How exactly does one make a vegetable farm less carnivorous than it already is? The practice of veganic – or “stock-free” – farming is beginning to take hold among some small-scale farmers in the United States and Canada. It has been a common method in Europe for years.
Veganic farmers practice organic farming by eschewing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but take it a step further by eliminating animal-derived farming products as well. Most organic farmers use bone meal, blood meal and animal waste fertilizer to make their plants productive, but veganic farmers and their customers see a number of problems with using animal biproducts around the plants.
E. Coli and Other Outbreaks
All animal biproducts carry pathogens. E. coli has a healthy presence in the intestines of mammals and birds as a digestive aid, but makes humans sick when ingested orally. Recent E. coli outbreaks have centered on produce like spinach, alfalfa, and tomatoes. While no one knows exactly how the E. coli got into the fields (wild pigs and contaminated water have been suggested), another possibility is the animal biproducts that were used as fertilizers for the plants.
But E. Coli isn’t the only cause of disease outbreak related to livestock pathogens. Salmonella, cyclospora and others have also mysteriously made their way to our produce supply. Veganic farmers believe they can lessen the chance of such outbreaks by avoiding manure and animal by-products to begin with.
Organic Plants, Not So Organic Fertilizer
While there is strict testing of the seeds, plants and soil to achieve organic certification, the animals that supply bone meal, blood meal and manure do not require such testing. They are generally from factory farms, raised on low-grade feed and antibiotics and hormones. There are two issues here: the synthetic compounds from the feed and supplements are present in manure, bending organic standards. But most of all, many farmers do not want to continue supporting the factory farming industry, where animals live and die in inhumane conditions.
This brings us to the ethics of using animal bi-products as growing aids. There is the issue of supporting factory farms, mentioned above, but this can be resolved by sourcing bone meal and manure locally from trusted farmers. More, many vegetable farmers and their customer base eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. They view animal fertilizers as incongruous with their animal-free lifestyles and want to avail another option.
More Vegan Articles:
Image Credit: Chailey under a Creative Commons License