Organic Isn’t Vegan

Organic Not VeganEDIT (8/28/2017): My views on Organic have adjusted a bit recently to be more charitable towards the practice. Certainly the appeal to nature includes animals and precludes “unnatural” technological solutions. That contrived dichotomy can have harmful implications as I write about below but I don’t mean this to be anti-Organic necessarily. A post on that is in my queue. ]
You can hardly swing a bunch of kale without hitting a vegan product that is certified organic these days. Why is this, I wonder? I mean, we should all know by now that organic farming is just like regular agriculture except it uses what is “natural” as its measure. What is naturally derived, without humans (who themselves are a product of nature, BTW), isn’t a guarantee of safeness or goodness. Organic agriculture uses pesticides, isn’t healthier, and not necessarily better for the environment than modern agriculture. But what does this have to do with veganism?

Vegans are typically astute ethical consumers who carefully weigh the consequences of their purchases. They are careful to reduce the chances of participating in any form of animal exploitation mostly by avoiding certain products. There are products made from animal bodies themselves, like flesh. Products that are made by animal bodies, like milk. And animal-derived products that, while not ingredients of a final product, are used in processing (for example, bone char filtration in the sugar-making process). As I’ve written in the past, this can go on to an absurd degree, but I’d concede that, in general, vegans focus is on the most obvious animals products. And, by paying such close attention to these details, many vegans feel that they are ‘voting with their dollars.’

And then there are organic products with their health halo, which might lend a glow to vegans’ ethical calculations in their consumer decisions. Many vegans seem unaware how this label tramples upon their cause. Let’s look at some of the issues:

Vegans love to advocate their cause because it means fewer animals are being slaughtered with each new adherent. Lowering the barriers to entry is something many vegans would support. But, since organic food limits itself to a relative standard of natural purity, there are added costs in producing organic food. Modern biotech agricultural solutions can help reduce expensive inputs and labor for farmers, thereby reducing cost to consumers. Inexpensive, tasty vegan food options are a win for the cause. If there were a vegan product that tasted just as good and cheaper than the animal version, what consumer wouldn’t opt for the vegan version? Because organic foods are more expensive, this makes veganism that much less possible and practical1 for no good reason at all.

Animal Care
While vegans avoid animal products altogether, they also care about welfare issues and wish to reduce animals’ suffering. For organic farms though, antibiotics that provide relief for sick animals & vaccines made with genetic engineering to protect them from disease are not allowed. Instead, health practices for animals in their care rely in part (or mandatorily first) upon quack homeopathic remedies. It’s one thing to make a personal choice to employ such remedies upon yourself, but to impose that upon another creature without regard to proven scientific efficacy is a despicable practice no vegan should stand behind. Withholding modern medical treatments from animals within organic’s care is worse than the unnatural bogeyman. It’s cruel and unjust, it’s not vegan.

Plants require nitrogen. Specifically, plants that are farmed for people to eat require nitrogen-containing fertilizer. Even though our atmosphere contains a whole lotta nitrogen, plants can’t use it unless it’s “fixed” into a form that is available to them biologically. Agriculture struggled with finding abundant sources of nitrogen until we figured out a way to harvest that from the atmosphere. But this synthetic fertilizer is not natural enough for organic, so it is forbidden. Much organic-allowed fertilizer is in the form of animal parts such as fish, blood and bone meal, and cow manure. The manure is interesting because the only reason it has nitrogen in the first place is because it’s in the non-organic feed. Somehow nitrogen becomes more natural once it’s passed through the bodies of animals so they’re cheating on their own standards. Is your head spinning yet?

If animal-derived products used in processing like bone char with sugar or isinglass with beer is a vegan issue then maybe Veganic is the only option. But that I think is the wrong direction and misses the point of veganism. Shouldn’t we be encouraging the use of non-animal-derived inputs while maximizing the outputs? To do that we should implement every tool at our disposal but that’s not the way organic rolls. Manure-based fertilizer is animal-derived, not vegan.

Genetically modifying organisms has already proved useful in medicine by replacing animal-derived insulin for diabetics with a synthetic one made with genetically modified bacteria. Vaccines made through GM plants or insect cells instead of chicken eggs is another example of how this technology can help reduce reliance on animal products.

In matters of agriculture though, this technology can provide unique sources for nutrients that vegans may lack. An example like omega-3 biofortified grain can both make it easier to get that nutrient from food without supplementation and also offset sourcing from fish. Many farmers use broad-spectrum insecticides, which kill indiscriminately, regardless of whether or not a bug is harmful to the crops. Plants that are genetically modified to produce their own narrow-spectrum pesticide, like Bt corn, kill fewer insects by targeting only those that pose a threat. Or what about avoiding killing insects altogether by creating a plant that can emit an odorless pheromone that scares away pests? We’re just scratching the surface as to what this technology can bring, and vegans would do well to embrace genetic modification. Genetically modifying crops to produce nutrients that are commonly derived from animals, or to reduce our reliance on pesticides, will reduce needless animal deaths.

Genetic modification is a safe, precise form of plant breeding, yet is deemed unacceptable by organic standards. Scrambling plants’ DNA to force random mutations with radiation or chemicals is just fine by them though. Are you noticing a pattern here? Supporting organic is a missed opportunity to leverage technology to grow the vegan movement.

Nutrition Supplements
While the research on DHA is still coming in RDs are recommending DHA supplementation for vegans to err on the safe side. Usually this nutrient is acquired from the flesh of fish but science has figured out a way to bypass the middle-fish and go straight to the sources: algae. It’s too bad that this isn’t natural enough for Organic. They recommend getting it from fish instead. Fishes are animals last time I checked. Not vegan.

The inefficiencies of eschewing modern technology means organic farming falls more and more behind modern agriculture in terms of yields. Getting less product from the land requires taking more land away from local wildlife to match the yields of modern farming. Doing more with less is a driving factor for agriculture and who doesn’t want that? Using genetic modification we could, for example, engineer plants to even be more efficient with nitrogen. Fungicides, composting, tillage are other practices that aren’t quite environmentally ideal. Striving to leave a small footprint as well as affect fauna as little as possible should be a concern for all vegans.

Veganism Trumps Organicism
Vegans may mean well when they buy organic products, but this dubious designation should be better scrutinized to discover how it undermines and cashes in on the vegan cause. What’s needed are rational decisions and sound scientific policy, not mythical “natural” appeals of faith-based agriculture such as Organic. By its very definition, Organic is a set of limitations. There is nothing organic can do that modern agriculture can’t yet there is a whole lot organic limits itself from. The “conventional” vs organic divide is a false dichotomy and causes unnecessary confusion, harm, and stunts progress for the movement. If veganism is a credible and noble way to live why is there this organic label slapped on most of the vegan products? Why are vegans being unfairly burdened with this tax? How is that helping the animals for which the cause is supposedly focused upon? Vegans are being suckered and their pockets being picked by BigOrganic Agribusiness. Ditch those archaic organic products already and support safe, innovative, and accessible food products for all.

The point I’m trying to make here though isn’t so much that organic itself is any less or more vegan really, but that the dogma must stop. Ditch the baloney!  It’s time vegans use their heads along with their hearts and make smart, reasoned choices for the considerations of their earthling cousins. If exploiting animals is natural enough for organic standards then maybe vegans should reconsider their bedfellows.

Further Reading:
Henry I. Miller exposes the disappointing truth about organic agriculture. | Project Syndicate
Organic Pesticides | The Farmer’s Daughter USA
Some Common Organic Fertilizers EARTH-KIND Gardening | Aggie Horticulture

  1. “possible and practical” qualifiers of veganism as defined by the Vegan Society

91 comments to Organic Isn’t Vegan

  • Jessica Caneal

    I am a little confused about one point that you made and I am hoping you can clarify. I understand what you are saying about sick animals needing antibiotics, but how does that have anything to do with veganism if as vegans we are not consuming animals or animal-derived products?

    • Not to speak for Mr. Crank, but I interpreted it to mean that “organic” as a philosophy is at odds with veganism in that, by withholding proven medical treatments from livestock, it promotes animal cruelty.

