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Vegans and Veganic Agriculture

by Justice Fields
Yellow flowers, Kaikoura Range
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The vegan can no longer filter out his or her awareness of the animals’ suffering, and must either change or go insane, writes international vegan ambassador and caterer, Justice Fields. In the following article, he describes how he and other vegans feel about animal farming and talks about veganic agriculture.

We live in a world gone quite mad. Organic growing systems are an attempt to infuse some sanity into this imbalanced situation. Veganic food systems aim to encourage further innovation.

A vegan is one who chooses a diet and lifestyle free of animal products, and who does not support businesses that exploit animals. No meat, fish, chicken, fowl, eggs, milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, gelatin, honey, whey, wool, silk, leather or other animal derivatives. Think of any aspect of life that uses animals and the vegan is seeking a way to avoid that exploitation. Some do so for health reasons, others due to concerns over the environment, while still others ponder how our inhumanity to animals affects us spiritually and emotionally. There are vegans for social justice reasons and also to equalize global resource allocation.

Organic agriculture was the norm from the beginning of time until World War II, when "The Green Revolution" ushered in the era of chemical fertilizers. Modern organics has been identified as "alternative", something done by "hippies." And yet, our grandparents recognize these concepts as traditional, albeit now with the benefits of scientific research to support them.

Veganic agriculture is a growing body of knowledge and gardening practice which seeks to replace all the animal inputs which currently exist. In compost, the Vegan, who eats no eggs, would add no egg shells. Similarly Veganic gardening avoids the use of blood and bone meal, and manures because of their origins. Veganic gardeners are finding increasing success using no manures.

Northland (New Zealand) organic certifier, Merlin Rees, is experimenting with good success growing crops from only veganic compost. In the United States there are farms which have run for up to 25 years on this system. Will Bonsall of Maine has experimented with leaf and even wood compost and has found that both have sufficient nutrients which are readily accessible. Seaweed added to the compost adds trace minerals and other nutrients too.

In this era of mad cow disease and other pathogens it makes good sense to consider ALL the inputs going into your garden. What is the source of that blood and bone meal? Did it come from diseased animals? And can one be secure that if it did, that the disease is destroyed in the heating process the compost undergoes? Even if the animal was not diseased, what did it consume before its demise? To what else was it exposed?

After all, it is for health reasons that most people turn to organics. It is healthier to consume a diet devoid of pesticides, chemicals, growth hormones, synthetics and other unnatural adulterants. These are more often found in animal products, organic or otherwise, because such substances concentrate in the animals’ fatty tissues.

Vegans have a fraction of the diseases which plague meat-eaters. They avoid the animal fats, proteins and everything to which the animal has been exposed.

Those people who abstain from meat but continue eating eggs and dairy products still experience high rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. There is evidence to suggest, for example, that the sugar in milk products, lactose, contributes to heart disease by weakening the heart muscle. Lactose intolerance is epidemic in indigenous populations and takes a significant toll on all non-Caucasian people whose ancestors were not exposed to it.

The good news is that most conditions are reversible simply by changing one’s diet. A total transformation accompanies a lifestyle change which includes diet, exercise and attitude.

Many people who eat organic do so for more than their own health reasons. Organic enthusiasts tend to be iconoclasts who question authority and societal norms. The vegan is similar. The indictment against modern food production transcends the merely human health issues. It includes the impact on the environment and, to the vegan, includes questions about the overall treatment of animals.

Animal agriculture has a deleterious effect on the environment. Grazing of range land leads to desertification and extinction of indigenous plants, animals, and peoples. Methane gas from animals is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Animal excrement contaminates ground water. Run-off from cow, pig, chicken and sheep faeces eventually reaches the ocean and causes adverse changes in rivers and estuaries. A major cause of deforestation is the ever growing need for more range land. This deforestation alters the oxygen balance in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. All animal products must be refrigerated after slaughter until consumption using fossil fuels and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Commercial fishing is destroying entire marine populations and ecosystems within the ocean, and threatening local human populations. Organic animal agriculture may be less harmful, but it still contributes to these problems.

All animal agriculture accepts as a given that human use of animals is defensible. Perhaps organic producers accept that there is some responsibility to animals to treat them humanely, (witness the free range movement) but there remains the implicit assumption that animals are put here for human use.

The vegan disagrees. A peak inside the abattoir explains why. When people feel fear, they secrete adrenaline, "the fight or flight hormone." Animals do too. A pig or cow which has been hoisted by a hoof sees what fate is about to befall her. She screams and howls at the sight of the approaching blade. Those yet to be caught hear. That adrenaline pulses through their bloodstreams and stays in their flesh. Humans consume that fear when they eat meat. How can we hope to create a non-violent world when every bite of meat is literally violence incarnate?

Neither are dairy products or eggs free from this violence. Battery hens live in a bizarre torture chamber with no room to move. Veal calves are chained by the neck in a crate for the duration of their lives. Imagine if you were a visitor to a foreign country whose culture allowed the rape, enslavement, torture and murder of sentient beings with whom you relate. Vegans inhabit such a place; it’s called Earth. And everywhere the vegan turns, she/he sees suffering.

That suffering is not limited to animals either. Worldwide, a child dies of starvation every thirty seconds. Meanwhile, animals are being fed the majority of grains, EVEN IN COUNTRIES WHERE THERE IS WIDESPREAD HUMAN STARVATION. The diseases of animal consumption are the primary killers and cripplers of humans. And the Earth herself cries out for liberation from the shackles placed on her by humankind.

To be alive requires some degree of "tuning out". One can hardly be aware of all that exists simultaneously. The mind emphasizes the body’s survival needs first and then selectively admits information. Our values become our preferences. Thus, a smoker must ignore the saner signals which tell her to stop. We filter out that which is dissonant. To fail to do so requires changing behavior or risking insanity.

Chief Seattle, responding to the 1854 US Government offer of reservation land for native North Americans, said "We do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves." Organic agriculture is a partial acknowledgement of this truth but it is a limited awareness.

The vegan ventures into spiritual and emotional realms and opens to other beings’ cries for justice. Here we feel the suffering of countless rapes, stolen children, enslavement, forced labor, torture and agonizing slaughter. The vegan can no longer filter out her awareness of the animals’ suffering, and must either change or go insane. Fear and love cannot coexist. The urge to veganism is the desire to live in love, to heal the wounds inflicted on nature by humanity.

For one day or even one meal, experiment with a vegan diet, one free of cruelty. You will feel better and your small gesture will have saved a life. The world can change and you can change it. Just look at the end of your fork; it is there you will see the future, violent or gentle.

Justice Fields, together with his wife, Deer - chef, producer and artist - travels extensively promoting healthy lifestyles focusing on holistic healing, sustainable ecosystems and compassion toward all beings. The Fields are experienced caterers of pure vegetarian, vegan, cuisine for groups of up to 2000 people. The Fields are available for interviews, meetings and seminars on a wide variety of topics including environmental ethics, factory farming, international economics, Vegan culture, Animal Rights Law, among others. Justice Fields was Gentle World, Inc. associate general counsel, member, 1986-1993; editor of "Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet", 1987 "Vegan Nutrition, Pure and Simple",1988 and "Incredibly Delicious: The Vegan Paradigm Cookbook", 2000. He was also Health Fair/Animal Rights Convention Planner at Ft Lauderdale, Florida, 1995, Washington D.C. 1997, 2000-2001 and Byron Bay, Australia, 1998. For more information, e-mail

The following advertisements are not placed by Organic Pathways and are not necessarily organic