If you’ve come to the vegan diet by way of compassion more so than the health benefits, here’s a harsh reality check: soil is mostly made up of dead animal parts, and lots of animal shit.
These days, when we talk about the vegan diet, we’re usually focused on the health benefits of eating more plant foods and fewer animal products, rather than the ethical reasons of keeping animals off the plate and elsewhere in our lives. Ask Beyoncé what she eats and she may wax on about her vegan diet while she’s draped in fur. Eating healthier is a noble motivation—after all, what’s more important than our health? But the conversation goes deeper. A lot deeper, actually. The harsh reality of what goes into creating animal foods is something we don’t like discussing much. In fact, it can get pretty ugly—just try asking a meat-eater if they consider themselves a murderer. (Or don’t, if you know what’s good for you. Trust me.)
And the same conversation can be had about how our food is grown and the health implications. Organic farming is on the rise because of consumer concerns over pesticides and herbicides as well as chemical fertilizers. But organic or not, most of our food is grown in soil that’s a by-product of industrial farming. The veganic farming method hopes to change that though.
“Veganic” farming is defined as “vegan organic gardening and farming,” which is a method that aims to minimize animal exploitation.
In short, this means eliminating the use of a number of animal products common in gardening and farming: blood and bone meal (which most often come from slaughterhouses), fish products and lots of animal manure. According to the Veganic website, “Veganic farms use only plant-based fertilizers, together with smart growing techniques such as alternating crops over time to build nutrients in the soil. Veganic is a step beyond organic — a step toward greater purity, greater health benefits and a safer food supply."
If it sounds a little extreme, it is — but not when you compare it to, say, the massive number of animals killed in the U.S. each year for food. In supporting conventional agricultural practices, which do rely on animal products, the vegan consumer is still supporting the murder of billions of animals every year. If there’s a market demand for blood meal — even from organic vegetable farmers — there’s a market for killing animals to get it.
That’s not to suggest we should stop eating fruits and vegetables grown with conventional methods if we’re following a strict vegan diet, but there’s no denying animal products reach far beyond the greasy burger at the drive-thru. The animal processing industry finds (or creates) a sellable use for every part of the animal. (Ever eat Spam? Then you’ve eaten all the once unsellable hog parts...)
“Successful veganic farmers are essentially soil scientists,” the Veganic website claims. “They’ve learned ways to produce abundant harvests by rotating crops and plowing plants back into the soil to restore and build nutrients. Their techniques include complex crop rotations — sometimes planting a different crop each year for a period of five or six years — and even letting the fields lie fallow at times.”
It’s an interesting approach to farming, one that — similar to organic farming — seems to consider the health of the soil as much as what’s growing in it. With the lack of chemicals, farmers have to work more closely with the soil and the crops, something that seems to be of benefit to us all, vegan or otherwise. And as water and other resources become scarcer, we’re going to need to employ smarter farming methods. That means cleaner, healthier soil. Safer soil too, which isn’t always the case when animal products are used, as they can contain contaminants including salmonella and e. coli.
So where can you find “veganic” food? The website lists a few resources, emphasis on "few." While some farmers may be using vegan farming methods, it’s still not all that common. Talk to your local grower about what’s in their soil, and give extra thanks for the animals that made the ultimate sacrifice for your meal. And of course, the best way to ensure clean food is to grow your own.
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