      • Evejanelucile

        Well we want abolition of animal use so we would say don’t use them at all. Same with absolutely anything; shopping anywhere that sells meat. Yes we shop there, but we ask them to stop using animals and buy products accordingly. I think this association is completely spurious.

        • Yes of course but Organic relies on animal use because it is deemed more natural. The appeal to nature hurts animals. Shunning anything deemed “synthetic” will limit progress towards animal-free solutions and replacements.

    • Thanks for the question Jessica.

      Anna is correct, thanks.
      The first sentence of that section actually states:

      “While vegans avoid animal products altogether, they also care about welfare issues and wish to reduce animals’ suffering.”

      So even though vegans aren’t eating Organic animal products directly, they are contributing to a practice that institutionalizes unfair treatment and cruelty. (See: The Cruel Irony of Organic Standards)

      One might then say “But P-Crank, modern animal agriculture also treats their animal cruelly!”. But this is not mandated by modern agriculture. Animal advocacy groups like HSUS are constantly lobbying animal ag to adopt less cruel practices and they are often successful. Modern ag can do that without fear of violating standards or losing certification.

      Does that make sense?

  • Organic25yrs

    Wow, you really are cranked.
    I’ve been vegatarian for 30 years and vegan for 3 years, and I’m totally committed to organic food and agriculture. You didn’t say if you were a vegan? Seems like maybe not, if so, should you be writing about it?
    I practice all of the above, and for me veganism is totally compatible with organic and really a no-brainer. What you seem to have missed is that first and formost for most vegans, the decision is to: not put products in their own bodies that are:
    1-other dead bodies, 2-stolen from other live or dead bodies (milk, honey, lanolin, eggs etc.). Secondarily most vegans like the idea of a world where this is not hard to do, and therefore hope that our choices will lead others to join in.
    Your organic bashing seems totally out of line with the interests of vegans, as making concious choices about what to eat, is the commonality between veganism and organic practices. I have yet to meet a vegan that relishes pesticide residues or GMOs. I guess you just don’t like vegans or organic folk, so why write about it, we don’t care.

    • Hello Organic25yrs,

      If you must know, (I should update my About page with this info) I went vegan in 1999. Since then I founded the longest running vegan message board on the internet, started the biggest vegan meet up on and volunteered with several animal advocacy groups. I’ve personally met and interacted with hundreds if not thousands of vegans. So I kinda know a few things about veganism, the people, and the ideas in it.

      My mission in many of my vegan endeavors was first and foremost advocating veganism and making it easy to be vegan. I get that, it’s the case I’m making here. That’s particularly why organic is bad for the movement. It makes it harder and more expensive to be vegan. Vegan foods should be cheap! They’re just made from plants afterall! Yet here comes organic and non-GMO to artificially inflate the expense on our freakin vegan products. Screw that!

      My organic bashing comes from culmination of my experiences working within the vegan, animal rights and environmental movements so I believe it totally lines up with the interests of vegans. I’m wondering why more don’t feel the same way but there is a growing contingent of vegans who do. I’m not quite a fan of pesticide residues myself (synthetic or natural), who is? But it’s a fact of agriculture which we need to feed the world. Also, they’re developed to kill pests and modern methods can narrow the focus (as I wrote above in the GMO section).

      I like vegans and organic folks because I do believe they care about being responsible and reducing harm but their thinking is flawed in ways that isn’t conducive to their goals. We gotta be realistic here to make a real impact. That is my goal here if you’re wondering.

      Instead of focusing on me, how about challenging my ideas? Which ones are wrong and why? Or maybe there’s something that you’re wrong about. 25 years of organic would give you a healthy fortress of bias. Are you willing to give some of that up for the possibility of being wrong? I hope so, we must stay skeptical and think critically about these issues.

    • Adam H

      Ahhh yes, question the author’s legitimacy right off the bat; classic (and pathetic).

  • Rene

    Organic25yrs, I’ve been vegan for 12 years and I’d say that what is first and foremost for me is not what I put in my body but my commitment to reducing animal suffering. I know there is a segment of the vegan population who seem to be choosing the “diet” for their health or to be purists in some way, but I do hope that you’re wrong and that most vegans are still first and foremost concerned with animal rights. I don’t buy leather or wool or milk or eggs or other animal products (and don’t consume them) because I don’t want to support those industries that are abusing animals. I agree that I don’t know any vegans who want to eat pesticide residue, in fact I don’t know any omnivores who do either, but I do know vegans and omnis alike who are not afraid of genetic modification as a means for manipulating plant genes. Organic agriculture allows for radiation as a means for manipulating, do you relish that? All that said, I do choose organic produce when I’m grocery shopping, and I don’t use pesticides in my own vegetable garden, because I don’t want to support overuse of pesticides and I don’t want to eat pesticides. But I also know that organic agriculture isn’t perfect, and discussions about all of this stuff can lead to improvements in organic and conventional agriculture, which would be good for all of us human and non-human animals, don’t you think?

    • Dearest Rene,

      After reading all that I’m curious. Why do you still pay the premium price for organic foods?

      • David

        P.Crank, I know your question about buying organic wasn’t aimed at me but I thought I would answer since reasons for buying organic vary for every person, especially if they are not a supporter of current organic agriculture. I pay a premium for organic for three reasons. First, sometimes the best tasting and highest quality produce in my area is organic. Since I have a little extra expendable income for food and I like cooking with the best ingredients I can afford, I use it for higher quality & flavorful food, organic or not. But all other things being equal I will try to buy non-organic to save money. (i.e. orgainc russet potatoes at my local coop are $6.99/5lbs. At another store nonorganic are $2/10lbs and another $2/5lbs. I cannot in anyway justify the organic potatoes especially since the $2/5lbs are of equal quality.) Second, my partner still is very much an organic/non-GMO advocate so I have to appease her needs/wants sometimes when it comes to food. And third, the nearest store to me is a coop which has a large selection of organic foods. When I need something I forgot for dinner and have minimal time I will run there and grab what they have. But the upside of the coop is that they have quite a few vegan products that I use on an everyday or regular basis, which often happen to be GMO-free or organic (like Field Roast or the tofu or soymilk I prefer).

        • David,

          I don’t like to police people on how vegan they are and similarly I don’t like to judge on organic. Well unless they start insisting it’s superior somehow by the virtue of being organic. Like rawfoodists. Eat all the rawfood you want but if you start judging me on my cooked food telling me it’s toxic yer gonna get an earful.

          As it stands currently, organic is out there and being vegan it’s hard to avoid it since, as I said, it’s on every freakin product. I know at least one ag scientist who boycotts organic for environmental reasons but I can’t take it that far. If there is a non-organic option though I’ll always opt for that. In a pinch I’ll begrudgingly buy organic, even if it’s non-gmo certified. *grumble grumble* Soon we’ll get rid of both designations though as science and market wins the day. 🙂

          • David

            This discussion make me think of what I used to say when I was an organic devotee. “I will only buy non-organic if I can’t find it organic.” Now I say “I will only buy organic if I can’t find it conventional or my partner make me.” Have to fight your battles. 😉

      • Jessica Caneal

        Do you envision a future when organic produce is just as cheap as conventional produce? I am not an expert but from what I have read, I am under the impression that is entirely possible to feed the world without resorting to the use of pesticides and GMOs, especially if we stop feeding the majority of the grains we are growing to animals in factory farms. What do you think?

        • Nope, it won’t get as cheap. I envision a future where agriculture gets better and better making food cheaper and cheaper while Organic struggles to stay competitive with it’s arms tied behind their backs. They will eventually have to adopt GM (they already use pesticides) and other ‘less natural’ technologies into their repertoire or lose relevancy in the market. Consumers will lose faith as the lack of integrity in Organic become apparent and I’m guessing a new label with a different narrative will emerge to try to entice consumers back.

