I’ll say right off the bat that I am vegan, but you don’t have to be a vegan to see the benefit these stock-free practices provide both in your garden and on a large scale. For one thing, many of the fertilizers veganic growers use can be created from what you already have in your own backyard (green cover crops, compost teas etc.) or purchased at a reasonable cost. These environmentally sound alternatives to chemical fertilizers replace manure, for example, which is revered for its high nitrogen content. We forget though that the nutrients in manure are themselves derived from what the animal ate which, in ideal situations, is solely plant-based.
By going directly to the source of nitrogen (the plants themselves) we reduce waste and the danger of contamination that animal byproducts can provide, such as livestock grade antibiotics:
“People have long been exposed to antibiotics in meat and milk. Now, the new research shows that they also may be ingesting them from vegetables, perhaps even ones grown on organic farms.
The Minnesota researchers planted corn, green onion and cabbage in manure-treated soil in 2005 to evaluate the environmental impacts of feeding antibiotics to livestock. Six weeks later, the crops were analyzed and found to absorb chlortetracycline, a drug widely used to treat diseases in livestock. In another study in 2007, corn, lettuce and potato were planted in soil treated with liquid hog manure. They, too, accumulated concentrations of an antibiotic, named Sulfamethazine, also commonly used in livestock. As the amount of antibiotics in the soil increased, so too did the levels taken up by the corn, potatoes and other plants.” – Environmental Health News
You may say to yourself – well what if I get my manure and blood meal from “organic livestock” that haven’t been treated with antibiotics? It is still a waste of environmental resources. For example, if you took the hay/grass normally fed to cows (or simple lawn clippings) and add it directly to your garden or compost, the gardens will receive all the nitrogen and nutrients normally found in manure and more.*
When you factor in:
The space required for grazing,
(The space required for grazing and growing crops to feed animals takes up over 30% of the earth’s landmass)
The space required to grow crops to feed farm animals,
(More than 70 percent of the grain and cereals that is grown in the United States is fed to farmed animals.)
The space it takes to house the livestock themselves,
the space required to fertilize one-acre of garden with manure instead of simply using the hay/grass itself is over four times greater!
*Much of the plant-based nitrogen cows ingest is lost through their urine. Adding grass/hay directly to a garden or compost also gives you more compostable material to work with and a greater abundance of minerals that would normally be absorbed during digestion.
Next: “But the animals are already being used for other means.” Is veganic growing feasible on large-scale farms?