Veganic Ag

» December 1st, 2012

Let us be clear: Truly sustainable agriculture and food production is dependent on animals, not only for the nourishment of their meat and milk, but also for the fertility of their manure, essential to the production of the fruits, vegetables, and cereal crops upon which all of us depend.

–Andrea Stannard, director of Rural Vermont Board of Directors, writing in The Rutland Herald, November 21, 2012.


Let us be clear: Andrea Stannard is wrong. However, in a move that I’m coming to realize is endemic to the lexicon of Agrispeak, supporters of an animal exploitation-based approach to growing food will say something so often, and with such conviction, that it somehow starts to have a ring of truth. It’s a trick, really. You take an idea that’s wide open for fruitful interpretation—”truly sustainable” in Stannard’s case—and you affix it with a technical definition—”dependent on animals” for example—and the concept is quietly removed from the table, fixed, and put in the service of an interest group. Typically this interest group will assume the position of a do-gooder reformer when all it has really done is stolen language to manufacture consent in its own sordid little power game.

In any case, proof that Stannard is wrong is all around her. If she doesn’t care to look, I hope those who think what she says about animals and sustainability is true will.


Unexpected Farm

Sunday 1 June 2008
Farmers Bill and Linda have 65 acres of land in Watkin’s Glen, New York. Most of the land is uncultivated, leaving natural spaces and habitats for wildlife. They farm about 3 acres of the land, and have used veganic practices since they began farming in 2001. On a separate part of their holding (…)

Hesperides Organica

Tuesday 9 March 2010
Hesperides Organica is located in the town of Warwick, New York, about 1 ½ hours northwest of New York City, and is run by farmer Lisa. The farm is located in the Black Dirt region of Orange County, an area with extremely fertile soil. The black dirt is left over from an ancient glacial (…)

Huguenot Street Farm

Wednesday 7 May 2008
Farmers Ron and Kathryn have a model veganic farm on 77 acres in New Paltz, New York. Growing over 125 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, including heirloom varieties, Huguenot Street Farm runs a 21-week CSA for 200 families in the region. CSA members can also take advantage of a (…)





47 Responses to Veganic Ag

  1. John T. Maher says:

    Stannard may be partially correct in terms of perpetuating but not sustaining current Ag models and certainly non-Ag ecosystems contain an animal-plant dynamic to reach a sort of equilibrium (not with meat production) — and, in a weird refuting of the Second Law of Thermodynaics she does not address material and energy subtraction and the addition of the externalities necessary in order to produce meat — but she is wildly irresponsible in her assumptions and scholarship to claim that any overall sustainablity is dependent upon animals as instruments and food. Her is simply wishful thinking on her part to enable a faltering and ever more costly in terms of energy and pollution consumption.

    Scold alert: The problem with the internet and Vermont it seems is no one bothers to check their assumptions and do their readings prior to making absurd pronouncements of fact and disseminating them on the internet. There they remain and are cited as absolutes or truths until JMAC or someone else with insight and energy comes along to question and debunk such stupidity. What is really crazy is that University of Vermont has among the best Animal Law and Environmental Law programs in the world. What UV needs now is a Science Studies Department so that people like Andrea Stannard, director of Rural Vermont Board of Directors, will not make statements subject to ridicule that would not be tolerated by second year undergrads. Clearly the new myths of subjugation of animals are as powerful as the old religious ones in forming the cultural assumptions of humans

  2. John T. Maher says:

    typo: “Thermodynamics”

  3. carolyn z says:

    Thanks, James. There so much that needs to be said about this and in fact I think it’s going to have to be central to discussion about veganism in the future. As vegans we need to educate ourselves on this. I recommend two books for starters: “Veganic Agriculture” by O’Brien and “Growing Green” by Hall and Tollhurst. People are insane and also extremely privileged if they think that farmed animals are integral to agriculture. Visit any “third world” country and you’ll see plenty of folks practicing veganic agriculture by default, simply by virtue of the fact that they are too poor to afford farmed animals. It has always existed, and always will…. and in the “first world” it will *have* to exist in the future because the planet is literally too small to keep going the way we are.

  4. this is just excellent, James! what would us AR activists do without you!! THANK YOU!

  5. Ellen K says:

    Thank you as always! I just forwarded this to my beloved local organic veggie farm to ask if they’re using animal manure/products on their fields, and if so, could they reconsider, if for no other reason than avoiding the problems of manure with residual drugs, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, dioxins, etc etc faced by, say, Lundberg with arsenic from chicken manure/litter in their brown rice fields.

    Thoughts on how to keep spreading the word to other (organic) veg farms?

  6. Adam says:

    all of these farms could add fowl and improve their agricultural methods and their sustainability without extra land or much (initial infrastructure) in additional inputs. I understand why they chose not to, but that choice makes them less sustainable.