  • Rene

    Because organically-grown produce generally has been grown with less pesticides (and no synthetic pesticides), which is generally better for the farm workers, the environment, nearby animals, and me as the consumer. I realize that in some cases the organic option might somehow be worse for one of us than the conventional, but from my understanding, in most cases, the organic option is better for everyone involved. Take strawberries, for instance. Organic strawberries cost a lot more, but they also have been treated with significantly less pesticides, and since I can afford that choice, that’s what I choose. But I know most people can’t, and that does concern me. I am thrilled to be able to eat the few dozen strawberries I manage to get from my garden every year and I am always glad to hear about more people getting more of their produce from their own yards or neighborhoods, since smaller-scale gardening and farming requires less pesticide use than big single-crop farms do.

    • But there are other variables to consider with pesticides other than simple amount like toxicity and persistence. The synthetic versus natural dichotomy does not favor either. A pesticide is a pesticide. You can apply a little of a highly toxic one or a lot of a more benign one. This is where organic has a limited set of tools while modern ag can explore to their heart’s content. No farmer wants spend resources buying and spraying pesticides. They have an interest in keeping their land healthy as well! After all that what’s the dose needed to have any health effect?

      Pesticides are not often required in gardening but it’s a much different beast than a farm. Also not everybody has the means to grow their own food in terms of land, time or money. We have farmers who are experts in growing their particular crop in the most ideal conditions making use of economies of scale and that is what will get people fed cheaply. I think these two shouldn’t be confused.

  • Lea

    Your website is great. Thank you so much for your work! … I realize this sounds like spam if I just send it like this, so just to make sure you know I’m an actual human being: I have been vegan for 8 years now and I also happen to be a philosophy major. It depresses me how little rational thinking is applied in the field of veganism when it’s our only chance to really be heard. So thank you for being rational and awesome 🙂

  • Sarah S.

    I try to eat mostly vegan but don’t try to buy organic (since watching Penn & Teller’s Bullshit episode about organic food)… so, this post felt like a pat on the head to me, LOL

  • sdunne1989

    It’s funny –I’m completely on your side about GMOs, but pretty much every food item in my pantry touts its non-GM status. Unfortunately, there’s so much cross-over between vegans and people who like to support organic, it can be tough find products that are the former but not the latter (this mainly goes for substitute type things like nut milks or fake butter or mayo).

    Although I feel like the organic industry is a massive purveyor of bullshit, it seems to me that the same could just as easily be said about most corporations. A boycott based on the volume of false information a business churns out wouldn’t leave you with too many options for where to spend your money.

    • Yeah, I think if most of the vegan products aren’t already Organic they most certainly are labeled “non-GMO”. It pains me to buy them but I have no illusions to making any sort of point by not-buying-them.

      It’s a good point too that even though Organic is “a massive purveyor of bullshit” so too it seems is everybody else!

  • Mr. IGrowMyOwnSh

    So if you were to try selling non-organic produce in a non-biased, point-by-point list type thing, how would you do that? The above article does make some points, however I found it doesn’t seem to offer a balanced perspective including both the detriments of organic and the detriments of non-organic. I find it difficult to trust any article which does one-sided reporting such as “don’t do this because of all these reasons, do this other thing instead which I won’t provide as much information on”.

    I tend to buy organic potatoes mostly because non-organic potatoes make my tongue feel like it’s burning (which doesn’t seem good if you’re eating something that’s not supposed to be spicy), similar with some bell peppers.

    Also, your argument that GMO is a product of plant-breeding is misleading. Recently there was a seed company (I forget which one) which was testing a corn seed that was cross-bred with firefly DNA so it is luminescent when a mould forms on the plant. With GMO you don’t know if it’s plant-with-plant, plant-with-goat, or plant-with-gene-splice. I’d be perfectly fine buying GMO if I know specifically *how* it was modified.

    The best points I saw in this article are to do with Nitrogen and Environment. Organic farming allows for bonemeal and bloodmeal for fertilisers, however that does not exclude those from being used in non-organic.

    • So if you were to try selling non-organic produce in a non-biased, point-by-point list type thing, how would you do that?

      That’s a good question and one I hear ag scientists and advocates often asking. One proposal (which I linked to in the article) goes something like: Toward a better agriculture… for everyone

      I tend to buy organic potatoes mostly because non-organic potatoes make my tongue feel like it’s burning (which doesn’t seem good if you’re eating something that’s not supposed to be spicy), similar with some bell peppers.

      I don’t know why non-organic potatoes make your tongue feel like it’s burning but a subjective measure like that isn’t compelling especially when we know labels can influence our perception.

      Also, your argument that GMO is a product of plant-breeding is misleading. Recently there was a seed company (I forget which one) which was testing a corn seed that was cross-bred with firefly DNA so it is luminescent when a mould forms on the plant. With GMO you don’t know if it’s plant-with-plant, plant-with-goat, or plant-with-gene-splice. I’d be perfectly fine buying GMO if I know specifically *how* it was modified.

      How is saying “Genetic modification is a safe, precise form of plant breeding” misleading? I’d like to see the citation for that luminescent corn trial just for curiosity’s sake. Haven’t heard about that example. It doesn’t worry me though. I’m not sure why from which species a gene is moved from should be your standard of measure but that’s your preference I guess.

      Organic farming allows for bonemeal and bloodmeal for fertilisers, however that does not exclude those from being used in non-organic.

      I was trying to illustrate how the self-imposed limits of organic is not vegan. Both modern and organic use manure, for example, but organic can’t use vegan synthetic fertilizer. In this way there are less vegan options to be as effective as modern agriculture.

  • Tosh, utter tosh. The point about animal welfare on farms is moot as vegans won’t be eating animals anyway. You twist the point away from sense.

    We eat organic cos it tastes better and has less exposure to pesticides, hopefully none.

    Animal welfare is awful on farms full stop!

    The nitrogen point is just ridiculous. We can use compost on our allotments. You try to derail sensible comments with that dubious line of argument.

    And the whole GMO thing is way off. If we are to embrace GM we need to know it is safe. Sure there are possible applications but the safety needs to be assured and currently it is not.

    Besides what do you make of this consideration – the gist being that unless we know that an animal gene is not used in the production of GM food we cannot eat it as it could.

    What are you views on that Pythag?

    • Tosh, utter tosh. The point about animal welfare on farms is moot as vegans won’t be eating animals anyway. You twist the point away from sense.

      But many vegans do care about welfare and do care about the animals currently being farmed. Eating Organic encourages the type of agriculture that values what’s “natural” over the interests of the beings in their care.

      We eat organic cos it tastes better and has less exposure to pesticides, hopefully none.

      You weren’t reading carefully enough to notice the health halo link. If Organic tastes better to you it’s likely all in your head. Also, as a vegan yourself surely you wouldn’t prioritize such a silly subjective thing such as taste. Vegans hear that argument all the time on how animals taste good. Yet we respond that the taste does not justify their torment. Organic food uses pesticides BTW and on that it’s not even necessarily the amount anyway.

      The nitrogen point is just ridiculous. We can use compost on our allotments. You try to derail sensible comments with that dubious line of argument.

      Again, you didn’t read closely enough. Organic food often supplements their nitrogen with compost from animal manure from farms who used synthetic fertilizer.

      And the whole GMO thing is way off. If we are to embrace GM we need to know it is safe. Sure there are possible applications but the safety needs to be assured and currently it is not.

      The safety on GMO is so well established it takes a special sort of denial to think it’s not.

      Besides what do you make of this consideration – the gist being that unless we know that an animal gene is not used in the production of GM food we cannot eat it as it could.

      I think you’re trying to say that anything with animal genes is not vegan because the genes were originally sourced from an animal. Well, all life is related and we share the same genes. A gene is a gene is a gene. That’s like saying words I write here if used elsewhere are really parts of my blog.

