planet. VON attempts to come to grips with
politics and ethics in everyday living.”
They provide practical advice on how to start growing your own
food, details of the issues surrounding vegan organic farming and
links to other useful groups. Have a look at their website…
For more information on the issues raised above see Viva!’s
Planet on a Plate and Feed
the World guides. Also read The