  7. Melissa says:

    Even in Arizona, where the soil is not so great, veganic farming works:

    Adam, could you explain why not having chickens makes them less sustainable?

    • Sailesh Rao says:

      We have been members of Sunizona Family Farms Farmbox program this year and it has been truly outstanding. Therefore, Andrea Stannard is just dead wrong. There are better ways to compost biomass than by feeding it to cows and then waiting with cupped palms at their rear ends.

      It is time to free farm animals from their nightmarish servitude to humans.

  8. Jennifer says:

    My awareness of veganic farming practices came later, after we signed up with a CSA that had a dairy. I had been vegan for a few months at that point and was still learning about how far animal exploitation’s tendrils reached into every nook and cranny of our lives. I thought tbat I could buy a produce share without supporting or contributing to the suffering of the cows on their dairy farm. But, I slowly became aware of the farm manager’s intention to incorporate all aspects of their farming. When I saw a sign that read, “Meat for sale” at the CSA sign-in sheet I asked them about it. They were selling spent dairy cows to their produce CSA customers and they intend to acquire pigs and broiler hens for slaughter next year. I told them that how upsetting this was to me and asked their reasons for expanding into more animal agriculture. No response.

    A month ago I sent them another email after our last CSA pickup asking them to consider veganic farming and provided very good examples just as James has and received an email back a few days ago.

    In essence, they are reluctant to do so and have their own vision for their farm, which is “biodynamic”. They want all of their farming efforts to work directly together and they redirected me to this website to learn more.

    The problem that I have is this: We want to cause the least amount of suffering. For people who cannot grow their own veganic garden, which is worse, the devil you know (our CSA) or the devil you do not know (organic produce at the grocery store or the farmer’s market)?

  9. Greg Litus says:

    Please add Animal Place Sanctuary in Grass Valley, CA to that list. We started a veganic farm on the 600 acre sanctuary last year and it was a great success. This year we will increase the size to nearly 3 acres in cultivation and will pursue stockfree organic certification. It makes no sense to argue about sustainability with people who have exploited that word to the point of absurdity. At Animal Place we are trying to grow healthy food in the most ecologically and energetically efficient way possible. By definition that is best achieved with veganic or stock-free practices and our farm model will continue to improve as we better understand the cycling of plant and mineral based amendments. After our fruits and vegetables are grown we do our best to sell that food with the smallest carbon footprint that our current social and financial systems will allow. The only reason to add animals to a system like ours is larger profits.

  10. Mountain says:

    “The farmers encourage biodiversity on their holding, and provide habitats for birds, snakes, beneficial insects, toads, and frogs, which naturally regulate the competing insects.”

    By their own description, veganic farms depend on animals for pest control & soil fertility. How is this any different from the chickens free-ranging around our farm, providing pest control & soil fertility?

    • carolyn z says:

      Come on, Mountain. You know it’s different and you know exactly what everybody is advocating here– we’re talking about not unnecessarily breeding and using *domesticated farmed animals* like chickens and cows. If you’ve actually read any literature about veganic farming practices, you would know that nowhere, in any way, does anybody ever deny that insects, wild birds, etc. contribute to agriculture by default.

      • Mountain says:

        “Truly sustainable agriculture and food production is dependent on animals.”

        That’s from the very first sentence of this post, James quoting Andrea Stannard. He then says she’s wrong, citing veganic farms as examples of sustainable agriculture that is not dependent on animals. But he’s wrong, because these farms are dependent on animals, just not the species typically referred to as “farm animals.” I’m not saying veganic agriculture is making false claims, just that it doesn’t support James’ attempt to disprove Stannard’s statement.

    • Phil says:

      That description of biodiversity means that wildlife, that naturally occurs without the need of humans to put them there, is encouraged by veganic farmers. Domesticated chickens do not occur naturally, and only exist today because of hundreds of years of being exploited and bred by humans for their own selfish purposes. Veganic ag discourages the use of DOMESTICATED animals on their farms. Wild animals can come and go as they wish freely, domesticated animals are put there by humans, and can mostly only survive with the help of humans, so they are not completely free, no matter how much you “free-range” them. Either you are trolling people by using word games, or your skull is just very thick, and neither are appreciated.

      • Mountain says:

        Wow, Phil. Late to the party, and all you bring are insults and name-calling. And the same name-calling and insults that Miriam directed my way days ago. So I guess that makes you late, rude, and unoriginal. Congratulations, Phil– you’re giving vegans a bad name.

        A few corrections. Domesticated chickens did, in fact, occur naturally, evolving in the jungles of what is now India. And they occur naturally to this day, since colonies of feral chickens exist all around the world. And, as the existence of feral chickens demonstrates, they can in fact survive without the help of humans.

        You are right, of course, that they are not completely free– no creature is. But the chickens on our farm are freer than you are, they eat a more natural and diversified diet than you do, they move around more and have a more interesting life than you do.