  • ashenst8

    Wow, so happy I stumbled upon your blog ! I’ve recently come to the realization, myself, that a lot of organic production methods rely upon the commodification of animals for their manure, or, in the case of fish fertilizer, ground up body parts, which is something I’d like to prevent, given that I eat a vegan diet. I consider myself a skeptic in most other areas of my life, but this was one of those cases where I had unfortunately not given a lot of forethought as to why I was purchasing organic foods in the first place and just ‘running on autopilot’ and taking a real hit on my grocery bill as a result. These days, I just buy conventional products when I have a choice; if there is a product I like that’s only available organic, I won’t intentionally avoid it, but I also don’t go out of my way anymore to seek out organic products, and boy did my grocery bill take a nosedive ! It’s so refreshing to come across other vegan skeptics out there ! ^^,

    • ashenst8,

      Hurray, another skeptic!

      Organic was one of the last bastions of magical thinking that I finally kicked to the curb. Like you, I’ll buy it if it’s my only option but I won’t seek it out. For me, avoiding Organic is a matter of principle in keeping technological solutions secular and science-based. I think it would be unfair to say Organic ag is less yielding or less nutritional overall because it has to be judged on a case by case basis. Their avoidance and disparagement of modern tools, though is irrational enough for me to take a stance against it.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • ashenst8

        No prob, and thanks for the awesome blog !

        And I agree with all of your points: I, too, dislike how organic farming ‘locks-in’ the use of older agricultural practices and eschews the use of modern technologies and food science for seemingly arbitrary reasons (that appear to me to be appeals to antiquity or nature).

        I’d also judge the efficiency of organic farming in terms of output on a case-by-case basis, as there does seem to be some variation in that regard. One perplexing thing I’ve run across, however, is that some organic proponents fully acknowledge the lower yield compared to conventional ag methods for certain crops/foods but usually counter with the fact this could be made up for by discouraging food waste, which certainly *is* an excellent idea in and of itself; however, one of the better tools to prevent food spoilage and thus food waste — irradiation — is outright banned under all circumstances by standards for USDA organic certification, so it’s kind of like putting a really good suggestion out there (elimination of food waste) and then shooting yourself in the foot with regards to actually implementing it.

        Similar to the concept of the ‘stopped clock’, organic agriculture does have a few good things going for it. I think their promotion of integrated pest management techniques, such as row covering or exclusion (physical, buried fencing) before using rodenticides is good in principle, as that could result in more rodents being repelled from crops versus being killed, which is a great thing. Also there are apparently less pesticides approved for use on organic crops that can trigger CCD in bees versus in those approved for use in conventional farming, but since conventional farming has the ability to continuously update the pesticides they use, there is the theoretical possibility of developing pesticides that are ‘bee-safe’ and that still possess the desired characteristics of modern pesticides — i e, targeting of only certain species of pests and controlled environmental persistence. So once again, organic proponents have highlighted a true issue (CCD in bee populations) but ultimately have less tools in their arsenal in order to actually address the issue as specifically as possible when compared to techniques available in conventional farming, and that includes the use of genetic modification…I’m not at all opposed to the judicious employment of that technology, either ^_^ .

        • ashenst8,

          Even if I were to give Organic the benefit of the doubt and judge on a case-be-case basis the research involved would be overwhelming enough to make it impractical. To be generous I think when people say “Organic” they really are referring to the idea of enviro-friendly ag and who doesn’t want that?! Good ag is good ag, why the dichotomy?

          Arctic Apples is a good example of a GMO product that can help with food waste that couldn’t be deemed Organic. I say modern ag should just run with the ball and put Organic out of business. Their narratives will only take them so far until they are naturally selected against in the market. It’ll take some mutation to have them survive when technology starts kicking their ass. What might that look like I wonder…(mandated GMO labeling). 😉

          Great points all around, very thoughtful and much appreciated!

  • unethical_vegan

    pycrank, i would also add that the use of menhaden by mainstream organic agriculture is a massive environmental tragedy.

    PS: i finally noticed and responded to your comments on my gmo post at veggieboards.

  • unethical_vegan,

    Gosh, thanks for the headsup on the menhaden. Why does it seem like every time I feel like I’m finally understanding Organic agriculture I realize I’m only scratching the surface? I guess that’s true of most subjects but good point. Lemme look into it some more and maybe I’ll update the post if it’s not belabored.

    Oh and thanks for the VeggieBoards post, I’ll jump back in. Kick ass!

  • organic

    First of all, I just want to say I mean no offense to what I am about to say, just adding my thoughts. I am sure you are very well educated on the topic, but I still believe eating organic and vegetarian IS better for the environment. I do not call myself vegan because I do eat eggs laid by my neighbors hens, but personally I do not think this is wrong because the hens are free to wander and eat as they please, feel the sun on their backs and breathe fresh air. They have no use for their eggs and they are not taken from them in a cruel way at all. I will not entertain any rude comments insulting my or anyone else’s beliefs, to each his own.

    I would like to discuss a few of the points you mentioned,

    “antibiotics that provide relief for sick animals are not allowed”
    First of all, loading up animals with antibiotics just to prevent infectious bacteria is detrimental to both human and animal health. It builds up antibiotic resistance so that when the animals are actually sick, the antibiotics do nothing to treat their infection. AR bacteria is spread into humans when we consume animal products(yes, definitely a good reason to eat vegan). Second of all, it is just not true that these animals are neglected proper health care. They utilize more natural remedies and are indeed given antibiotics if these natural remedies to not work. It is important to not use antibiotics UNLESS an animal is sick. Organic farmers do not neglect their sick animals, they simply try to use more natural methods first before using antibiotics as a last resort. They are not allowed to sell any product as organic if is has been treated with antibiotics. No one should be using products from sick animals anyway, this is how mad cow disease and e-coli spread everywhere. Animals are sick BECAUSE they are given antibiotics when not needed.

    “Organic agriculture uses pesticides”
    And modern agriculture doesn’t? Organic farmers do not use “pesticides” as in the chemicals used in conventional agriculture like ARSENIC and AGENT ORANGE, the same stuff used in WWII to KILL PEOPLE. They use natural pest control methods such as natural predators, or just let them grown naturally.

    As for your argument about GMO’s being perfectly okay because they are “safe”…what does this even mean? Because no one has died from using them?? GM food has less nutritional value than food grown naturally in season. And yes, a tomato grown from my garden in the summer tastes millions of times better than the tomato-like mush made in a factory mid winter. Doesn’t it seem a bit messed up to solve the problems created by humans meddling with the planet by meddling even MORE with nature? We gotta stop messing around with things and just be as natural as possible. How about instead of mass agriculture we switch to more home gardens…no chemicals or animal cruelty needed.

    Being good to the environment is being ethical towards animals. Animals ARE the environment, and so are people. I am sorry but your article to me just seems very biased and not convincing at all.

  • Hello organic,

    They are not allowed to sell any product as organic if is has been treated with antibiotics.

    Yes, that was my point and that of the cited article: The Cruel Irony of Organic Standards. Organic’s appeal to nature has them seeking “natural” methods like “alternative medicine” which does’t work and is cruel to apply to an animal who needs actual medicine.

    Organic farmers do not use “pesticides” as in the chemicals

    Oh yes they do use pesticides. You can start by checking out the Myth #1 section of the cited article: Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

    As for your argument about GMO’s being perfectly okay because they are “safe”…what does this even mean?

    It means GMOs have no inherent dangers associated with them as compared to other methods. The safety is well recognized as described in the articled cited: GLP Infographic: International science organizations on crop biotech safety

    You really didn’t read my article well and maybe that’s why you are not convinced.

  • Libby

    GM vegan fish oil exists now!

    but they’re gonna feed it to fish in farms long before they sell it to people in stores.

  • Corrin Radd

    Hey, I did find one benefit of organics–apparently hexane is often used in the production of processed soy products (chunks and meats and burgers and what have you), but the ones labeled organic are not allowed to have used hexane.

