What is vegan homesteading? If you look around the Internet, you’ll find some information about the topic – a few blogs, a few YouTube videos – but not much. Why?
My gut reaction is to answer that most vegans don’t homestead. If you just search “veganism”, “vegan diet,” or – on YouTube – “vegan channel”, you’re going to encounter a lot of vegans who live in the city and whose lifestyle little resembles homesteading. They may recycle, or try to live a zero-waste life, but that’s as far as their attempts to live a self-sufficient lifestyle goes.
Of course, most people – unfortunately, in my opinion – aren’t vegans. And though more and more people are stepping into the homesteading movement, both rural and urban, most people wouldn’t describe themselves as homesteaders, either.
Finally, most people who do describe themselves as homesteaders use animals and animal products for food, gardening, clothing, and other things.
In other words, as rare as vegans are to find in real life, as rare as homesteaders are to find in real life, vegan homesteaders are the rarest breed of all!
What makes a homestead vegan?
To begin answering the question, “What is vegan homesteading?”, I first need to explain what it means to be a homesteader. Someone who homesteads tries to be as self-sufficient as possible, living frugally, reusing and re-purposing as many items as they can, and learning the skills needed to survive.
Growing their own food is the most popular of those skills. Some people sew their own clothes. Most homesteaders teach themselves how to do basic repairs or construction so that they don’t have to hire people to perform such tasks for them.
Homesteaders also endeavor to live more lightly, reducing their carbon footprint by building more energy-efficient houses and conserving water use in their homes, garden, and orchard.
As I stated in a previous post, you can be a homesteader anywhere you live, even in an apartment. However, the less property you own and the less space to garden, the more restricted you are with your homesteading options.
All that understood, vegan homesteading is homesteading without the use of animals or animal by-products. A truly vegan homesteader will not have chickens (I don’t care what anyone else claims; you’re not vegan if you use chickens for eggs or to eat insect pests) or any other kind of livestock. They won’t use things like blood meal, bone meal, or manure (unless it’s one-to-two-year composted humanure) in the garden.
Actually, most vegan gardeners practice “veganics.” This is a combination of “vegan” and “organic.” Their gardens are not only free of animal products, but also free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
Thanks to a humid climate, some of us are driven to use fungicides on certain plants if we’re going to have any hope for a crop. But you might be surprised to read that some synthetic fungicides are actually better for the environment than the most popular organically-approved fungicide, copper. I know I was surprised when I found that out.
Does a vegan homesteader kill insects?
This particular homesteader does. If you visit the website of The Vegan Society and read their definition of veganism, it says this:
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Notice the phrase, “as far as is possible and practicable.” Sit on that for a minute.
My own personal view is that killing is unethical, except in cases of self-defense. And when a particular species of insect is probably going to kill the plant that’s supposed to provide me with food, I consider killing that insect to be an act of self-defense.
This doesn’t mean that I try to kill every potential pest I see. I only go after the ones that I know will be a problem if I let them continue to propagate, such as cucumber beetles, aphids, and cabbage worms and cabbage loopers.
If you’re a vegan and getting angry with me about that, let me tell you the truth: if gardeners and farmers let every single insect have their way, you, my plant-based diet friend, would starve to death.
Or the produce sold in stores wouldn’t taste good, or would be full of holes, etc.
It’s impossible to grow your own food – or grow food for others – without doing some kind of lethal pest control on occasion. Remember the phrase from The Vegan Society: as far as is possible and practicable. If you want to keep on eating the foods you’re used to eating (i.e., the ones you can buy from a store, the ones that are typically grown in gardens and on farms), it is neither possible nor practicable to never kill any pests.
The 100% self-sufficiency question
You may ask, “Isn’t it easier to be completely self-sufficient in food if you at least eat eggs and drink milk?”
I think so. If you take out all the unknowns of raising animals, like disease and predator attacks; and take out the expenses involved in caring for them.
But the eating goal of my family isn’t to be completely self-sufficient in food production. It’s to be healthy. The vast majority of studies show that the more plant-based your diet is, the healthier you are.
So we don’t have a problem with buying our mung beans, lentils, and nuts and seeds from someone else. We human beings are supposed to be interdependent, not independent.
It’s more than okay to count on other people to provide some of the food you consume.
That said, it is totally possible for a family to grow enough dried bean varieties and potatoes to provide all the protein-dense food they need for a year. It simply takes a lot more land, irrigation, and care than some want to put into food production efforts.
The compassionate way to homestead
In short, vegan homesteading is a way to live a more self-sufficient, simpler lifestyle while allowing animals to live in freedom.