The Vegan Organic Network is the only organisation in the UK solely working for food to be grown the veganic way.
Veganic growing is any system of cultivation that avoids artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures and animal remains from slaughter houses. Alternatively, fertility is maintained by vegetable compost, green manures, crop rotation, mulches, and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically viable and not dependent upon animal exploitation. This will ensure long term fertility, and wholesome food for this and future generations.
Vegan-organics is but one aspect of a dynamic culture. Our commitment is to peace and justice for people, animals and the environment in a sustainable balance. To achieve this we must change our lifestyles and introduce a philosophy which will continue to maintain our unique planet. We are motivated by our awareness of the great unease in society that we are moving towards a world that can no longer sustain life in the natural way it has always evolved.
The Vegan Organic Network attempts to come to grips with politics and ethics in everyday living. To achieve sustainable agriculture there has to be a new relationship between food producers and the economic system. We do not want economic policies which condemn millions to poverty, ill health and death. In the UK we want to free the 85% of land that is currently used directly, or indirectly to feed animals.
This will liberate both us and them from the cruelty of the slaughterhouse, and will release land for the production of plant foods and provide natural habitats for animals. The economics of this major change have yet to be calculated, but we consider that subsidies should only be paid to encourage this transition.Social and spiritual well-being within society can only be achieved when we work together co-operatively towards a common aim that takes crises, droughts, famines, excesses and waste out of the equation.
The vegan movement has made great progress since the Vegan Society was started in 1944. It is now recognised as a healthy, sustainable, ecologically sound way for humans to live. Whether we are discussing the food that is eaten, the clothes that are worn, the lifestyles that are adopted all are available in the vegan culture. One exception remains, this is in the area of how we grow our food. Some vegans realise that this is a cause of great concern because it appears that the vegan movement has failed to give sufficient importance to this issue.
Vegans need to know how their food is grown and be certain that it has not been contaminated by the animal industry. Whether this is by the use of their manure when the animals are alive, often living in appalling conditions, or by using their blood and bone after they have been processed in the slaughter house and their remains applied to the land. This is not acceptable to vegans.
With these thoughts in mind three vegans, veterans of the peace, anti-nuclear movements, and sometime guests at HM Prisons, decided that how vegan food is grown was an important enough issue to consider starting an organisation. An organisation specifically directed to changing the current situation where most food that is available has been grown using animal by-products or synthetic fertilisers. This practice undermined the very ethic of non-violence that informed their philosophy and actions and is basic to vegans.
These were David Stringer and Jane and David Graham. They discussed this issue in Jane and David’s house in Chorlton, Manchester, in the summer of 1996. All were long standing vegans with a background in horticulture, agriculture and the food industry. They discussed with their friends what interest there might be in starting a movement to promote vegan-organic horticulture. Their response was very positive, especially from Kathleen Jannaway and Alan and Elaine Garrett of the Movement for Compassionate Living.
Encouraged by this, and the philosophy that in order to change the world it was not sufficient to philosophise – you had to organise, they did just this. The organisation was called the Vegan-Organic Horticultural Agricultural Network – VOHAN. More support came from VIVA!, The Vegan, Vegan Views , VEGA and many vegans. Meetings were organised up and down the country with vegans, many of whom were already growing using vegan–organic methods. This provided an opportunity for VOHAN to raise money, gain members and offers of help. Jane and David’s house in Manchester provided the office and meeting place.
With the purchase of a computer and photocopier they were up and running! Minor changes took place such as changing VOHAN to VON – easier on the ear and much simpler to say especially on the ‘phone. Particularly the full blown Vegan-Organic Horticultural Agricultural Network! With help from local members the campaign was launched. From the outset they saw vegan organics not as a single issue campaign, but as an integrated international movement. Their vision went beyond the central aim of vegan cultivation; it also embraced an alternative view of market economics, of cooperation, and a movement for land reform and redistribution.
There are three main strands to making vegan-organic grown food more widely available.
To specify the methods and standards for Veganic growing and to enable growers to become certified using these standards.
To support Demonstration, Education and Research Centres.
To encourage vegan-organic cultivation on a small scale as well as farm scale growing.
The first important objective was to establish the Vegan-Organic Standards. For all agricultural methods to be coherent and communicable to growers there has to be clearly defined standards. The Soil Association lay down rules for organic growing which allows the use of animal by-products. Clearly these were not acceptable for vegan-organic food production but were a good starting point. VON realised it had to produce its own standards and so based these on the Soil Association standards.
Over a period of two years a working group wrote and refined a set of standards – the Stockfree Organic Standards. VON was fortunate to have the expert guidance of Iain Tolhurst and Dave of Darlington. They had been providing vegan-organic box schemes for over 10 years. Jenny Hall, experienced in vegan-organic cultivation, setting up box schemes from scratch and knowledgeable in theory and practice, ably articulated all the concepts in the final document.
It took VON a further two years of intense consultation with the Soil Association, numerous groups, individuals, farmers, growers and supporters in several countries, before the SOS were agreed. So it was that in October 2004 the first of these aims was achieved when the Soil Association Certification Ltd (SA Cert.) appended the Stockfree Organic Standards (SOS) to their own inspection process thus giving farmers and growers the opportunity to be aware of, and to apply for SOS status. Farmers and growers wishing to adopt animal free organic cultivation are now be able to obtain both the Soil Association and the Stockfree Organic symbol simultaneously.