  • justin

    read this from an earlier p-crank response:

    “I envision a future where agriculture gets better and better making food cheaper and cheaper while Organic struggles to stay competitive with it’s arms tied behind their backs. They will eventually have to adopt GM (they already use pesticides) and other ‘less natural’ technologies into their repertoire or lose relevancy in the market.”

    i don’t.

    i envision a future in which we address all of these problems *plus* numerous other of the most gigantic problems that humans (and everything else on this planet) face. how? by each one of us, slowly but surely, deciding to transition to a self-sustained lifestyle. if we all grow our own foods (and idk about you, but i’m growing mine organically) then none of us have to worry about food being cheap because after you’ve yielded one crop you’ve got the seeds, so from then on it’ll be free. not to mention the alternative (wind, water, solar) energy and alternative (well, spring, river, rain) water sources – after the initial cost and set up, that $#!% will be free too, won’t it?

    if someone wants to say, “well i live in [misc. big city] where i have a [misc. important career] so i can’t do that.” well i’d say those kind of careers’ days are numbered due to the fact that they are…. what’s that word that no one can escape no matter how hard they try avoiding it…. oh yeah:


    is this not a concern? is no one thinking about it, and in actually thinking about it realizing that real sustainability largely solves plenty of the concerns of our time? i mean this idea of animal cruelty can be addressed, this want or need of organic food can be addressed, our amount of pollution and greenhouse gases would be addressed, our pathetic and infantile reliance on a man-made inefficient and corrupted system could be addressed; heck, we could even donate our extra crops to feed the hungry or something! i mean am i missing something and my dream of building an earthship in the country and (for the most part) cutting myself off from ‘voting’ ANYWHERE with my money somehow a pipedream? if so, what am i missing?

  • Justin,

    The naive fantasy you’ve laid out is the caricature of what I suspect many environmentalists secretly wish but maybe too embarrassed to admit.

    I would rather people with expertise hone their craft to provide the best and most efficient use of resources. If we were to all grow our own food that would require/assume that we all have land for which to grow it and move to a place where we could reliably grow the plant foods for which we need to thrive. With global climate change that would mean nomadic mass migrations on a scale that would grind civilization to a halt.

    If you fancy a subsistence lifestyle then go ahead and do it, more power to you. While people suffer for hunger and disease it behooves us to help develop solutions to bootstrap the rest of humanity. We can work on that while you go dig out a hobbit shack in the mud somewhere “in the country”. Lucky you to be so privileged to be able to do so huh? Be sure to leave the rest of your cheap modern unsustainably made technologies behind. Better yet, maybe just exchange places with somebody in the developing world. You can have your subsistence life and they could appreciate what you reject.

  • justin

    “If we were to all grow our own food that would require/assume that we all have land for which to grow it and move to a place where we could reliably grow the plant foods for which we need to thrive. With global climate change that would mean nomadic mass migrations on a scale that would grind civilization to a halt.”

    …really? that’s the only thing you came up with? sigh.

    haven’t you seen videos of people with inner city rooftop gardens? or what about community gardens? this isn’t just me running away and hiding in a hobbit hole, einstein, this is also about local community (hence my “we’ll even give food to the poor!” statement you glazed over). this is something that’s being taught and has been successful in those 3rd world countries you’re suggesting i go live in – particularly in hopeless post-disaster areas.

    besides, this isn’t a subsistence lifestyle. i mean really, how ridiculous. i’m obviously not talking about immediately forcing the world into this idea tomorrow, what a silly assumption. remember we’re talking about the FUTURE. which means this can (and probably will) be very transitional. which means i won’t be forfeiting any aspects of convenience and technology of our modern society, but instead i’ll be a part of the movement to guide the unsustainable variables of technology into a more biologically symbiotic direction.

    a naive fantasy? *roll eyes.* unless bitcoins can efficiently replace the US dollar when it crashes within the next decade, i’ll go ahead and grow some extra organic produce to feed you when you’re starving in case you’re in my area. 😉

  • What does “guide the unsustainable variables of technology into a more biologically symbiotic direction.” mean?

  • Thank you. Cogent article. I wondered if you could give me examples of organic farms using homropathy in lieu of antibiotics, or some info on how widespread this practice is within organic farming. A quick search only produces information on cranky vets using homeopathy and plenty of anecdotes (in favour of course). There was talk ages ago that in the UK that Soil Association Organic Certification had higher standards for the welfare of farmed animals than RSPCA standards. I’ve only seen this asserted though, no hard evidence.

    • Hey Jonnie Falafel (great name btw), sorry I looked through my notes and I do not have cites to specific examples where homeopathy was used in place of antibiotics. I think homeopathy on its own is cruel enough!

  • Selena Moon

    Helloo there,

    Many ideas you bring up I find myself questioning as well (going off this interview: and this post). I have tried to describe who I am without saying ‘vegan,’ but often people find it difficult to understand since we are taught to categorize ourselves (ex. gender, race, sexuality) and be confined within these small boxes. So I just say I am ‘vegan.’ I really don’t like what veganism mainly is right now, which is a ‘fad,’ a ‘trend.’ Many do it for health reasons (which tie into the whole organic idea, gmo idea, and I also think, gluten idea) rather than for animal and environmental degradation… which is the reason I and the partner I am with stopped consuming suffering souls in the first place. Not eating animals for health reasons may be the reason people eventually go back to consuming dead flesh (at least I see a correlation). Eating organic and non GMO is cool, but I don’t make this part of a necessary need when stocking up on food… it can be easily avoided through going to local farmers markets (which I also find somewhat contradictory when they house chickens and sell their eggs)which are cheaper (vegan=expensive). I feel like people may cling so strongly to the vegan title because they believe this is essential to the vegan cause… however if you are promoting health, this is not essential to the cause. The ideology of animals as below us and humans as ‘superior’ needs to be exterminated. Being vegan for health reasons does not delete prejudice… it is for selfish reasons. Yes you will be more healthy, but the animals and environment are the reason for not consuming them! So due to this contradictory mentality, I find myself to be torn within veganism (as I go with gender, sexuality, and race as well). Labels are rigid.

    One thing though… I don’t think putting down natural ways of healing is conducive to your cause. Natural ways of healing have nothing to do with commodification of ‘veganism,’ but has to do with connecting to Earth through Earth healing remedies. I think there is nothing wrong with this… I have actually healed, as well as animals I live with, through alternative ways besides stuffing antibiotics or chemicals (‘proven by science to be the way’). Science is definitely biased and does not have the answer to many issues, and often science is placed at the top of the hierarchical society and implemented medically to the detriment of many. Science is also male dominated since it is based on logic, which is a flaw in and of itself. So when you use science to justify your arguments, I see this as a bias because science is a bias and a neutral higher authority which many consent to… There have been healers using natural Earth remedies for a very very long time, so this is nothing new and this is not a quack. Many of the scientific remedies have come originally from Earth remedies, except they are mixed with a bunch of chemicals and tested on animals… which defeats the purpose of caring for animals and believing in science. Why can’t humans have diseases put in them and then get cut up for ‘the sake of science?’ Bunch of hypocrisy.

    Anyway, I like the cause and I like the questioning. One must always question. You never stop learning and you should never be closed off to learning something other than what your current paradigm holds.

  • Hellooo Selena Moon! Yeah we’re in agreement on the vegan issue I think. Even after all these years since that interview on CarpeVegan not much has changed I’m afraid. I came out guns blazing hoping for somebody to smack me down and teach me something new but, nothing. There’s still nothing under the hood of veganism so there is no movement. Instead it latches it’s tentacles onto the environmental, health, and animal rights wagons in appearance of self locomotion.

    We’ll have to disagree on the issue of “natural ways of healing”. There’s only medicine that works and that is discovered through science. I’m not sure what you mean when you say science is male dominated because if its logic. I hope I am interpreting your comment wrong because that sounds horribly sexist to me. Science-based medicine is getting better and better and it’s only been around a fraction of the time of folk remedies. For animal testing it seeks to replace, reduce and refine. Meanwhile animals are going extinct for superstitious folk therapy.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Selena Moon

    Yea… so I felt like I totally lost you when I said Science is based on logic and therefore male dominated. You would have to do extensive research, reading, and deep contemplation, feeling, and observation to truly understand what I mean by this, since I cannot come up with an experiment to prove that Science is a male dominated field that is based of natural healing practices from a slew of countries all over the world. I get the article about how some healing practices are cruel to animals, and I have come across this. I find this to be contradictory to natural healing because it doesn’t mean cruelty free. There are contradictions in everything and if it were up to me, I would run away and go live in the forest with all the food I ever needed surrounding me with a full lake near by. Unfortunately since I am not in the 1% category, this cannot happen. Therefore, when it comes to healing ailments such as mouth infections (dentists prescribe antibiotics), I have used Earthly creations to heal. Same goes for infections and many kinds of pains. I don’t ‘subscribe’ to any kind of healing… just like you theorize ‘rationally’ throughout this blog, I concoct healing remedies outside of the mainstream kind of ideas.

