First, let me make quite clear that I am a farmer, an organic farmer, and an omnivore. I have no problem whatsoever with vegan diets, vegetarians, or any other dietary choices. We all have different bodies and different nutritional needs, as a growing body of scientific research is discovering.
However, I do take issue with vegan and vegetarian claims of less bloodshed. This is disingenuous and quite naive. Do you know what organic farmers use instead of chemical fertilizers? They use blood meal. BLOOD meal. Or feather meal. Yup, real feathers ground up, and those feathers were not graciously donated by a flock of generous fowl living in bird paradise on earth.
If we go back a hundred years, all farmers kept livestock—not just for milk and meat, but to provide an integrated and natural source of fertilizer for their farms. Today, we have specialized agribusiness to the point where farmers may have 1000 acres of corn or a 1000 head of cattle, but almost never both. Historically, you could run a small family farm and lovingly care for a few cows or goats who produced milk, constant fertilizers, and meat when they grew old.
This cycle is terribly broken. And we all suffer, including vegans in their attempts to remove cruelty from their diets.
Modern Farmer has discussed the sometimes-creepy use of blood meal to feed plants and animals. As for the larger ethical question of eating vegan, does intent matter? This reader thinks so:
The difference between insects and small animals like mice being killed to produce vegetables, soy, or any non-animal food and killing cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other living beings for food is that in the former scenario, the carnage is an unfortunate consequence; in the later scenario, the carnage is the point. I think as an issue of ethics, the question of intent is the key point to focus on.
Ethics aside, the same reader believes we should discuss the bigger questions in food production: