Did you know that “veganically” grown grain can come from a farm whose main business is butchering animals?
As a vegan examining the possibility of starting up a vegan organic farm in BC, Canada, this was a disturbing revelation. Here is some background to explain.
I recently emerged from a long, frustrating dialogue with the Veganic Agricultural Network (VAN) discussion group about the meaning of the word “Veganic”, which is currently not certified in any way. Looking at the word, I had assumed that it was a contraction of the words “vegan” and “organic”, ie: This is a product from a vegan farm that grows organically. Actually, according to Meghan Kelly, the moderator/co-founder at VAN, the word was originally coined by non-vegans in reference to the sources of fertility for those growing without animal inputs (ie: animal manure, blood, bones, etc.), in this case being “VEgetable” and “orGANIC”, and intended no referrence to vegan philosophy.
A few years ago, a North American group called Certified Naturally Grown or CNG (not a vegan organization) decided to use the term “Veganic” in one of their certification programs. That particular program has been suspended due to lack of interest from CNG farmers. Under the former certification (all CNG’s certifications are participatory guarantee system [PGS], not 3rd party), Veganic referred to the lack of animal inputs in the growing methods of the farmer, not that the farmer was vegan. VAN holds the same position on this point and seems unlikely to change the “veganic” in their organization’s name, but if we are referring strictly to farming methods and not philosophy, then wouldn’t a term NOT including the word “vegan” be more appropriate?
In the UK, this type of growing method is most often referred to as “Stockfree”, and is certified through Stockfree Organic Services-UK (or SOS, a.k.a. Vegan Organic Network-UK[VON]). When Iain Tolhurst (SOS) gave an online seminar to the Certified Organic Association of BC back in 2009, he spoke directly to this issue: “… I do not use the word Veganic at all, actually. We have Stockfree farming. This is a word which I know some people adopt. Veganic farming tends to indicate that the person doing the farm has to be a vegan; this is not the case in Stockfree…”. In Growing Green, Animal-Free Organic Techniques, by Iain Tolhurst and Jenny Hall, it also states: “Research into commercial stockfree-organic agriculture arose not for compassionate reasons but through economic necessity.” (p.2) “Stockfree” is a more accurate, less misleading term with which to refer to animal-input-free farming methods; it does not confuse vegan consumers, nor dilute the meaning of the word vegan. Unfortunately, VON is using the term “vegan-organic” interchangeably with “stockfree organic”. I also could not find reference to VON/SOS’s certification stance on farming animals apart from stockfree crops, whereas VAN explicitly recommends no animals on the farm other than companion or rescues, however VAN is not a certifying body.
The reason we need to be clear on the meaning of these terms is because companies are now beginning to promote products as “veganic”. Here in BC, One Degree Organic Foods promotes their “veganic” spelt from one of their farm suppliers - Vale Farms. As you can see on the front page of Vale Farms’ website, this same farm raises and slaughters sheep and cattle (see link below). One Degree Organic Foods do not mention this in their promotion of Vale Farms. When pressed on the issue, they take the same stance as VAN, CNG and VON, that “Veganic” pertains only to the farming method of the product in question, excluding the farmer’s beliefs and, in One Degree’s definition, also excluding the livestock portion of the farmer’s operation.
If you are a concerned vegan consumer, be aware!