    Back to science… so Science=logic. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the common stereotypes (which hold true today) of men being more logical than women, and women being more irrational because they are ’emotional.’ Not too long ago there was a condition called ‘hysteria’, which was diagnosed based on the erraticness and acute sadness of many middle class white women… this was really because of the marginalization they experienced, but at the time this view was not applicable. PMS was/is seen as a ‘disorder’ …

    In terms of healing, women, and non-gendered identifying people were healers… and men too! They healed through plant creations. Many were deemed witches (and burned for it!). Then ‘science’ came around which was began by men who were very concerned with keeping women out of the field of healing others. They blocked them from schools and took their ways of healing and turned it into logic ridden fixes. I am just talking about reality here… this happened. Have you ever noticed how Science completely leaves out any kind of feeling? Did you know that many science experiments are biased to show the outcome of what the scientist wants? I understand science and used to believe highly in it until I realized how contradictory science is to everyone. Science is tied in with government, corporations, and insurance companies which are concerned with one thing… Profit $$$$ and killing the Earth… ANDDD lets not forget, testing on animals for the sake of ‘humankind.’

    So this is all theory, and I did not include a link because most of the links you have are to blogs that are theory based (which is fine because I enjoy theory myself and am constantly critiquing and creating as well). So I offer you theory. And no I am not sexist, I do not believe men are the enemy… although the constructs or idealizations of what ‘men’ are and what ‘women’ are do not really offer much besides constricting ways of being (such as strict veganism!). I just don’t agree with how science (which is mostly male dominated) puts down natural ways of healing (which may or may not be associated with femininity, or ’emotion’ or ‘irrationality). I mean Aristotle himself (who created dogma= creation of bible=super dogma) said animals lack mind capacity and also said women do as well…but men are superior. I think the inferiority of animals also ties in with women and also ties in with the Earth. All examples of ‘uncivilized’ or ‘unruliness’ which must me turned into logic and rationality. Logic is definitely necessary at times, but when you leave out emotion and feeling, this is very one sided. Integration is key (just like you are integrating animal liberation with non-veganness due to the falsities). Science based views do not justify everything, just as vegan views do not justify everything, just as feminist views do not justify everything, just as natural healing views do not justify everything, and so on so on.

    I delved into different topics but I hope the main idea comes through.

  • As Christopher Hitchens said: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” You said a whole lotta stuff without citation. Science is a matter of comprehensive investigation that seeks to limit the common biases and faults of our own minds. It’s male dominated not because it is science but because it is culture! There are many women scientists out there now you know and I think our culture is getting better at recognizing and addressing unjust practices. We still have a long way to go though true. We’ll need science to inform and innovate so please don’t throw it away for faults that aren’t inherent.

  • Star Trek has a lot to answer for with it’s misrepresentation of logic as cold. Logic is simply about consistency and women are just as capable as men of deploying it (as men are as capable as women of not being consistent). For example why was it ever insisted that women can’t lift heavy stuff……? Seems they can if it’s shopping or children! Oh but that’s male logic for ya! There’s nothing inherently male about science and reason. Can I recommend a book that deploys scepticism to feminism and actually strengthens the feminist case. It’s ‘The Sceptical Feminist’ by Janet Radcliffe Richards.

  • Yup, logic being cold and unfeeling is a myth. Have you seen Julia Galef’s (a woman no less!) “Straw Vulcan” talk? 🙂

  • Paul

    Hello Mr. Crank, as an actually organic dairy farmer I would like to make a comment about your reference to animal care in organic and make a comparison with how cows are treated and taken care of in a conventional dairy farm. My comment does not in anyway reflect how every conventional dairy farmers treats there cattle and I know some conventional dairies that treat there cows with the utmost care. The sad reality is some conventional dairy farm may abuse their animals and not even realize they’re doing it. In organic dairy farming we strive to keep our cows healthy by feeding them the healthiest feed. We feed our cows a low grain diet which consist of high quality forages like alflafa hay and corn silage and in the summer months their get fresh green grass in their diet also. A lot of conventional dairy farms feed their cows a high grain ration a lot of bypass protein like DGS ( distillers grains) to achieve high milk production. The result of feeding this high grain ration can lead to a condtion know as acidious which can erode the lining of the cows stomach and esophagus which is like a person having really bad heart burn. Would you consider that animal abuse? The feed ration we use on our organic dairy doesn’t cause that kind of problems because the cows are eating what they were designed to eat.

    Some conventional dairy farms treat their cows with rSBT originally developed by Monsanto. Now very cow produces BST a naturally occurring hormone that makes cows produce milk. The r in rSBT stands recombinant which means it was produce through a genetic engineering techniques. Some conventionional dairy producers will give this shot their cows to achieve higher milk production. The cost of giving rSBT to the cows can shorten their lives and lead to more health problems with the cows. A cow was never to designed to have that much BST in their system, it would be like giving a healthy human insulin shots. The extra insulin would probably make that person sick. Now is that animal abuse? In organic dairy in we can’t use this rSBT and so we aren’t burning out our cows. Healthy cows don’t need antibiotics and we focus on keeping our cows healthy. If we get sick we treat them with natural products which boosts their immune system and helps fight of the sickness. We have a 100% success rate with using these natural products which don’t take any longer than using antibiotics to get the cow better. Think what you want but we do not abuse our animals.

    • Paul, thanks for your comment.

      If we get sick we treat them with natural products which boosts their immune system and helps fight of the sickness.

      Specifically, what “natural products” do you use in place of real medicine and can you explain how it “boosts the Immune system“? Do you have citations to back up those claims?

      Bottom line: what keeps conventional farmers from doing all the same (supposedly superior) things you do?

  • Paul,
    I could respond to your comment with the things I have seen on organic farms that I find to be animal abuse. But I know that the label on the milk jug doesn’t mean squat to the cows. Good management of our cows is what matters, conventional or organic.
    I call bullshit on your 100% cure claim with natural remedies. I have many friends that farm organically and not a single one of them would go so far as to claim that. Unless you’re the Messiah of organic dairy farming I doubt your farm is doing better than all of those farms.

  • Paul

    Carrie, I do realize that not every organic dairy farm is perfect and not every conventional dairy is either. As an organic dairy farmer I hate to even admit but there’s some conventional dairy farmers that do a far better job at management than some organic dairy farmers that I know. Some of these organic dairy farmers shouldn’t even be called farmers. They are a black mark to organics in general. On the other hand I know some organic dairy farmers that do a great job at management and some conventional dairy farmers that do a terrible job at it. It goes both ways. I’m not lumping all conventional dairy farmers into one group and saying they’re abusing their cows just because I heard of or saw one bad thing about that particular farmer.

    As for my 100% claim, since we’ve started using this new natural product 2 years ago we’ve had some isolated incidences of pneumonia in our cows and young stock. Up to this point using this new natural product we have a 100% success rate now I can’t say that we will always a 100% success rate, no. The other thing that makes for a higher rate of success for using product is treating the sick animal right away. We are very observant of our animals and so were always looking for sick animals.

    On our farm we work with an animal nutritionist so we can achieve good animal health & high milk production. Are we 100% perfect in what we do, no but we do try to the best job to best of our ability and know how.

    We take a different approach than what most organic dairy farmers do. I have nothing to hide and am not out making any false or outrageous claims. Matter of fact I would like to invite you to come see our farm that way you can be the judge and see for your self how we manage our organic dairy farm.