        So, before you accuse me of trolling, before you measure my skull for thickness, consider your own life and it’s clear inferiority to that of a chicken. Consider the human.

  11. Miriam says:

    Mountain, do you truly see no difference between forcefully breeding and imprisoning animals to do a job (on the one hand) and working in conjunction with animals who are living in already-existing habitats (on the other)? Truly? No difference whatsoever?

    Well, I see a big difference. Not because I’m a brain surgeon, but because it’s obvious.

    Folks, these are the sorts of word games and other tricks that those in favor of animal exploitation love to use to make it seem as if there are two reasonable sides to this story. Luckily, it’s not hard for anyone with a truly open mind to see through such tricks, as the heavy weight of evidence shows that veganic agriculture is the way to go in the future, for EVERYONE’S sake.

    • Mountain says:

      Miriam, the chickens on our farm are neither forcefully bred nor imprisoned. But don’t let the facts get in your way.

      We provide resource-rich habitat for chickens who gather all their own food & move about as they see fit throughout the day. This habitat also attracts wild birds, squirrels, beneficial insects, toads, and frogs. I hope it doesn’t attract snakes, but it probably does.

      This is no word game or trick. The point is that the distinction that matters isn’t animal/not-animal, it’s free/not-free. Veganic farms, like any other farm, depend on the labor of animals, but those animals are wild & give their labor freely as part of pursuing their own best interests. The animals on our farm aren’t wild (though pretty close to feral), but they are allowed to live freely, and our farm is designed to benefit from their freely chosen labors.

      Lay off the snark and the ad hominem attacks. Open your eyes and try to actually see. If you had a “truly open mind,” you could see that the problem with most farms isn’t that they have animals, but that the animals aren’t free.

      • James says:

        Dear Mountain,

        I’m genuinely intrigued by your farm. Here’s my proposition: send me your real identity privately ( I’d like to discuss with you the prospect of visiting your farm. Thanks.

        • Mountain says:


          I’m pleased to hear that you’re intrigued by our farm. I’m intrigued by your proposition, though I’ll have to pass for now. We are fledglings, and I’ll need to build more trust with the vegan community. I hope you understand.

          As for identity, my name really is Mountain.

          As for the farm, check out Vermont Compost Company. I don’t know them personally, but they are the only people I’ve discovered thus far that embrace radical freedom for farm animals the way we do. If you find them intriguing, I imagine you would find our farm intriguing. If you find them unacceptable to your worldview, I imagine you would find us unacceptable as well.

      • ingrid says:

        Hi, Mountain, I’ve been following this thread — your comments and also the responses to your comments — and am trying to fully understand your farming model. So, basically, you have a limited number of free-ranging chickens on your property who are not being raised nor killed for food … but who are engaging their natural foraging behavior which then benefits your farm in the way of soil enhancement and insect reduction?

        • Mountain says:

          Hi, Ingrid. We are trying to grow as much nutrient-rich food as possible on a single piece of land without resorting to chemicals or fertilizers, and using as little fossil fuel as possible. Also, we want to farm in a way that leaves the land richer & more diverse than we found it.

          At the core of our approach are chickens & trees. Trees provide shade for the chickens, as well as protection from hawks & other aerial predators. Also, any fruit we fail to harvest will feed the chickens rather than being wasted. Meanwhile, the chickens provide protection for the trees. Many insect pests lay their eggs around the base of a tree; by allowing the chickens to dig in the soil around the trees, they can eat these pests in their larval stage, before the pests become adults & harm either the tree or its fruit. And of course, if the chickens are spending time under a tree, they’ll be delivering fertility to the soil around that tree.

          We also grow row crops (like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, pumpkins, etc) in the flatter areas of the farm. Rather than fence the chickens into a coop, we fence them out of the crop areas, at least during the growing season. Once the crop is harvested, the chickens are welcome to attack the plants & the soil they grew in. In fact, once a growing season is done, and the chickens have torn down the plants, I like to build a compost pile on the spot. The chickens then have a few months to turn that pile into finished compost, and we have enriched soil for the next growing season.

          Which brings us to compost. We gather all the waste we can: food waste from farmers markets, schools, and restaurants; leaves & grass clippings from landscape companies; wood chips from tree care companies; aged horse manure from nearby stables. The chickens get to feed directly on the food waste, and the other ingredients help to bind the nitrogen (from food or manure) into nutrient-rich soil. These compost piles attract so many worms & microorganisms that the birds can feed to their heart’s content, and there are still plenty to do the work of decomposition.

          So, the main income for the farm is from the sale of fruits & vegetables, but the chickens also provide us with eggs to sell. We let the chickens hatch any eggs they nest on, but that still leaves plenty to sell. If we do end up hitting the limits of what the land could support (3-5x as many chickens as we currently have), we’d have to limit how many eggs they could hatch, but that’s not an issue right now.

