Veganic for people, animals and the planet

Thousands of farmers and growers across the globe are showcasing how Veganic offers solutions to many pressing issues. “Veganic” is a combination of the two words “vegan” and “organic” to create a new concept for farming. World agriculture must move towards “people nourished per hectare”.

This is where large­ scale Veganic agriculture proves itself to use less land, water and fossil fuel resources than livestock dependent systems. Simultaneously it also causes less harmful greenhouse gas emissions and polluting wastes. Veganically produced food is resilient to the largest problems facing humanity, namely peak oil, availability of fertile land and climate instability. In 2005 the Vegan Organic Network (VON) produced the world’s first set of Veganic Standards to be certified by inspection.

Farmer lain Tolhurst (Tolly) explains his reason for becoming certified: “We have never kept livestock, and as organic growers we began to seriously question the wisdom of importing fertility back in the early nineties. We banned the use of fish, blood and bone on our farm in the light of the BSE crisis. To this day slaughterhouse byproducts can still be used in potting mixes for organically approved seed raising.” (eg John Innes formulas)

Slaughterhouse byproducts and manures are two sides of the same industry

 Most consumers assume that organic production relies on animal manures to support fertility.

• Bringing manure in from another farm is depriving that farm of its own fertility.

• The transport of bulky manures is expensive.

• Non­organic manures may contain antibiotics and wormer residues.

• All manures under 5 months old pose an E.Coli risk.

• Non­organic manures are a by­product of livestock systems that depend on imported feedstuffs like genetically modified soya. Even organic livestock farmers rarely are closed loop as they by in feed etc. There is a direct link with deforestation in the Amazon and the feeds livestock, horses and pets eat in the UK. Many vegetable, fruit and grain farmers do not have livestock, so to improve their resilience they need to develop fertility systems that are towards closed­loop and non­reliant on the livestock industry.

Tolly continues: “We worked closely with VON to establish Standards in 2005 and were the first farm in the world to become registered as such. The Standards were set up for those wanting high quality, locally available and organically grown food without the use of slaughterhouse by­products or animal manures.” Farmers and growers can become certified Veganic by formal inspection by an organic certifying body, such as the Soil Association in the UK, or informally by a grower­to­grower scheme using volunteer inspectors.

Farming and climate

Climate instability is almost universally accepted as being caused by human induced atmospheric release of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Only professional deniers, funded by the fossil fuel lobby, and blinkered politicians, still doubt the science.

Change without borders

Human­ driven global warming threatens to destabilise climate systems across the entire planet. Climate change does not respect international borders. GHG emissions in the UK are already contributing to hardship, famine and death in undeveloped nations, those least equipped to deal with rapid environmental change. To avoid runaway catastrophic climate change, industrialised nations must start making drastic cuts.

Belching our way to climate chaos

Yet one human ­driven activity is responsible for more global emissions of GHG than the world’s entire transport sector and that is livestock farming. Worldwide, livestock produce18 per cent GHG. One of these, methane, which is released when livestock such as cattle breathe out and ‘burp’, has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Other problems include the augmentation of the nitrogen cycle (leading to nitrous oxide which is 296 times more potent that carbon dioxide). Growing soya for livestock feed and ranching are major contributors to deforestation, thus contributing further to GHG.

Grazed and Confused

Meta analysis by the Food Climate Research Network has shown the potential of grazing livestock to contribute to soil carbon sequestration is small, time ­limited, reversible and outweighed by the GHG they generate. Ruminants (cows and sheep) contribute 80% of total livestock emissions, and even with careful grazing management the report found that this would only offset between 20­-50% of annual emissions of ruminants.

Veganic principles for climate friendly food

• reduce the second population explosion (human’s being the first population explosion) of livestock through a moratorium on breeding to stop the associative environmental problems highlighted in Livestock’s Long Shadow;

• move away from industrial inputs including Haber­Bosch nitrogen, artificial chemicals and genetically modified organisms;

• move towards “people nourished per hectare” on arable land where starchy vegetables and grains (for direct human consumption) become the majority of farmed arable land. Market gardens and allotments will then provide the micronutrients of more perishable fruit and vegetables;

• move towards soil conservation practices on arable land including reintroducing flowering green manuring leys to reverse “insectageddon” (decline of insects);

• return society’s organic wastes to market gardens / allotments;

• move towards “people nourished per hectare” on some marginal land with an emphasis on fruit bushes, orchards, nut groves and forest gardening. The vast majority of marginal land will be for other uses including forestry, managed conservation (e.g. rewetting peat bogs) and rewildling, all of which will help with flood prevention caused by bare hillsides;

• and move towards renewable energy for farming and a localised food system where practicable. The Veganic approach offers a viable, holistic and accessible way of ensuring that present and future generations can live safely and comfortably, as well as eat abundantly, healthily and harmoniously within the earth’s finite limits.

 Soil care

Eve Balfour’s the Living Soil is as vibrant and important now as when it was written over seventy years ago. Her premise is care for the soil by increasing its organic matter and not using biocides, then sustainability will follow. “The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.” Nutrients harvested in crops need to be replaced. Fertilising soil through Veganic practices has a positive impact on the soil’s physical, chemical and biological quality. However, it would be logistically impossible to fertilise all the world’s arable lands (1.2 billion hectares) with livestock manures or organic wastes alone. Green manure leys (eg clover, lucerne and vetch) have an important role to play in nitrogen fixation and their flowers also become an important nectar source for insects. Green manuring allows the soil a rest from constant cultivation and chipped branch wood is also a useful arable soil amendment.


Composting is a key technique of the Veganic grower; defined as aerobic decomposition (in the presence of air and moisture) of organic waste carried out mainly by bacteria. Compostable materials must have been previously living to ensure they rot to organic matter. If you follow guidelines, then you should be left with friable dark compost that crumbles in your hands and smells pleasantly earthy. The golden rule of bacterial composting ingredients is two parts “greens” one part “browns”, in the presence of moisture and air. Fungal compost, eg leafmould or woodchips, are best left open to the elements. Greens, Nitrogen­rich Fruit & veg peelings Grass cuttings Crop residue Annual weeds not in seed Brown, Carbon­rich Crunched cardboard Straw, Hay Older crop residue provided not blighted Not suitable Leafmould (fungal) Woodchips (fungal) Cooked food Seeds and roots of weeds