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What is wrong with using animals?

At Plants For A Future we are trying to demonstrate a lifestyle that is in harmony with the environment. We endeavour to work with nature - rather than against nature - for mutual benefit. We do our best not to exploit - whether it be creatures, human or non-human, or Mother Earth. We aim for a sustainable way of living, based mainly on perennial crops; this involves the least disturbance to the soil and hence minimal environmental impact. The cultivation of trees and shrubs also results in something much closer to the Natural Climax Vegetation. We aim towards self-sufficiency - especially in food, since we believe we can obtain all we need from plant foods that can be grown outdoors in Britain. (We do not include plants that need a heated greenhouse to survive.) Of course, self-sufficiency would be easier in a warmer climate - but is by no means impossible here. By growing these plants and making the information about them available, we hope to encourage other people to work in a similar way, so we can all heal the planet and ourselves together.


Why is it that we do not use animals?

In this society, people use animals primarily for food; but they and their by-products are also used for:

  • cloth, eg wool
  • strong waterproof materials, eg leather
  • fertiliser from dung
  • drug and toxicity testing

Our leaflet Plants for Health explains why a plant based diet is far healthier than a meat based diet. Animal farming is not often healthy for the animals either. Due to the terrible conditions in factory farms and the fact that they are often forced to eat their own wastes and their own dead, these poor animals are falling prey to many diseases such as Salmonella, BSE and Listeria. These diseases are often passed on to humans.

In ecological terms, a plant based diet is also far healthier for the planet. Domestic cattle belch out large quantities of methane every day, and methane is a greenhouse gas, thereby increasing global warming. In fact methane is 20-30 times more efficient than CO2 at trapping heat. Methane also helps to destroy ozone in the upper atmosphere.

The effluent from the large quantities of farm animals, as well as the washings from milking equipment and slaughter houses pollute rivers and seas.

Most of the land in Britain is used either for grazing or for growing feed for livestock. And is if that wasn't enough, huge quantities of grain are also imported from other countries - often tropical countries where people are starving - eg Britain continued to import grain from Ethiopia during the 1984 famine!

With a plant based diet (based on tree crops such as fruit and nuts), Britain could easily be self-sufficient in food with ample land left over for growing trees for fuel, construction purposes, amenity and wildlife. This would free land in other countries such as Africa for the local people to grow their own food instead of exporting grain for animal feed. This would also reduce their need for foreign aid.

Using animals for food is a tremendous waste in this age where millions starve due to lack of food. As Gandhi said, 'There is enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed.' When grain is fed to animals such as cattle, the creature uses most of the food for its own living purposes, and only a small proportion is laid down as meat. For example, for every 10 tons of protein in the form of grain fed to cattle, only 1 ton of protein is obtained as meat. The present human population means we simply cannot afford such a waste. By using plant foods only, we are saving on the Earth's resources and allowing more people to be fed - as well as eating a healthier diet and boycotting the senseless cruelty involved in rearing animals for food.

Animal grazing and deforestation have caused a lot of erosion and environmental destruction. For example, in the Mediterranean, deforestation and the use of goats which prevented tree regeneration means that the once beautifully wooded hills are now semi-bare eroded, gullied slopes. The Sahara has long had a naturally dry climate but the desert has been extending and invading into the surrounding savannahs and woodlands due to deforestation and overgrazing. Much of Ethiopia used to be lush dense forests (a few remnants still remain), but is now bare eroded hills - hence the famines. Africa north of the Sahara used to be the grain basket of the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago, but has since become too dry to even contemplate growing grain.

Bad farming practices - whether or not animals are used - will ruin the land as exemplified by the Dust Bowls of North America. Even now, for every bushel of grain harvested from North American Mid-West, 1.5 bushels of soil is lost due to erosion. These problems could be solved with a plant based diet coupled with replanting trees.

A plant based diet is far more sustainable. We can feed many more people in plant foods than on animal foods. At present we have two population explosions - that of humans, and that of farm animals which compete with us for food, land, water, and many other commodities. Factory farming is not the answer. It does not save land or food, but results in sewage disposal problems, disease not to mention great cruelty. Why not consider a plant based diet as the answer? It is mainly habit and custom which prevent change, but change must come if we are to survive.

A plant based diet is far more compassionate. Many people nowadays would not eat meat if they had to go out and hunt the animals themselves. As the horror of the slaughterhouse is out of sight, it is also out of mind. But going out and hunting is actually more compassionate than eating a factory farmed broiler chicken, or an intensely reared slice of cow or pig. The intensive rearing of animals, where animals are kept in tiny cages and pumped full of growth hormones etc, is undoubtedly very cruel. But even free range organically farmed animals suffer stress and pain before their eventual slaughter. They are restricted in where they can roam and are not allowed to live in their natural social groupings.

It is not just a plant based diet, but a plant based agriculture that is needed. The use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides is a serious threat to us all. Our rivers are becoming more polluted by the day whilst the land becomes gradually sterile and dependant on more and more chemicals to obtain the same yield (never mind increasing it!) and the pests become resistant to an ever greater variety of poisons. As the use of chemicals increases so does the threat to our health from the residues remaining in our food.

Many organic growers argue that you need animal farming to maintain the fertility of the land. But this is not true. Just feed the vegetable wastes to the compost heap, grow green manures, comfrey and nettles and you will have plenty of food for the soil. But even under organic conditions the growing of annual crops leads to a net loss of topsoil; each year. So for truly sustainable growing concentrate on trees, shrubs and perennials, which require little work or feeding once they are established. For more information see our leaflets Vegan-Organics - The Basic Principles and Why Perennials.

There are many plant fibres that can be made into warm clothes or quilts, that are good substitutes for wool. We do not need sheep! (See our leaflet Fibre Plants.) Many of these plant fibres are very strong and when coated with water- repellent gums and resins (also from plants), they can be made into waterproof materials.

And, of course, we do not need to test drugs, household chemicals and food additives on animals! Herbal medicines are more effective and far safer than drugs and do not need to be tested; they have been used by traditional Medical Herbalists for hundreds of years. And there are so many natural soaps and cleaning agents available - why do we need more? And synthetic food additives are often harmful to our health, so really we are better off without them.

So plants can provide us with the majority of our physical needs, and we benefit greatly from using them. And unless we are prepared to return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, like that of the North American Indians (which is only possible with a very small human population), using animals for food is just causing environmental destruction and a deterioration of health. The answer lies in using plants.



Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More



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