          I know that was a lot of information– I hope it wasn’t too much. Let me know if you have any more questions.

          • CQ says:

            I can’t say I’d mind being a chicken in the compost-pile palace you describe, Mountain! Thanks to ingrid for her question, so we finally get the full picture of your worthy aims and your earth-friendly operation.

            What I’m wondering is whether “wild” birds and “beneficial” insects would be more than willing to do all the fun work that the chickens do? I gather from having watched videos by Iain Tollhurst (the “Growing Green” author carolyn z references above) that this is the case. I think one of the videos I saw several years ago is here:

            My other musings have to do with the example we each set.

            Say I were to rescue chickens (as you have, right?) and sell their eggs. I feel like I’d be saying to the world, “Hey, folks, it’s okay for me to use animals as resources, for my profit.” And while what I’m doing may be harmless to the chickens — even delightful for them — once I’ve made that statement by my practices, then I’m opening the door to two possibilities: (1) I might decide to find ways to use different species of animals and profit from them, too, and (2) I am influencing others to follow my lead.

            Among those “others” will invariably be folks who don’t bother to get to know, appreciate, admire, respect the chickens they “own.” And so, in their ignorance or laziness or arrogance or whatever, they end up making “their” chickens miserable — and maybe selling them or abandoning them or killing them. (Shelters are overrun with victims of the chicken craze, as you know.)

            Thus, by establishing that I have a moral right to “use” and profit from the animal-derived products, I’d be opening the floodgates to all sorts of unintended and regrettable consequences. That’s how I feel about it, anyway.

            In fact, something like this monstrosity could result from my innocent actions:

            Well, we probably won’t see eye to eye on the points I’ve raised, but I figured it’s important to present them.

          • ingrid says:

            Thanks for the explanation, I was trying to sort through your points and the various opposing ideas. I’ve worked with animal rescue groups over the years and know people who’ve adopted rescued domestic birds like chickens. These rescued birds live in similar circumstances, sometimes on cultivated land, although they’re often limited to predator-proofed areas of the properties for obvious reasons. Of course, these are also birds who came from shelters or exploitative circumstances and for whom these safe havens, where they will live out their natural lives, are an unquestionable improvement on their previous circumstances. Perhaps that’s a significant distinguishing characteristic for the purposes of the discussion here.

          • Mountain says:

            Oh, wild birds and beneficial insects are happy to do the work the chickens do. I’ve seen wild birds and squirrels tending to the compost piles, and I know that insects and microorganisms do the bulk of the work of composting. But they participate whether or not the chickens do. I like the chickens being a part of the process, and they do make it happen a little faster, but they are not necessary– just helpful.

            If you’ve ever watched a schoolyard after lunch ends, I’m sure you’ve seen wild birds (usually pigeons or seagulls) swoop in and work on the food waste scattered all around. Of course, they convert it into poop that ends up on cars and other unwanted places, so I prefer that chickens do the work. But the work will get done by someone either way.

            Finally, with regard to your concern about making the wrong statement, I understand your concern & think it’s reasonable. If I were driving around in a Mercedes with a bumper sticker that said “Raise Wild Chickens For Fun and Profit,” I think it might send the wrong message to the wrong people. As things stand now, I think our farm can be a message to people raising chickens in a more conventional way. Something like “More Freedom For Your Chicken Means A Better Life For You” or “Chickens Are More Valuable Alive Than Dead.”

          • CQ says:

            I get what you’re saying, Mountain.

            I’d probably put the slogans something like this: “Freedom for Our Rescued Chicken Friends Means A Better Life for All of Us”

            Or “Don’t Breed Chickens or Bleed Chickens: Rescue Them”

            Or “Serve Your Rescued Chicken Friends Fruit — Not For Dinner”

            Or “Every Recipe Is A Smash Hit Without Eggs.”

            Would you mind if I ask another innocent question (actually, a couple of related questions) that I’ve been curious about for a while?

            How did you find this blog?

            Why do you continue to read it and contribute your thoughts to it?

            In other words, what do you hope to achieve by hanging out with a bunch of abolitionist vegans?

            Thanks in advance.

          • Mountain says:

            Hi Ingrid, I just want to let you that I appreciate your question & your response. It’s nice to feel that I’m not being attacked, even though we have (I assume) somewhat different views. Thank you for that.

            And CQ, when someone says they have an innocent question, it rarely turns out to be innocent.

            I discovered this blog when I read “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” James’ hit piece on Joel Salatin. While I don’t agree with everything about his approach to farming, Salatin’s farm is a gigantic improvement over conventional farming, and he opened my eyes to the idea that a farm can be a force for good in the world.

            At any rate, I found this blog to be thoughtful & thought-provoking, though more interested in persuasion than accuracy. I feel a little dirty for contributing to it (either through clicks or comments), but I find it interesting, so I hang around. I wish I knew of a non-vegan blog about farming that was as thought-provoking as this one, but I don’t (yet).

