Vegetables aren’t vegan anymore, so if you’re true to the cause, dig out the foraging basket

Seasonal vegetables are available year round in supermarkets, all manner of plant-based milks are edging good old-fashioned cow-juice out of the market, and innovative meat-substitutes like the ‘impossible burger’ are inching closer to mimicking the real thing, only without the murder. But almost all of these products have a dirty little secret: they’re grown in cow manure.

As such, they’re not actually vegan, a Guardian op-ed argues. Manure is an animal product, and therefore should be shunned by vegans, just as they do meat, fur, milk and honey.

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Organic farming without the cow poo is possible, and some growers have achieved spectacular results with purely plant-based fertilizer. But so-called ‘biocyclic vegan’ compost can take several years to ferment, and thus far has only been produced on a small scale. Some vegan products are produced without animal waste, but labeling standards are lax, and the average consumer will have no idea which sack of onions were grown in poo and which weren’t.

So what’s a concerned vegan to do?

There are two options here. One is to accept that modern life is made possible by the suffering of others, animals included. No matter how pure our diets, we wear clothes stitched together in Bangladeshi sweatshops. We browse the internet on phones assembled by modern-day serf laborers in Chinese factories. Our gas-guzzling cars depend on oil sucked out of the ground in Arab warzones, while their newfangled electric replacements use cobalt mined by African children, who are paid $2-3 per day to toil in “stone age conditions.”

We’re all hypocrites, and we have to choose our battles.

We often joke that the modern green movement wants to undo civilization and turn the clock back to the middle ages. But to truly live by the book, our second option involves looking a little further back into the past. 

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Farming and animal husbandry emerged in Mesopotamia after the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000-15,000 years ago. Scientists have discovered that manure was first used to fertilize crops in Europe some time around 8,000 years ago. Since the human race first set down roots in the fertile near-east, our domestication and domination of animals has enabled agriculture, and civilization, to prosper.

While you’re at it, why stop at that timestamp? To ensure a clean conscience, embrace the lifestyle of our Mesolithic ancestors who came beforehand, foraging for mushrooms and berries in the woods, and living off the spoils of mother nature.

Swap the sweatshop skinny jeans for a hemp loincloth. Ditch the animal-tested cosmetics and soaps and bathe in the rivers instead. Fashion simple tools and weapons to fend off berry-snatching predators. Ditch thousands of years of human progress and then rest assured you are practicing what you preach.

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