    • So Paul,

      There are bad Organic farmers and good Organic farmers. There are bad conventional farmers and good conventional farmers. This adds nothing to the conversation of my claim that Organic is bad for animals. What is it about Organic farming that is better than conventional farming? In this case how is it better for the animals? Are you allowed by your standards to treat animals with science-based medicines and vaccines?

      I have nothing to hide and am not out making any false or outrageous claims.

      You have made the outrageous claim that your (unspecified) “natural product” has a “100% success rate”. I can’t think of a single medical intervention that can claim that. What is your evidence for that?

  • Paul

    Mr. Crank here are some of the natural products we use:

    These products contain the following ingredients: Yeast culture, Hydrolyzed Yeast, brewers Dried Yeast, Hydrated Sodium Calcium, Aluminosilicate, Calcium Carbonate, Kelp, Fennel, Ginger, Garlic, Vitamin E Supplement, Enterococcus faecium Fermentation product, Lactobcillus
    Mr. Crank here are some of the natural products we use:

    These products contain the following ingredients: Yeast culture, Hydrolyzed Yeast, brewers Dried Yeast, Hydrated Sodium Calcium, Aluminosilicate, Calcium Carbonate, Kelp, Fennel, Ginger, Garlic,
    Vitamin A supplement, vitamin E supplement, Entericoccus faecium fermentation product, Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation product

  • Paul

    We use it for any sickness or stressful situations in a cows life cycle like pneumonia, Ketosis, mastitis and any sort of infection they might encounter. A lot health problems in any dairy herd can be traced back to poor nutrition, poor quality feed and poor management practices in general.

    • Paul, you reinforced my point in the article. Treating illness with alternative therapies rather than medicine is not science-based and can cause animals to suffer for it. Would you treat members of your family the same way if they were sick?

  • Paul

    Mr. Crank is this: alternative therapy product not science-based? Most Conventional dairy farmers use this product all the time for treatment of mastitis. They even make an organic version of the same product. It works by using the animals natural immune system by causing the blood capillaries in the cows udder to expand thus increasing blood flow in the cows udder helping cows use their natural antibodies to help fight off the udder infection.

  • Paul, the organic dairy I worked on also used Crystal Creek supplements. I never saw anywhere near a 100% cure rate with them. Especially in pneumonia cases.

    That being said, as I’m sure you know I worked for Udder Comfort until last week when I left to be on the farm full time. And I freely admit and have even shared on my SM platforms that we have used essential oils on our cows and calves. I’m not knocking alternative therapies but I also know that there is nothing with a 100% cure rate.
    As I’ve discussed with many of my organic farming friends, the vast majority of organic consumers would want a farmer to use antibiotics to help a calf with pneumonia if they understood that the calf would have zero chance of passing that antibiotic on in their milk when they are 2 years old. If they knew that you cleaned your pipeline with the same chemicals we clean our pipeline with they would raise an eyebrow. That would be scarier than a calf getting antibiotics if someone tried to make a headline out of it. Lots of scary sounding ingredients in detergent or sanitizer. However the rules surrounding organic aren’t about ensuring the best care for the animals and are about being able to make blanket statements that make people feel good without having to think. It’s frustrating as a dairy farmer and a consumer to know both sides.

  • Paul

    Carrie, I just want you to know that I have nothing against you personally or the fact that your a conventional dairy farmer. There’s no doubt in my mind that you do an excellent job on your farm. I don’t want any hard feeling over this. I guess the part in Mr. Crank’s article about not using antibiotics in organic dairy farming and calling it animal abuse touched a nerve with me.

    Have we used antibiotics since we’ve been organic, yes 5 times to be exact. We made that judgement call not to let them animals suffer needlessly when we could clearly see the natural product we were using at the time didn’t work like it was suppose to. Though I do know enough from when we were still conventional dairy farming that antibiotics are not always 100% effective in all cases of animal illness. Timing of treatment will always determine wether the animal survives or not. Sometimes no matter how hard you try there are some things that are beyond your control.

    Carrie, once again hope there’s no hard feelings
    between us. My goal wasn’t to ruffle any feathers just to defend what I do and I understand you would probably do the same thing, so I don’t blame you for getting a little upset. I respect and admire you for what you do.

    Hope you have a great rest of the week:)


    • Paul,

      I appreciate your comments and respect you for defending your practice here. I do believe Organic is abusive when modern medicine is the best course of action and not allowed. Whether or not you are complicit in that is implied as much as Organic implies it’s inherently good. You can’t have your cake and eat it too here. In such issues there will always be outliers, noise and anecdotes but I’m talking about standards. My issue is with the Organic standards that ties your hand and incentivizes animal abuse by withholding modern medical treatment.

      Have we used antibiotics since we’ve been organic, yes 5 times to be exact. We made that judgement call not to let them animals suffer needlessly when we could clearly see the natural product we were using at the time didn’t work like it was suppose to.

      This is good to hear and I’m glad that you used modern medicine instead of letting the animal egregiously suffer. What happened to these animals? Are they still considered Organic?

      Though I do know enough from when we were still conventional dairy farming that antibiotics are not always 100% effective in all cases of animal illness.

      This is true and that’s what I already said in a previous comment. You made the extraordinary claim that your natural treatment worked 100% though. Do you still stand by this claim?

      So why do you farm Organic anyway?

  • Paul

    The animals we treated with antibiotics were 4 bull calves & one heifer calf. Of course these calves weren’t treated all in the same year or at the same time. The bull calves we eventually sold after they got better because we have no need for bulls on our farm. The heifer we raised, AI’d her and sold her as a springing heifer. We got I think about $2,000 for her. The NOP rules say that once you treat a animal with antibiotics that it can never be used in organic production. The NOP rules used to allow u to keep the animal like a cow or calf but the cows had to be miked out Separately for like 2 months or something like that. They changed that rule about 10 years ago.

    Yes I still stand by claim of a having a 100% success rate with using that natural product. At least so far we have but I can’t say it is always gonna work a 100% of the time in the future, maybe we will have a time where it won’t work. For the most part we have a healthy herd of cows. We try to meet all their daily nutritional needs by feeding them a balanced feed ration.

    “Why did we go organic?” Well there was more than one reason why we went organic. The main reason was because we needed more money. The conventional milk market goes off a supply and demand type market and the price of milk was always fluctuating. It hard to make a living and pay all your bills when your getting paid the lowest price milk can get down to. We get paid so much per 100lbs of milk we sell and when milk gets down to $9.00 which is low as it can get. We get paid so much a 100 weight and it’s really hard to make ends meat. We work too hard and put in long days and I want to get paid for what I do. Imagine working 16 hour days & even longer days during planting and harvesting time and milking cows 2 times a day 7 days a week 365 days year and only getting paid $9.00 per 100 weight. Yeah that’s one main reason why went organic, that and wanted to farm in a more natural holistic way free of using chemicals.

  • Jeff

    I dabbled in the study of biotechnology about 5 years ago, but life got in the way and finishing became a non-option. I was drawn in by a desire (as an avid gardener) simply to do plant tissue culture. As I studied, I quickly became just as fascinated with the whole spectrum of biotechnology. I have often grieved the loss of this path and suffered existential angst about the seeming pointlessness of my brief exposure to the field. Now, it is all coming together like a big snowball! My training left me very skeptical of all the fear mongering that surrounds GM foods, but I didn’t really delve that deeply into the controvery. Perhaps I was loath to reconcile my profound appreciation of GM bacteria, fungi, insect and mammalian cells and what they can do with what I might find out about GM foods. A few months ago, I started to vegan (I feel more comfortable using it as a verb. I know a lot of people who practice yoga intensively, yet I don’t know a single one who calls him/herself a “yogi”) In my search for diverse and appropriate foods, I felt bombarded by the terms “non-GMO”, and, by association, “organic”. I started thinking about manure and bone meal and blood meal and how these were all considered “natural” products for many gardeners that I knew, but didn’t seem very vegan to me. One link led to another, and finding myself here, I am sure you have shown me the light! Vegan and organic make terrible bedmates! There is far too much feel-goodism going on in the vegan community. It is clouding rational thought and action. I believe that the Buddha was the most compassionate being alive and he was guided by rationalism. Perhaps we should follow his lead, at least a little?

