Justin Van Kleeck is a microsanctuary pioneer—a farm animal rescuer working on a small scale, often rescuing animals from small-scale farming operations too, and resisting the calls of industry to tout “humane” or “local” agribusiness as a step in the right direction.
While Justin urges consistency—no amount of homespun pictures or creative PR can ever make animal exploitation “humane”—some will then challenge the commitment to crops as food.
There’s a clever argument, and maybe you’ve heard it, that vegans cause the deaths of more animals by being vegan. Growing crops for human food, the argument goes, involves tractors and threshers that kill field mice, voles, and so forth.
Have you ever noticed how this argument misses all the feed crops used in animal farming? Note, for example, that 99% of your local chicken farmers drive to feed stores to keep their birds growing and producing. The feed store is reliant on the fossil-fuel industry. So the “local” and “sustainable” concept in animal farming, when we dig deeper, is questionable.
Your local animal farm would also be a consumer of the massive feed industry that uses heavy equipment on the land without regard for the countless small animals seeking food and shelter amidst the fields.
As discussed before on Vegan Place, facile excuses to avoid personal change abound. When people face the reality that becoming vegan is possible, there seems to be a shut-off valve, signifying: “Change myself? No! Let me seize an excuse that I haven’t really thought through and hope you haven’t thought through either. Vegans do more harm—so there! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
Justin, when confronted with the “vegans kill more animals than your local animal farmers” claim, says:
We vegans start from the premise that exploitation and killing of other beings for our own ends is unacceptable, and we seek solutions…beneficial for all involved. Husbandry starts from the premise that other animals are here for us to use and consume, and all we have to do is be nice. So vegans seek harmonious coexistence without holding a knife to anyone’s throat.
Veganic models of agriculture and permaculture are available. Along with being more sustainable they are also workable in a variety of settings. Veganic urban gardens and food networks EXIST, but animal husbandry does not make sense for all communities. Remember: “If it isn’t accessible by the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.”
In our conversations, Justin has noted that we, our whole generation, are products of an industrial revolution now. Why hold vegans alone responsible for what mechanized farming does to the land and to animals seeking habitat? Vegans didn’t plan to produce food this way.
Feeding crops to animals kills more animals. Animal farms breed large numbers of animals into existence for human consumption.
And when field animals get caught up in the collateral damage in the production of food crops (eaten by vegans and non-vegans), it’s because we’re all dealing with constraints imposed on us by modern agribusiness.
But we can go vegan to stop direct exploitation and killing within our food system, and try to change that system completely. Let’s insist on fewer excuses, and real engagement.
I am grateful to Justin for expanding my knowledge on vegan and sanctuary ethics greatly, and also for being a patron of my animal-liberation work. Photo of Justin: source. Banner photo by Philipp Kuchler (own work), via Wikimedia Commons.