VON has now set up a new department, Stockfree Organic Services, this deals with all queries relating to the Standards; issues application packs and offers advice and support. SA Cert. carries out the inspection and certification on behalf of the Stockfree-Organic Services. Although the Stockfree Organic Standards do not represent the views of the Soil Association their inclusion with SA Cert. confer an extremely important status giving them international recognition. The Stockfree Organic Standards offer an ethical and pragmatic beacon of light for the future of food production and products as it affects vegans, ecology, human and animal wellbeing.
VON is most fortunate in having some extremely dynamic growers who have already signed up for the Standards; these are Tolhurst Organic Produce in Pangbourne; Berkshire, Northop Organics in Mold, Oakcroft in south Cheshire, Growing with Nature in Preston Lancashire and Bluebell Organics in Co Durham. These have wide influence and many contacts in the organic movement; Glyndwr University is now running foundation degree courses including Stockfree-Organics, which will be a tremendous asset to the enduring viability of these methods. VON has arranged for a bursary scheme to help those who wish to study the subject – further enhancing the long term picture, as today’s students are tomorrows practitioners.
VON must now create the demand for animal free food grown in accordance with their Standards. It can only do so successfully with the cooperation of vegans and vegan organisations.
The second objective has proved more elusive. There have been possibilities for Centres in Wales, Scotland, Heywood, Lancashire and elsewhere. For legal, ecological and social reasons these did not materialise. Having received a substantial legacy The Movement for Compassionate Living have lodged part of this – £70,000 – to help towards providing demonstration facilities. Iain Tolhurst and Phil Handley of Northop Organics are now both SA Cert. and SOS symbol holders.
And as both are not only working farms, but also provide extensive demonstration and educational facilities, the need for a fairly large acreage of land attached to a Centre as originally envisaged is under consideration. VON is now reviewing the criteria for establishing a Centre. In 2009 an innovative project to establish educational resources at existing stockfree locations has been developed.
The third aim progresses well with our members being the backbone of using and promoting the vegan-organic method. Growing Green International reports on the spread of vegan-organic growers in different countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Germany, France and the USA. VON intends to set up a certification system for for small scale growers to add a further dimension to the SOS so that they can display a symbol when meeting their customers face to face e.g. at farmers markets. Slowly but surely the symbols will become known together with the ethics that inform the Standards.
To advance these aims, which require a great deal of money, it was decided to apply for charity status and Peter White worked with our solicitor to arrange this. By registering as a charity we are able to apply for funding, obtain tax relief on donations and give more weight to our objectives. In August 2000 the Vegan-Organic Trust (VOT) was registered with the Charity Commission, number 1080847 with seven trustees. Although the Trust was registered in the UK, its constitution allows for operation in any part of the world.
In order to facilitate the setting up of a demonstration centre, the charity is also a registered company limited by guarantee number 3869080. Being a limited company assists our power to buy, lease or be given land and property, which will be held in the name of the charity. The Trustees, who are unpaid, are the directors of the charitable company for which they have full responsibility.
The original trustees were David and Jane Graham, Peter Niederlag, Diana and Peter White, John and Susan Wyncoll. After giving six years of valuable service John and Susan Wyncoll and Peter Niederlag resigned. Patrick Browne, Graham Cole, Rochelle Phillips and Ziggy Woodward since became trustees, with Patrick resigning as a trustee in September 2005 and Ziggy resigning in February 2008. In March 2005 the name of the charity was changed to The Vegan-Organic Network in keeping with the main title of the organisation. All those who support VON through membership are formally supporter members.
The constitution of the charity states its object is “to advance the education of the public in the principles of vegan-organic horticulture and agriculture, in particular but not exclusively through the undertaking of research into such horticulture and agriculture and disseminating the results of this research for the public benefit.”
In keeping with our ethical concerns VON banks with Triodos Bank and can reclaim tax paid on certain donations in the UK and some other countries. Annual accounts are examined by independent accountants, and a copy of the latest accounts is available as well as VON’s governing documents*.
Thousands of farmers and growers across the globe are showcasing how Veganic offers solutions to many pressing issues. “Veganic” is a combination of the two words “vegan” and “organic” to create a new concept for farming. World agriculture must move towards “people nourished per hectare”.
This is where large scale Veganic agriculture proves itself to use less land, water and fossil fuel resources than livestock dependent systems. Simultaneously it also causes less harmful greenhouse gas emissions and polluting wastes. Veganically produced food is resilient to the largest problems facing humanity, namely peak oil, availability of fertile land and climate instability. In 2005 the Vegan Organic Network (VON) produced the world’s first set of Veganic Standards to be certified by inspection.
Most consumers assume that organic production relies on animal manures to support fertility.
• Bringing manure in from another farm is depriving that farm of its own fertility.
• The transport of bulky manures is expensive.
• Nonorganic manures may contain antibiotics and wormer residues.
• All manures under 5 months old pose an E.Coli risk.
• Nonorganic manures are a byproduct of livestock systems that depend on imported feedstuffs like genetically modified soya. Even organic livestock farmers rarely are closed loop as they by in feed etc. There is a direct link with deforestation in the Amazon and the feeds livestock, horses and pets eat in the UK. Many vegetable, fruit and grain farmers do not have livestock, so to improve their resilience they need to develop fertility systems that are towards closedloop and nonreliant on the livestock industry.
Climate instability is almost universally accepted as being caused by human induced atmospheric release of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Only professional deniers, funded by the fossil fuel lobby, and blinkered politicians, still doubt the science.