  • Taylor G

    This was the shot of rationality I needed. I’ve been living vegan-ly (?) for close to a year now and have been building a healthy amount disdain for the vegan “title” of late. I now think I will opt to say I simply eat a plant-based diet, and get into the other aspects of my animal-free lifestyle if somebody asks.

    I have also just begun dabbling in the world of organic produce, but due in no small part to this article it has been swiftly cut short. Unfortunately organic/non-GMO/vegan all exist in the same tightly-knit sphere so finding conventional vegan products outside of fruits and vegetables probably won’t be feasible a lot of the time. Not worth stressing over really.

    Also worth noting is the industry of *biodynamics* which often goes hand in hand with traditional organics. Not only are some of the methods employed in biodynamic farming pretty bonkers, but they are also patently un-vegan: burying animal intestines and horns in the soil, burning insects and rodents and spreading their ashes on the crops etc. Apparently many biodynamic farms prefer to tout the plain organic certification instead of the less-renowned biodynamic one, so it can be hard if not impossible to know whether the organic food you buy came from a BD farm. Case in point: I just bought some pears and apples that wore the organic label, but after some overly scrupulous digging I discovered they are BD.

    Needless to say, I won’t be actively looking for organic foodstuffs anymore.

    Neat site, BTW. I’ll be sticking around.

    • So cool Taylor G!

      I try to avoid Organic/nonGMO as much as possible but I don’t worry about it too much. The same way I don’t worry so much about the purity of my veganositude. There are bigger things to tackle and I don’t mind being seen as hypocritical. But that’s a whole nother post. 😉

      Very nice to meet you. Thanks for the note and please do stick around. 🙂 I’m way behind on writing here, yikes!

  • Val

    Hey there PCrank,
    Thanks for such an informative article as well as responding to those who have responded to you, it has been a fascinating read! I have recently started to become more of a skeptic myself and have been vegan for about 7 years. One area that concerns me though is farm workers safety (not the owner or those who run the farms but the actual laborers who are often immigrants w/o a whole lot of resources). It seems that one thing that organic lovers tout is that organic is much better for the workers health and safety. I have heard, not researched, that many farm workers develop severe health problems from being sprayed with chemicals that are used on “conventional” farms and this really concerns me because not only do I want healthy food for myself, I also want healthy working conditions for these workers too. I was wondering if you have any information or research that looks at this specific issue and also how you have come to understand it.
    Anyways, I look forward to reading more from you and appreciate what you have to offer.

    • Hello Val,

      Thanks for the comment! I have also heard the claim that Organic is better for farm workers but never with any evidence. I’m guessing this falls into the same myth that Organic is safer for consumers. I’m sure risk depends on the type of crop and inputs they use. Whatever it is I’d expect safety protocols Organic or not. If you discover something please come back and let me know, thanks!

  • Axel Lieber

    I have nothing to add or to ask. I just want to say THANK YOU for being a voice of reason. Seeing other vegans constantly co-opting the “organic” thing into veganism without so much as spending a single hour of their lives doing research (well, except reading some bollocks blog by the likes of the “Food Babe”) drives me around the bend. Same with “fair trade”, by the way. Gag me with a spoon…

  • sam ames

    What do you think about the risks associated with consumption of pesticides? e.g.

  • Axel Lieber

    Hey PC, some of the supporting links no longer work. For example those about organic not being healthier or better for the environment in the first paragraph.

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly the type of activist who makes me sick to my gut and ashamed of being human. As where many people turning to veganism are concerned about their own health and well being you are bashing them for lifestyle choices. Any human who is compassionate about God’s Creation is against cruel acts towards animals….that’s just, well human but a lot of us don’t eat meat or bi-products for the mere fact that it’s unnatural since our bodies don’t require meat proteins. We can get all this from plants. So eating animals is not in a sense wrong…’s a means of survival. These days people miss the point……What fertilizers our soil to begin with? Not only does the earth use compost from vegitation supply in nutrients for the soil but also the waste from animals and eventually the animal dies and goes back into the ground hence continuing the great circle of life. Organic farming is healthy for both us and animals. Eating meat is a choice because we grew up through the ages surviving off of it. We may fertilize the soil with manure from animals…..Big deal it’s natural and the waste has to go somewhere. GMO is men playing God, an abomination…’s unnatural to the system and is tipping the balance in nature. Don’t you think the Earth is waaaaaay more important than destroying our soil and natural resources with unnaturally modified chemicals. It is not healthy. would you rather heal the planet so our animals can be happy and evolve normally. What future is there for our kids and grandkids if things keep being changed in the environment by unnatural science. If what you say is to be the ideal world, well then we are all going to hell….it won’t matter if we eat meat or not there’s only one conclusion….the more we keep fucking w nature the faster we are headed towards the utter destruction of ALL life on this planet…..just wrap your mind around that and see if you don’t rethink the statement you just made….I’m a naturalist and nature is my first priority and should be for all who care about animals and the welfare of the planet….to all who read this start saving your seeds because in the future our natural bounty may soon be on the verge of extinction…. including every living creature here on Earth.

  • Chris

    Hi, I disagree with your assertion that Organic agriculture is worse for the environment. You might point to a lack of evidence concerning environmental damage by pesticides/herbicides but that is mainly down to a lack of studies, big agriculture doesn’t tend to like funding studies into these things. However, there have been many detailed studies concerning bees and neonicotinoids. Bees do consume enough neonicotinoids to affect the hive to the point where it may collapse.[1] This is because they actually like the taste of them, I’ve seen these experiments first hand and it is quite striking. This has been backed up with field studies and lab experiments. It also highlights the difficulty in guaranteeing the safety of pesticides/herbicides, the natural environment is far too complex to predict the effect of adding large quantities of novel chemicals to it. We can test them in the lab under a variety of conditions but, as the bee example shows, there are always things people can’t predict. And it can have grave consequences. Additionally, pesticides and herbicides are tested routinely on animals, making them not so vegan. Organic agriculture doesn’t use ‘natural’ materials because we are mad hippies who hate science, we use them because they have been tested thoroughly by existing in the natural environment for long enough and in large enough quantities so that we know they are safe. I grew up on an organic croft in the Scottish Highlands, our neighbors were conventional farmers, you could walk along the river down stream from our farm and as soon as you hit the next farm the algae bloom was striking. Being certified by the Soil Association ensures that farmers look after their land and the water systems on it. It really does make a big difference in practice, if you don’t believe me try visiting a few farms, organic and non-organic. This isn’t about scientific or non-scientific, agricultural science within our university is very much focused on modeling the farm as a complex dynamical system, the interplay between the ecology and the farm, and how the use of organic techniques can improve the ecology. This is just an example. [2] Sorry its behind a damn pay wall, if you can’t access it let me know and I’ll send you a pdf. It’s really interesting stuff, great science. So I just wanted to try to show you that organic agriculture isn’t just for hippies and pseudo-scientists, and that our agricultural problems are not always best solved through chemistry or genetic modification but may be through ecology and systems science.


    • I’m not saying Organic is WORSE for the environment, I’m saying that it isn’t an appropriate measure in determining the most appropriate agricultural solution.

      Also, you must know Organic uses pesticides.

  • Nunyabizz

    What are the nutritional values of GMO vs Organic?

  • mimi

    Who cares you’re not a better person just because you compete with animals for food now

  • PoopCobbler

    Animals are not earthling cousins of humans, humans are souls with a body and a spirit created in the mage of God for His pleasure and fellowship, humans have dominion over animals and thus hsve a responsibility for the stewardship of animals.

  • […] they did allow was the usual hodgepodge of charlatanry. Reiki, chiropractic, organic food, and anti-GMO are examples of such allowed vendors8. It was disappointing, frustrating, but […]

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.