            I don’t know what I hope to accomplish by hanging out with a bunch of abolitionist vegans. Probably nothing. But I’ve been friends with enough vegans & vegetarians throughout my life that it doesn’t feel weird to have a minority view in discussions like this. At the very least, it challenges me to find my unquestioned assumptions and examine them. And some famous smart guy once said that the unexamined life is not worth living, so I try to do all the examining I can.

          • CQ says:

            Your replies are as honest as my questions ARE innocent. :-)

  12. Miriam says:

    Mountain, I am not being snarky. In response to your assertion that “your” chickens are not forcefully bred or contained, I will ask these questions.

    Where did your chickens come from? What happens with the roosters who are born, either on your farm or else in the hatcheries where they came from originally? What happens when your chickens stop laying, or get sick, or get old? How about when there are “too many” of them?

    This is not an ad hominem attack — I did not attack YOU, which is what that term means. Moreover, I’m unsure why you feel attacked (as opposed to disagreed with), other than to say that seems typical of this supposed dialogue between our sides.

    It goes like this: People who believe that other animals are less valuable than humans, and are thus open to use, exploitation, and death by humans, assert their right to do as they wish with non-human animals. People who believe that ALL animals (not just humans) should be allowed to live life completely on their own terms, in all respects, openly disagree with the members of the first group.

    When we do so — when we disagree and dare to VOICE our disagreement — we are told we are Angry, Extremist, Violent, Mean, Assaultive, and Generally Horrible.

    Ironic, no? We are speaking for the END of death to people who are advocating for the CONTINUATION of death, yet WE are the ones who are seen as “attacking.”

    Simply because we speak for the voiceless. Simply because we say enough already. Enough invasion into the animal lives of others. Enough breeding, enough consumption of flesh, enough violence. Enough. It is never necessary, as previous comments have noted — NEVER. Supporting the use, abuse, exploitation, and murder of non-human animals is unconscionable.

    I am sorry that it feels bad to hear this. I felt plenty bad when someone pointed out my own hypocrisy in spending decades fighting for human rights while I was chomping down on cow flesh. But you know what? Someone had to. Someone had to tell me what I was doing was wrong. Horribly wrong.

    And that’s all we are doing. We are standing up for those who cannot do so themselves. Why cling to a system that is so inherently destructive, so clearly human supremacist? Do you need power that much? Can’t we see where clinging to that kind of power has brought us?

    • Mountain says:

      One. The “brain surgeon” comment certainly felt personal. Dismissing my arguments as “word games and other tricks,” rather than addressing their substance, certainly felt personal. Since you weren’t addressing the argument, one might reasonably conclude you were addressing the person. Whether that was the intent, only you can know.

      Two. What happens to the roosters who are born on our farm? They live a pretty sweet life, breeding with whatever hens are willing, tending the compost pile, keeping down the weeds and bugs, deterring small predators from harming the hens.

      Three. What happens when chickens stop laying? We stop getting eggs! Other than that, life goes on as before– they tend the compost, they keep down weeds & bugs, they fertilize the soil. We still benefit indirectly through the production of fruits & vegetables, rather than directly through the production of eggs.

      Four. What happens when chickens get sick? We quarantine them and treat them to the best of our ability. Usually, they return to health, but when they don’t, we return them to the soil.

      Five. What happens when chickens get old? They tend to mellow out and lay fewer eggs. Other than that, life goes on as before. Chickens can live 10-15 years, so one goal is to see how many make it to double digits.

      Six. How about when there are too many of them? That day never comes. With chickens (and ducks) you can control population growth without violence, starvation, or disease: you just collect the eggs. We let the chickens breed freely, and hatch their eggs freely (as long as the nest is in a place that can be secured from predators at night). But if we ever hit the limit of what the land can support, and don’t have the money to acquire more land, we’ll just have to limit hatching to replacement levels.

      • Sailesh Rao says:

        “We’ll just have to limit hatching to replacement levels”

        And the temptation to eat them begins…

        Then we ask, why not have cows on the farm so that the chickens have worms to eat that grow in cow-poop? Besides the chickens spread the manure while they get at the worms helping to nourish the soil on the farm.

        Then, when the cows breed excessively, why not just eat them as well?

        And then we’re back to square one, with half the forests in the world destroyed and the other half on schedule to be destroyed completely in the next 20-30 years…

        • Mountain says:

          “And the temptation to eat them begins…”

          Not so much.

          As for cows, we only have a few acres (so far), so we don’t have enough room for cows. Even if we did have enough room, our farm consists almost entirely of a steep hillside that’s better suited for trees & chickens than cows. And the worms grow just fine in our compost piles made of food waste & yard waste from the nearby metropolitan area.

          So, we’re not back to square one. Some areas are best suited for pasture, but many areas (like ours) are better suited for forest– so, a food forest it shall be.

