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Animal Exploitation: the Food Dilemma by Peter and Diana White, Vegan Views 89 (Summer 2001)

The foot and mouth epidemic has again brought the animal rearing industry into the spotlight. This, plus the BSE crisis, has led to serious calls for a switch to sustainable non-animal farming.

Farmers are, however, locked into reliance on chemical or animal input and would hardly know how to extricate themselves from this if they wanted to.

This highlights a dilemma faced by most vegans; we don't want to consume animal derived food but we know that cruelty based animal manures and slaughterhouse byproducts are used extensively to grow our groceries - especially if we buy 'organic.' Indeed, vegans have been accused of hypocrisy over this very issue by those who say that animals are essential to the production of food, whether or not we choose to eat them. So are vegans hypocrites? Is there anything we can do as individuals?

Well, yes there is something we can do. Firstly, we can understand (and tell other people) that animal free food growing is not only perfectly possible, it is environmentally essential. All life ultimately depends on plants, and the plants do not have to be wastefully passed through an animal in order to work. Those who say that animals are an essential part of agriculture have been conclusively proved wrong by the commercial growers who use animal free techniques and by government sponsored research into the subject. Animal based agriculture is in fact harming the world's environment. Governments and the public around the world have little or no awareness of these facts. Although of course various governments have at least taken some positive steps, such as the encouragement of farmers to develop woodland industries in certain parts of the U.K.

Then we can think about growing at least a little of our own food ourselves and we can do this using animal free techniques, which are not difficult to master on a small scale. Instead of spreading animal manures and slaughterhouse waste products on the land we can use time-honoured techniques such as composts, green manures and crop rotations, we can also grow perennial crops including trees. Vegan Organic Network and the Movement for Compassionate Living both proffer great help in this respect. These two groups offer their members advice, guidance notes, contacts with other groups and individuals, and regular magazines. In addition, they give a wealth of information about the many things that are happening in the U.K. and worldwide on the animal free food front. Much smaller than the major pressure groups, they do however give a really practical insight into what individuals and groups can do for themselves. The Vegan magazine also regularly runs a full page on the subject of vegan organics.

Whether or not we grow some of our own food at the moment, it is still possible for us to support the organisations that promote animal free growing, and thereby find out what's happening in this fascinating area. Vegan Organic Network is presently working on two major or projects. One is to produce Vegan Organic Standards which will specify a baseline of how food can be grown in accordance with the principles of non-violence. The other is to establish a Demonstration, Education and Research Centre which will be a focal point for expanding animal free food production around the world.

The option of buying animal/cruelty free food is open to very few of us at the moment, unless we live near to one of the small number of vegan organic producers. There are one thousand million reasons for taking the steps mentioned above; this being a conservative estimate of the number of sentient creatures killed just in the U.K. every year to provide food and raw materials.

Contact Vegan Organic Network, Anandavan, 58 High Lane, Chorlton cum Hardy, Manchester, M21 9DZ. 0161 8604869. Email: veganorganic@supanet.com. Website: www.veganorganic.net

Contact Movement for Compassionate Living, Burrow Farm, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon, EX21 5JQ. 01409 231264 (preferably 8am to 9am or 8pm to 9pm). Website: www.MCLveganway.org.uk

Both groups would appreciate an SAE with enquiries, and if you do grow your own, happy harvesting!

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Cross-reference: Growing Fruit & Veg