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Vegans and Manure - What to Do With All That Poop

Manure production

Manure production

We have a lot of animals. We actually only have 51 animals on our farm, but since they are all pets – that is quite a few to care for. We have a fairly efficient system to feed, water and care for them all, and they provide us with hours of enjoyment… and mountains of poop. In fact, we have spent many hours talking about poop, and even more hours cleaning it up or moving it around the farm.

We are vegan, and by definition we do not use or exploit animals. Yet this definition becomes clouded since we are responsible for caring for a menagerie of different animals as well as maintaining the balanced ecosystem they inhabit. Particularly with regards to manure (or shinure as my grandma so eloquently calls it).

More manure producers

More manure producers

Poop - Where It Comes From And Where It Goes

Our sheep live on pasture and their manure fertilizes the grasslands as nature intended. But during the winter, even though they have a large pasture to roam and spread out in, our prairie winters keep them fairly concentrated under the trees where they shelter at night. This over-concentration of feces is not the fault of the sheep, but rather our “fault” for keeping them as pets. As such, it is our responsibility to spread it around. And yes, most of it ends up in our vegetable and flower gardens.

It is true that we could use purely plant-based compost and thus not “use” animals for our benefit, but our farm would still be out of balance: our sheep create an overabundance of nutrients in one area, and our garden creates a depletion of nutrients in another. We feel using the composted manure in the garden is one way our small piece of land can sustain itself as a balanced ecosystem. This is how nature intended it to work, and we can lend a hand as a responsible land steward.

The same is true of our poultry. We periodically care for foster dogs, and their run doubles as our poultry run. When we let the chickens in after the dogs, all the dog poop magically disappears! Besides being quite gross, are we simply allowing a natural cycle or are we using the chickens to do our dirty work?

Searching for delicacies

Searching for delicacies

And there is still plenty of dirty work left for us when we scoop the dog-poop-turned-chicken-poop from the chicken house and load it into a compost bin (which again ends its days in the garden). Are we exploiting the foster dogs from the animal shelter to fertilize our garden? Or are we caring for a displaced animal, feeding our pets, and growing our own food?

Ponies are another example of a perfect poop creating machine. One thing I have learned from my experiences of keeping ponies is that they are very clear about where their bathroom is. Our ponies’ bathroom is right beside their shelter, and if their bathroom is not cleaned regularly enough, they move their bathroom to the other side of the shelter. The health of our animals requires that we remove this manure, and we add it to the compost, too.

Not Vegan. But Still Ethical?

Spreading manure from a factory farm or a dairy operation could never be considered vegan, but is this akin to mixing our guinea pig’s poop into the flower garden? (Another wonderful cycle of poop is that our dogs love eating guinea pig feces, and then they poop it onto our lawn). I realize this may be splitting hairs, but while we are “using” the manure to fertilize I don’t think we are exploiting the animals. Of course, we are benefiting by looking at the flowers and eating the vegetables, but it seems to me that our animals are simply balancing out our inability to manage nature.

Dog treats (made by our very own guinea pigs)

Dog treats (made by our very own guinea pigs)

By definition, our farm would not be considered vegan, and I suppose our claim to be vegans is slightly hypocritical. But I believe we also have a social and environmental responsibility to being sustainable. We could bring in off-farm fertility such as vegan fertilizer, but our environmental health can be best fulfilled by our own animals even if that raises questions about how we label ourselves. To say that manure is bad is to neglect one of nature’s perfect soil amendments. Our pets are raised as nature intended, and nature reaps the benefits.

Comments

The Real David Pressler from Planet Earth on November 07, 2020:

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Bellwether Farming (author) from Alberta, Canada on November 06, 2020:

Yes, I am all for composting toilets

Bellwether Farming (author) from Alberta, Canada on November 06, 2020:

Thanks! We sure like our poop. Haha.

The Real David Pressler from Planet Earth on November 06, 2020:

Taking all that poop and make methane! Alternative human fecal disposal NEVER spoken about? Composting toilets the future of human poop disposal. Saving planet Earth one toilet at a time

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on November 06, 2020:

I thought caring for a parakeet was a lot of work. Lol.

I think what you are doing makes sense.