  13. Fireweed says:

    Another great resource is the magazine “Growing Green International”.

    Anyone else here with url’s for other veganic growing operations, please let me know so I can add them to the following blog: where there are a variety of resource/information links readers here may be interested in on this topic.

    Of special import, please check out in the UK, and here in Canada.

    On the UK-based VON website, readers can take a detailed look at the stockfree-organic standards published in 2007.

    Veganic ag is a growing movement that is seriously under-represented in discussions about sustainability…particularly, I think, because it is deliberately side-stepped by those wedded to the myth that domesticated animals are ‘natural, normal, and necessary’ in the system. There is no question that this major “blindspot”and product of the carnist agenda, is stalling significant, important progress in the face of excellerating climate change, widespread animal abuse, and the squandering of precious, finite resources.

  14. Miriam says:


    As Sailesh is saying above, once certain doors are allowed to open even a crack, there is nothing to prevent them from swinging wide open. In fact, some doors are guaranteed to swing wide open the minute they are cracked. The door in this case is exploitation.

    Once we say it is acceptable to exploit chickens (for example), even in what appears to be a kinder, gentler form, we open that door a hair. Ten years later, why not push it open another inch? After all, the chickens don’t seem to mind, so surely cows won’t care either. Keep on going and you end up right exactly where we are now: in the midst of the mind-bogglingly enormous pit of pain and despair known as animal agriculture.

    I am guessing you think this exploitation is acceptable because the chickens who live at your place seem so gosh darn happy, but is that really the reason you think it’s acceptable to use them for their labor and their shit? I doubt it. I believe that you can only justify exploiting them because they are not human.

    I mean, you wouldn’t import a group of small brown children from Pakistan to pee on your garlic, would you? What if they had the best gosh darned time of their lives peeing on your garlic (in a 10% dilution, of course)? What if they smiled all the time as they dug in the dirt, thus relieving you of the need to prepare your vegetable beds for planting? What if they were allowed to have sex as they wished, roam about your property as they wished, eat what they wanted? All that good stuff? Would you do it, Mountain?

    Given that this is the 21st century and we are in the United States, and given further that you seem a progressive sort of guy, I would venture to guess that no, you would not do it. But why not?

    After all, what would be different about your use of chickens and your use of small human children if both groups were happy?

    I can tell you the answer in one word. Species.

    Their SPECIES is different and that is the ONLY reason you can justify using chickens on the one hand and NOT justify using small human children on the other.

    But in the end, it’s all about exploitation, regardless of species. It is only human supremacy that tells us there is a difference.

    I would venture to guess that you can’t see this, though. Most people cannot. However, when you begin to shed the sickness of human supremacy, you begin to see these things. You see the infinite number of ways humans use, exploit, torment, and murder other animals. There is always a reason. There is always a justification. Always, always, always. And along with the justifications and the endless reasons, there is the pain. Around us all the time, the endless pain.

    And please, do not tell me your chickens are not in pain. If you are as intelligent as you seem, you know full well that isn’t the point.

    The point is that this world is one in which small brown human children ARE used by more powerful humans to do things like sew sneakers, just as it is one in which billions of members of other species are used by more powerful humans to do things like produce eggs and die upon command.

    And ALL use of others against their will, regardless of WHO those others are, or HOW they are used, is unconscionable. Period.

    Have you ever opened yourself up to feel the SCREAM of the earth and her animals as they are slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) destroyed by humans? Have you ever felt that pain? Allowed that scream to fill your own cells? Risked a moment of true empathy with non-human animals who have been used, tormented, and murdered in the trillions for thousands of years by humans?

    I would guess you haven’t. If you had, you wouldn’t wonder why people like me get snarky sometimes. Instead, you’d wonder why any of us are ever anything other than enraged, grief-stricken zombies hell bent on destroying human civilization.

    So please, if you want to understand where animal rights folks are coming from, open yourself up to the true pain of human supremacy. If you do, you will understand that some doors just can never be opened.

    • CQ says:

      Amen, Miriam. Your words of truth come from a heart of love.

      With every book I read on animal rights, I’m increasingly aware of the “lie” of human supremacy and ever more conscious of how it has seeped, over many millennia, into every aspect of life and undermined everyone’s individuality — nonhuman and human alike.

      Coincidentally, right now I’m reading both of Joan Dunayer’s books on the subject: ANIMAL EQUALITY: LANGUAGE AND LIBERATION (2001) and SPECIESISM (2004).

      The former is available on — new and used copies range from $10 to $24. Though the latter book is out of print, it can be requested through the online Interlibrary Loan Services if you have a card in a library system that uses ILL.

      I just finished Chapter 5 of SPECIESISM, which closes with these words: “In terms of their right to justice, all sentient beings are equal. Intentional harm to a moth or crab is no less wrong than intentional harm to an innocent human. All animals not only have a moral right to life and freedom from abuse; they have an equal right.”

