Why Vegan Organic?

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This post summarises some key statistics and information on the case for vegan organic.


The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.
Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation  2008

The livestock sector accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than transport, which emits 13.5%.
Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation  2008


Grain fed to animals worldwide:

The world output of grain for animal feed is 614,000,000 tonnes
(International Feed Industry Federation website November 2009)
This represents 90kg of grain for every one of the 6,787,900,000 people in the world.

Soya Imports

2,600,000 tonnes of soya were imported into UK in 2008 (and this figure is rising).
(Royal Society / Guardian 16.10.09)
90+% of this is  used as animal feed.
(Environmental Sciency & Policy Feb 09)

Land needed to grow potatoes as opposed to producing beef

Beef = 8173 m2 land per person per year
Potatoes = 274 m2 land per person per year
Prof. V. Smil:  Feeding the World:  A challenge for the 21st Century (London 2000)

Comparative areas of land needed to grow 1 kg of food products

Beef = 20.9 sq m
Pork = 8.9 sq m
Eggs = 3.55 sq m
Vegetables = 0.3 sq m
(The Times, 27 October 2009)

Livestock take up 26% of Earth’s ice-free land and animal feed occupies one-third of global cropland.

Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation  2008

Successful Stockfree Farming

Iain Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organics in Berkshire supplies 400 boxes of stockfree organic produce a week to local customers, with a carbon footprint of just 8 tonnes a year, equivalent to that of an average household.
Vegan-Organic Network Press Release 6 April 2009

Changing landscape in upland areas of UK:

“What we now have is a cultural landscape created by the interplay of terrain, wildlife, and human use over the centuries.  Would it be a disaster if, following the sad loss of many hefted flocks, farmers decided not to re-stock?  The ecosystems .. would slowly begin to reclaim their ancient realm… it is customary to attack such embryonic woodland as ‘scrub’, but it is nonetheless rich in birds and insects and is high forest in the making.”
Sir Martin Holdgate, former UK government chief scientist, Director of the World Conservation Union.


Policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions could also substantially reduce obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, road deaths and injuries, and air pollution.
BMJ  2008;336:165-166 (26 January), doi:10.1136/bmj.39468.596262.80

“Cancer incidence in British vegetarians.” Key et al. (2009) British Journal of Cancer. 2009. Volume 101 Issue 1

Vegetarians are 12 per cent less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters, according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer* in July 2009.

In a study of more than 61,000 people, Cancer Research UK scientists from Oxford followed meat eaters and vegetarians for over 12 years, during which 3,350 of the participants were diagnosed with cancer.

They found that the risk of being diagnosed with cancers of the stomach, bladder and blood** was lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

The most striking difference was in cancers of the blood including leukaemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The risk of these diseases was 45 per cent lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

Professor Tim Key, study author from the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, said: “Our large study looking at cancer risk in vegetarians found the likelihood of people developing some cancers is lower among vegetarians than among people who eat meat. In particular vegetarians were much less likely to develop cancers of the blood which include leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences.”

The study looked at 20 different types of cancers. The differences in risks between vegetarians and meat eaters were independent of other lifestyle behaviours including smoking, alcohol intake and obesity which also affect the chance of developing cancer

Danger of diseases transferrable from livestock to humans

‘the preparedness to contain emerging zoonotic diseases amounts to about US$300 million per year over the next three years’
WORLD BANK ‘Minding the Stock’  report 2009-11-09


A major study published in February 2005 reconfirmed the link between meat consumption and heart problems. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease.

One Thousand Million Reasons

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Stockfree Organic Standards in Agriculture

One thousand million animals are slaughtered in Britain alone. We base this horrendous number on DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and  Rural Affairs) statistics of c800 millions animals, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs and poultry, passing annually through slaughterhouses in England, Scotland and Wales. In addition we must add in an estimate for Northern Ireland for which we do not have a figure, plus animals dead on arrival at slaughterhouses, the death by gassing of unwanted male chicks, poultry dying from overcrowding and disease, death from BSE, Foot and Mouth, and swine fever and farmed fish.


About 43 million acres of land is used for farming in the UK. About one third is rough grazing (mainly moor land) a further third is permanent pasture. Rather more than another third (38%) is classed as arable. Of this more that 60% is used to feed animals. Of the 43million acres, and with a cattle stocking rate of one per acre, this leaves 29 million acres to graze 200 million cattle so they can qualify as organic. This is not possible.


The only clear and unequivocal ethical position is that of vegans who have ruled out the rearing of farm animals altogether. Because there are only a small number of vegan-organic farms (stockfree) vegans find themselves in a compromised position. Their response has been the formation in 1996 of the Vegan Organic Network and and in 2004, the Stockfree Organic Standards (SOS). The SOS brings to the attention of farmers that they have a choice in growing methods. They can now farm without herbicides, pesticide and artificial fertilisers, but also without animal manure and slaughterhouse by-products.


To date our Directory can list 20 stockfree organic commercial growers in the UK, and a further 20 overseas, mainly in N. America.   Even from this modest start they are feeding over 1500 people every week. This demonstrates that food can be grown in accordance with the values of non-violence.  Those bodies urging organic meat production are pressing for the unsustainable as well as the unethical. There simply is not enough land to rear animals organically. It is even more disastrous and irresponsible to argue for more land to be used so that animals can be kept non-intensively and fed organically. And a further choice – do we feed animals, people or the combustion engine? Vegans know where they stand!


Human development is a progression in which we all have a part to play. It has been argued that one line of progress we should now work towards is that from conventional chemical agriculture, to organic agriculture to vegan-organic agriculture. Such a shift requires a fundamental change in culture. For the vegan organic method of growing food is revolutionary as well as evolutionary in as much as it encompasses a way of living that is based on non-violence and non-exploitation.


VON believes that we can act as a catalyst to bring about agricultural, cultural and social change. We can only achieve these aims with your help, and of those groups and organisations with similar aims.  Join us – work with us! Much emphasis is now put upon a vegan diet as being healthy. VON considers that vegans are healthy not only because of their refusal to eat animals, but because this refusal is based upon an active philosophy that considers human and non-human life to be worthy of respect and the right to live in peace and security.  Help us to move towards a world where animals are not sacrificed for human greed and ignorance, and where people themselves can understand that they need not be brutalised by this senseless slaughter.