Thanks to widespread use of animal manure to build soil fertility, especially on organic farms, very few vegetables are actually vegan—a reality that has some calling for an acceleration of “veganic” farming, and others saying depleted soils demand regenerative practices that include productive use of waste from grazing animals.
While it may be comforting to assume that vegetables are vegan by definition, 45-year-old veganic farmer Will Bonsall told The Guardian, the vast majority of organic farms follow the centuries-old practice of using animal-derived substances like manure and blood and bone meal to boost soil fertility.
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Bonsall and a “small but growing” group of veganic farmers “want to revolutionize organic agriculture,” The Guardian says, embracing farming methods which are plant-based and free of animal products. But that doesn’t sit well with Jessica Lang, research coordinator at Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute, an organization that played a key role in helping the U.S. Department of Agriculture develop its organic farming standard.
“We’re at a point in time where our soils have been so degraded that it is actually becoming more and more difficult to grow crops in those degraded soils,” she said, adding that the word “regenerative” needs to “get into the vocabulary of the general population.”
But while they’ve been slow to gain traction in the United States, veganic farms are thriving in Europe, “where growers already have a certifying body, called ‘biocyclic vegan’,” The Guardian writes.
Ironically, the paper adds, industrial agriculture is already “vegan”, in the “myopic” sense that it uses nitrogen-laden synthetic chemical fertilizers but no animal products to boost soil fertility—for a short time.
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