      A few of the passages from each book are quoted, with Dunayer’s permission, in, Chapter 24, pp 23-30.

      By the way, the author modified her definition of “speciesism” from the one she presented in her 2004 book; she now defines it as “a failure, on the basis of species, to accord anyone equal consideration.”

    • Mountain says:

      “Once we say it is acceptable to exploit chickens…”

      Miriam, I don’t say it is acceptable to exploit chickens. You seem to think it is a kinder, gentler form of exploitation, but it isn’t exploitation at all. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. From their perspective, I work for them– gathering food waste & yard waste, and building compost piles in which they play and from which they eat. From my perspective, they work for me– accelerating the composting process, keeping down the bugs & weeds.

      They aren’t forced to do any of this; they do it naturally. Also, I don’t expect them to do anything I don’t do myself: I turn the compost pile by hand, and I cut weeds by hand on the higher parts of the hill where the birds haven’t ventured yet. There is no door of exploitation being opened; there is a new paradigm of cooperation being developed here.

    • Mountain says:

      As for your example of “small brown children,” let’s consider a more reasonable possibility. If a family from a third world country wanted to move to the United States and work on our farm, would I be interested in allowing them to do so? The answer is yes. The are all kinds of legal and regulatory reasons why it wouldn’t happen, but I would be happy to have it happen.

      If a family could:

      a) move here;
      b) live freely on our farm;
      c) make their lives better in the process;
      d) contribute to the health & success of the farm; and
      e) give their children greater opportunities as a result

      Then, hell yes, I would support that. It would be a much better approach than our current approach to human labor on farms.

      If you could get past your master-slave worldview, where every relationship is loaded with domination & exploitation, you could see that mutually beneficial relationships are possible, not only between people but between species.

      If you accept that veganic farming is a good thing, you already accept that mutually beneficial relationships are possible between humans and species of wild animals. I take this concept one step further, that mutually beneficial relationships are possible between humans and species of domesticated animals.

      I believe our farm demonstrates this everyday with chickens. Conceptually, I can see how to make this work with ducks & goats, as well, though we haven’t gotten there in practice yet.

  15. Miriam says:

    You brought them there, Mountain. And someone ensured they were brought into the world so they could be brought to your farm. Neither of those things is consensual. Neither would be done to a human. All of it is exploitative, however you want to doll it up.

    • Mountain says:

      Really, Miriam? Did you consent to being brought into this world? I didn’t. I wasn’t capable of consenting at the time, so my parents had to make their best guess. Maybe it was a thoughtful decision where they considered my interests, or maybe it was a drunken accident in the backseat of a car. Either way, it happened, and it wasn’t exploitation.

  16. Miriam says:

    Good bye, Mountain. Clearly there is no possibility you will understand what I’m saying here.

    One day, though, if you actually allow yourself to see the truth about what you are doing, I guarantee you will be horrified with your actions.

    Until then, keep thinking of all the animals someone else can force-breed into this world so you can force-import them onto your farm so they can be made to work for you. Oh — sorry — so you can All Work For Each Other.

    • Mountain says:

      Goodbye, Miriam. I’m sorry I couldn’t open your eyes, but I’d be happy to try again in the future should you find yourself interested.

  17. Sailesh Rao says:

    Mountain’s hypothetical farm is claimed to be “more sustainable” because it has an additional product: eggs. Therefore, it depends on eggs being a valuable food product despite the artery-clogging cholesterol etc. and I will call this “Egganic Ag” as opposed to Veganic Ag.

    Now suppose that a competitor to Mountain’s farm decides to release all the male chicks except for a couple of roosters into the wild. He can thus double the egg output of his Egganic farm compared to Mountain and drive Mountain out of business. Next, if he releases all chickens past egg-laying age into the wild as well, he will quadruple the egg output compared to Mountain and truly ramp up egg production on his Egganic farm.

    The final step is to recognize that there is no need to release chickens into the wild. If there’s a market for chicken nuggets and chicken breasts, why not produce those as well and improve the “sustainability” of the farm.

    Then, all hell breaks loose when the demand for eggs and chicken parts far exceeds the demand for vegetables and fruits, and we are back to square one with half the forests in the world destroyed and the other half scheduled for destruction in the next few decades.

    This is “sustainability,” GMC style. Therefore, no matter how we slice it, there is nothing sustainable about animal foods in the 21st century.

    • Mountain says:

      Ah, Sailesh, I knew you were headed in this direction.

      One, cholesterol doesn’t clog artery walls; oxidized LDL in the blood does. Eggs dramatically raise HDL, which removes LDL from the bloodstream, thus diminishing the amount of LDL available to clog the arteries. Eggs from pastured chickens (much like the ones on our farm) are also loaded with omega-3s and carotenoids, which have strongly anti-inflammatory effects, making it much less likely that whatever LDL remains in the bloodstream will oxidize. So, let’s not smear eggs with baseless accusations.

