The Vegan Debate – Local versus Veg*n?

I’ve not produced the next of the “why we eat meat” series I had planned, mostly because I am stuck on the environmental aspects of eating meat and vegan versus CAFO versus small humane farm.  The whole situation is beyond complicated, and being a biologist/ecologist/librarian/archivist, I want lots of resources.  There are so few proper studies done on small farms using sustainable, humane methods that there is no data to compare to.  I am wallowing in a state of frustration over this, as well as having issues with some of the arguments presented by both sides of the meat-no-meat debate.

But, as we will be running around today to the Wayland Winter Farmer’s Market for Wool Day, and then eating lots of locally produced, sustainably grown meat tonight at Valhalla, I leave you with this little debate I found via La Vida Locavore.  It is a reasonably intelligent, balanced debate, and the comments are, for the most part, sane.  I hope to talk about my biggest beef with this issue in the near future (pun totally intended).

Is being vegan the only green option?

My personal answer is no, vegan is not the only green option.  Any opinions from out in the great wide world?

And now, gratuitous pet picture.

Won't you come and rub my belly?

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2 Responses to The Vegan Debate – Local versus Veg*n?

  1. nruit says:

    There are so many ways to get at this argument! Being a small meat/dairy/wool farmer (as well as being a librarian) you can say that I am opinionated on this topic. But even without national studies, what I know about our farm and many of the other small farms we are familiar with, is that not only are our operations humane, but they really do not impact the environment harshly. And this is really dependent upon the management. That’s really the key. We don’t have huge numbers of animals packed together in a feedlot, with dead carcasses polluting the surrounding soil and water supplies. When there is a death (which is very infrequent because we know each and every animal intimately and can mostly head off problems), we are always careful to consider how to pass this organic matter carefully into the environment. We don’t have a big pit that we bulldoze bodies into, for instance!). Each one is handled differently.
    If you want to get into the feed issue it gets so very much more complicated. We don’t have enough land or growing season to produce all of our own feed, so I do have to supplement our lambs and milking goats with grain. But we don’t do it all year as a matter of course. And we try to use companies that are as local to New England as possible. If I didn’t have to have a day job (!) I would try and be more creative in getting the feed, but right now that’s the choice we are making. And by feeding grain to our market lambs, we can get them off the land much more quickly, into our customer’s hands, leaving the grass for the moms. We are using fields that neighbors do not use, so we are helping to reclaim pastureland as well. I think that small more sustainable farms are really a way to balance many of the “green” issues. Obviously we could be out there writing books on this topic!

    • Thanks, Nina! We appreciate your perspective on the topic a great deal. From talking to other small scale farmers, we get the perspective that small-scale mixed farms (animals and plants) can be very effective and sustainable. And the underlying principles of how small scale mixed farms cycle their nutrients make a lot of sense to the biologists in us. However, it’s always really hard, because in the big debate over this issue, there’s so little actual data out there on how different farming styles affect their environment. We obviously, at present, think that integrating animals onto a small farm is a great idea, but since we ourselves don’t farm, we’re never quite sure how to scale this topic.

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