Monday, June 20, 2011

Rant: Do Vegans & Manure Mix?

There are numerous types of vegetarians, such as lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarians, and pollo-vegetarians. Many people have heard of these different types of vegetarians, but most people know only of a single term for vegans.  That gives the impression that all vegans follow the exact same philosophy but that is not actually the case. Vegans may have as much diversity as vegetarians, though not as many terms exist to differentiate them.

There appear to be two main types of vegans: dietary vegans and the lifestyle (or ethical) vegans. Dietary vegans generally refrain from eating any type of animal product, though there is still some ambiguity over whether certain foods, such as honey, are acceptable or not. Lifestyle vegans are more hardcore, not only refraining from eating any animal products but also avoiding the use of any animal products at all. But even then, there is some ambiguity as to what is acceptable.

Do vegans and manure mix? The question arose to me whether vegans accepted the use of animal manure in the growth of the produce they eat.  Even many organic farmers still use manure as fertilizer. Besides manure, other animal products may also be used in agriculture. It seems that dietary vegans would not care as much about this issue but lifestyle vegans would likely object to the use of animal manure as fertilizer, as well as the use of other animal products in agriculture.

Vegan-organic methods of agriculture do exist, such as the Vegan-Organic Network, but they are few and most restaurants find it difficult to source from such farms. While I was pondering these issues, I did find The Vegan Vine, which produces vegan wines, and they do not use animal manure, instead using mushroom compost as fertilizer.

I emailed several local "vegan" restaurants to see whether their produce suppliers used animal manure or not. Peace o' Pie and Red Lentil failed to respond to my inquiry. True Bistro stated they were unsure, as their produce comes from large commercial organic vendors. In the future though, they hope to connect with local farms, and gain a better understanding of their agricultural practices. The Pulse Cafe responded that some of their food is probably grown using animal products. They have sought to use a vegan farm, but have been unsuccessful in finding one that can meet their needs.

So where does a lifestyle vegan go out to eat?  Local vegan restaurants do not appear to specify that they will most likely appeal only to dietary vegans. I would have to say that some of the best advice comes from the Boston Vegan Association, where they present a fascinating article on just this dilemma. It becomes more of an individual approach, where each vegan must decide what level of animal product use is appropriate for them.

If you are a lifestyle vegan, where do you eat out in the Boston area? (As my site is probably not a fav with local vegans, I don't expect much response, but I am curious anyways.)


Couves said...

I'm hardly a vegan expert, but aren't some vegans primarily concerned with environmental issues? That is, they only oppose animal husbandry because it's wasteful of resources. I think they would really embrace the use of manure, since it's recycling a byproduct that would often go to waste. Of course, if manure ever becomes popular enough that it's part of the economic incentive for raising animals, I don't know if that would change the thinking here...

Hadley at The Urban Grape said...

Our understanding, as it relates to vegan wine only, is that the grapes cannot be grown in manure. I can't imagine how hard it would be to actually follow this lifestyle perfectly!

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Couves:
Though some might be, others oppose what they consider animal exploitation, and are opposed to any and all uses of animals, including manure. But it varies from vegan to vegan.

Hi Hadley:
Do you know if that is a law or regulation or not? I don't think it applies to foods labeled vegan so would be curious whether vegan wines are different in that respect.

Hadley at The Urban Grape said...

No idea. We sadly carry only one vegan wine, so we aren't as knowledgeable in this area as we could be.

Richard Auffrey said...

Some google checking seems to indicate there is currently no legal definition for "vegan" wine in the U.S. So, a "vegan" wine may or mahy not use animal manure as fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

I am a dietary vegetarian and a foodie!
I think a meat eating lifestyle puts an enormous strain on the environment. I don't care if any animal product is used in farming as long as it is locally sourced.

plantstrongron said...

I think that vegan wine means not using animal products the processing such as using eggshells or fish products to clarify the wine.

Samadhan Agrotech said...

Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post.

samadhan agrotech

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MadTown Hoops said...

Veganism is unnatural, indicative of a loss of roots to the land. An agrarian culture would never have to ask a silly question like is the use of manure ethical. It's patently absurd.

Vegetarianism and its offshoots have only truly taken hold in the western mind in the past few hundred years, for those who care about silly concepts like appropriation the traditions were appropriated by the transcendentalists and other latter movements who took their cues from an imagined form of Indian mysticism. The mystic roots are important, as vegetarians are little more than scattered grouping of fanatical cults, full of self righteousness and the need to proselytize.

The treatment of animals in our industrialized society is a concern, but boycotts are an ineffective way to administer change in this system. Producers don't care about the concerns of people who are not prospective buyers. It is conscientious meat eaters that will drive producers to treat animals with kindness. Vegetarians by and large have an idealized concept of nature that is nothing like the natural world. The natural world is vicious. Domesticated animals evolved with us, we provide their needs and they meet our own in time. It's a wonderful thing that should bring us no shame.

kinsent said...

According to your definition, bipedalism is unnatural, in fact a literal movement away from the land. Humans and human culture evolve, agrarian culture itself is only a few thousand years old. Advances in human technology, along with the development of human culture and greater human awareness of our unique position on this earth - with great power comes great responsibility - raises new possibilities as well as issues in our relationship with our living beings. Respect for nature is common (though not universal) across all cultures, we don't have to act like vicious animals if we don't have to - we can rise above this. Vegetarianism may be new to the West, but it has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years.

Conscientious meat eaters are a tiny segment of the market, whatever is there has risen together with the vegan movement, and been impacted strongly by it. Nobody living in the 21st century has an idealized concept of nature, people are more than ever hyper-aware of environmental issues and a hyper-competitive, market-driven globalism reminds us everyday how vicious life on earth is. The only idealized concept of nature here I see is yours, if you believe domesticated animals are like happy pets whose "needs we provide" in some kind of win-win trade. As for producers, they would certainly care if say 10% of the population bought 'vegan-only' goods and services, a 'new' market demand would exist for suppliers to cater to.

If people out there want to treat all life with compassion, why not let it be? If you think it harms you and your enjoyment of continued exploitation of nature through our brain superiority, then by all means argue back, but with more logic and less ad hominem insults.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this response ;)

oragold said...

How can you say a producer can treat an animal with kindness if in the end they are taking their life? Animals want to live-- just like us.