      Two, chickens contribute to the sustainability of the farm through much more than their eggs. They turn weeds and pests into an asset rather than a liability, they accelerate the composting process, they enrich the soil– not just through their manure, but through their scratching & pecking. They make the entire metropolitan area more sustainable by converting waste into soil instead of landfill.

      Three, if a competitor released his male chicks into the wild, his farm’s egg output wouldn’t increase– there would just be fewer male chickens to feed. But since the chickens on our farm gather all their own food, since we don’t use any chicken feed, feeding male chickens doesn’t cost us anything. In fact, as they feed themselves, they create positive exernalities for the rest of the farm. They don’t contribute directly to the bottom line the way hens do, but they are still tremendously valuable to the farm. Also, this competitor would likely lose more hens to predators, since roosters play a strong protective role in the chicken community.

      Four, if he released all his old chickens (eggs become less frequent with age, but there is no particular cut-off point), he would not only lose out on their occasional eggs, but he would lose out on all their indirect contributions to the farm (the same as roosters provide). Also, even if their egg production drops off, they can still hatch chicks & help raise them. Because an older hen with good maternal instincts will do these things naturally, they eliminate the need for incubators, brooders, and chick starter feed.

      Five, even if a competitor could quadruple their egg production, how would that drive me out of business? Far more of the farm’s income comes from fruits & vegetables than from eggs, and the chickens don’t cost us anything.

      Finally, how would any of this lead to the destruction of forests? Any farm with chickens on it would want as many trees as possible. They provide cover from predators, shade from the sun, direct sources of carbohydrates (fallen fruit), indirect sources of protein (bugs & would-be pests), and chickens love to dig in the fallen leaves & scratch them into the ground.

      • Sailesh Rao says:

        Mountain, half the forests on Earth have already been destroyed, mainly to satisfy human appetites for animal foods. Therefore, it is disingenuous to ask how can this lead to the destruction of forests. Because it has already been done.

        In a demand driven system, I contend that eggs are the first step to chicken meat to cow’s milk to beef to dog meat to shark livers to bear bile, and so on, ad nauseum. Once we begin to exploit chickens to collect their periods, er eggs, on the mistaken belief that the cholesterol found in eggs is “good for you,” then nothing can stop us from exploiting every animal on earth and reach the sorry predicament that we are in right now.

        It is also the nature of capitalism that the more efficient means of production will win out over the less efficient ones. If your competitor is producing 4 times as many eggs as you on the same amount of land, you will be out of business, period.

        In any case, it is clear that we live in parallel universes. I wish you the best of luck in yours.

        • Mountain says:

          Sailesh, the forests have been destroyed by a system of monoculture grain crops, grown largely for factory-farmed animals. Equating that system to our system of food forests (including freely living domesticated and wild animals) is either intellectually lazy or dishonest. Either way, it leads you to faulty results.

          Our approach doesn’t require the input of any monoculture grain crops, so it creates no pressure to cut down forests to grow them. Instead, it adds large numbers of trees to marginally productive land, reversing soil erosion and rebuilding soil fertility. It is, in fact, an ideal way to rehabilitate land that has been harmed by decades (or centuries) of poorly managed grazing.

          If you are uncomfortable with profiting from the sale of eggs, then don’t sell them– we appreciate the income from the eggs we sell, but it isn’t necessary to the success of the farm. You could donate them to homeless shelters or food pantries for the poor, you could feed them to any guardian animals (most likely dogs) who stay on the land to deter predators, you could even boil them & feed them back to the chickens (though the quasi-cannibalistic aspect of this makes me uncomfortable) or even bury them directly in the soil. The only important thing is that you limit the hatching of eggs to an amount that the land & resources can support.

        • Mountain says:

          So, we’ve established that there is no mechanism by which our approach to farming leads to deforestation. Instead, it leads directly to reforestation.

          You contend that chicken eggs are the first step on the road to bear bile, but offer no mechanism to support this contention. Our approach to farming makes the life of a chicken more valuable to a farm, which increases the opportunity cost of killing a chicken for its meat, which makes killing a chicken less financially attractive to a farmer.

          Finally, we don’t live in different universes. We live in the same universe, but we see it differently. I’ll keep working on the supply side, increasing the value of a live animal. I hope you’ll keep working on the demand side, using vegan advocacy to decrease the value of a dead animal. In our own ways, we will be achieving the same result.

          • Sailesh Rao says:

            Wonderful, Mountain, I think we now have agreement! Your farm is sustainable in a Vegan society, not in an animal eating society, which will make demands on the flesh of the chickens, their eggs and so forth. When those demands for eggs, chicken breasts etc. far exceed the demands for fruits and vegetables (I have seen the stale, month-old fruits and vegetables in many American refrigerators), then we have the problems that I cited.

            Best of luck to you in your farm!

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