The Role of Animals in a One Planet Life

bees on honeycomb

We will soon be submitting our ‘One Planet Development’ planning application for our land based life and businesses. This will involve us having to live as sustainably as possible on our land.

The one aspect of this is growing the majority of our own food. As we live a vegan and gluten free diet it has forced me to look at how sustainable the diet is in Wales in the U.K.

I recently read Graham Burnett’s The Vegan Book of Permaculture and it got me thinking about the use of animals within a sustainable system and what the vegan ethics mean?

Are we simply bypassing the animal involvement in our own direct lives? As the animal involvement would have been involved before we purchased the food. How do we know that the people that have grown our food haven’t used manure, organically certified pesticides, kept animals captive…

Over the last twelve months I have had to seriously question my strong vegan opinions and search inside my head and heart for answers. Below are my thoughts and ramblings….

  • Living in a caravan throughout the winter can be cold at night, especially after the fire has gone out. A friend gave us an amazing woollen blanket, made from the wool of her organic sheep. We put it on the bed and it was amazing. It not only kept us warm enough but I was actually sweating!! It did not even compare to numerous fleece blankets on top of each other. Then I got thinking that the amount of processing to produce a fleece blanket is far from good for the planet and at the end of the day it is made from oil, which again is dead animals. Is it better to use wool blankets made from local organic sheep?caravan in winter
  • Working outside all day in the wet and cold is impossible with synthetic gardening gloves. The best you can get is the rubber style gardening gloves but after a while you get the same effect as wearing wellies on your feet…you feel like your hands could drop off because they are so cold!! I searched and searched for a vegan alternative and posted on Facebook groups but there were no suggestions that worked for ALL DAY in the wet and cold. After trying lined leather gloves I came to the conclusion that living this life you are going to need them and they have their place. I bet up until now people that have been working the land to grow fruit and vegetables that I consume have worn leather gloves so is there really any difference?
  • Many people know Wales is renowned for being a wet and damp country so most people keep ducks to remove slugs from their vegetable gardens and consume their eggs. I believe it would be almost impossible to grow enough vegetables to be self sufficient in Wales without the help of ducks. We have decided we will have ducks in our vegetable garden and they will be our volunteers. Their wings will not be clipped so if they don’t like the deal they have they could fly off. Many vegans have dogs and cats but seem to object to keeping ducks…how is it different? How far do you take the no animals thing, should vegans not have a wormery as it is keeping worms captive and making them work? I believe this kind of thinking becomes speciesism and would result in a human only world. In nature animals’ lives are all interlinked and we need to learn when it is appropriate to work alongside animals and embrace that wonderful relationship and connection.slugs
  • I have decided to include horses in our plan for manure and work. We will develop a paddock paradise system so the horses lives can be as close to nature as we possibly can make it. Humans have put their mark on so much of the U.K. that there is simply not enough land for horses to roam the majority of places in a safe manner. We have to take responsibility for this and simply not just say you shouldn’t keep horses. I will see the horses exactly the same as human volunteers. They will work in exchange for food and board. I will practise natural horse work with them so there will be no bits and if the horses don’t want to work or are under the weather just like the human volunteers, they will not be forced to work. It will be a partnership working the land. One of the reasons I will be keeping the horses is for their manure. Yes I could use green manures and I will use green manure but I have to acknowledge that the land is very mineral deficient and there are only a couple of hands available to work the land. I am going to need nutrients for the vegetable garden, herb and flower garden, fruit bushes and fruit trees, nut trees, forest garden trees. It would be almost impossible to do this through green manures in the limited time of five years that the planning allows. I do not want to buy in manure as then you are putting the responsibility of the animals onto somebody else and you have no idea how the animals have been kept, what they have eaten, what medicines or vaccinations they have, how the manure was stored, if there is any plastic in with the manure, what weed seeds are in the manure…the list goes on…
  • Eventually I would like to keep bees and practise natural beekeeping. We will exchange the bees the food from the plants I grow, in exchange for a little honey if they have any spare come springtime. By keeping bees we will increase the biodiversity,  increase the population of honeybees and allow our plants to have the opportunity to be pollinated by natural, healthy, happy honey bees.bees on honeycomb

The result of having to explore all these things has made me realise that my previous thinking was very naïve and I failed to make connections between things. I started to see some things the same way I used to see non-vegetarians who bought their meat all nicely packaged in supermarkets and did not want to even think about the death involved. A lot of the decisions I had to make were already part of my life but the only difference was that I had no control over them.

I have no idea what kind of  gloves the person is wearing who is growing my winter cabbages, do they keep a wormery or have ducks in their veg patch? Do they use any animal products in the soil that my food is growing in?  Have the vegetables been pollinated by captive bees?

The one thing I am sure of is I will become the grower, so I have to take full responsibility for everything and this will involve some difficult decisions. Taking full responsibility for what I eat means I have to think about all aspects of growing, not just whether the product is animal product or not.

If the vegan police decide to shoot me down, I ask them to ask themselves, how do they take responsibly for all aspects of their food?