Episode 257. The Importance of Animals

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 24th of May 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

I’d like to start off with a big shout out to David who bought me a coffee this week! Much appreciated David and yes this show runs on coffee so you are helping to fuel the work. I might point out that 10% of that coffee and all the courses that sell will be donated to the Bubugo Conservation Trust [Link in the show notes] for their sustainable farming program. I love the idea that we can work together across the globe and make a difference in some many places. 

Now for the scheduled episode!

I’m getting a little bit sick of urbanites saying things like: “We can only save the world by going vegan.” 

This has nothing to do with the ethics of veganism, vegetarianism nor omnivorism. It is to do with the complete lack of critical thinking. All their calculations appear to be based upon the notion that meat is only and can only be produced in CAFOs. That grass fed, pastured meat is a niche product for the rich but the unwashed masses must move over to tofu and mung beans… for the planet. The idea being feedlots are the only way to produce meat. That this is patently inaccurate doesn’t seem to matter. It doesn’t fit the narrative.

That narrative being: we must all, in the developed world, lower our living standards or the planet cooks. The sins of the past must be paid for by the present and the future. This is obviously based upon religious understanding rather than the application of the scientific method. 

It has gotten to the point where PETA, understandably campaigning against CAFOs, put out a statement here in Australia last week regarding a current mouse plague in western NSW and southern parts of QLD. In the statement it was suggested that mice be collected alive and relocated away from the grain and fodder sources they are currently devouring. Clearly this statement is based upon ethical theory and not an understanding of the situation on the ground.

The footage I’ve seen [Link in the show notes] started with a cat sitting still with a mouse on its head. The numbers are truly mind boggling. So too is the amount and strength of the poison being used. The farming community hit by this plague have, this century, been through drought, good rains, drought, fires, Chinese government trade attacks, COVID and now mice. 

But I digress, sort of. The PETA response to the mouse plague fits on a continuum with the “we must all go vegan to save the planet.” argument. The separation of food production from the realities of most people in the developed world is pretty much complete. That’s why the latter idea is accepted without question in the media reports I’ve seen but the PETA idea is not. 

That lack of contact with agricultural reality has given a freehand to those wishing to push biological systems to their limits and beyond in an attempt to turn as many dollars/Euros/Pesos/Rupees as possible. The industrialisation of ag, I’ve covered this in episodes 226, 245, 249 and 250 most recently, is another process that’s separated animals from much of food production.

The regenerative ag movement had its roots in better animal agriculture through biomimicry. Copying, in a fenced system without natural predators, the behaviours of herbivores on the grasslands of the world. Serengeti, the north american prairies being most obvious. The idea is to bring really high grazing pressure to by “normal” standards, really small areas and then letting that grassland rest for long periods. The predators were replaced with electric fences and the wildebeest and bison replaced with cattle and more lately sheep. This system has been integrated with crop production through the work of people like Gabe Brown, as but one example.

On the suburban level, this integration is critical and on smallholdings too. There is something special about animal manures that works with soil so much better than compost. I know people go on about black gold and the powers of compost but I’ve never found the stuff as powerful as animal droppings. Indeed, vermicompost is more powerful and efficacious for plant growth than straight compost.

The reasons are fairly obvious when we apply a little critical thinking.

Compost is powerful stuff, it is organic, depending upon your inputs and it grows soil much more quickly than geological processes. It is though a human construct. No other animal goes out of its way to create compost for soil improvement. Introducing manures has a much more potent effect. Where, though, do we acquire these manures in a suburban context? The neighbours and local municipal authorities are unlikely to appreciate a steer in the back shed nor a couple of piggies running around the backyard. Chooks though are accepted, in most places, as are rabbits and guinea pigs. In just twenty four hours these little beasties will turn most kitchen scraps into rocket fuel for plants. You can “compost” these with the bedding from the animal’s housing or better yet fed through a worm farm. 

If you have sufficient material to lay down over a garden bed, then that’s probably the best way to go. Cardboard or newspapers – remember newspapers? – down first and the manured bedding on top will give the very best results on earth. 

Are but what to do with the continually reproducing beasties? Well most suburban settings won’t allow a rooster that solves that problem. Guinea pigs and rabbits can be problematic. There does always appear to be a market for guinea pigs as they are a good size for children, will take to handling happily and produce a dry manure. Rabbits do indeed breed like, well rabbits but you could keep angora rabbits for angora fleece. By the way this fleece is currently selling for $245 per kilo or $111 per pound. Could be a nice little side hustle with the garden feeding you and the rabbits, their manures feeding the garden and their fleeces paying for annual holidays or even a full income. You’d need to run the figures on that and I’m no business advisor but it may be worth looking at.

The other argument in favour of integrating animals into our gardens is the reason manures benefit plants. The plants and the animals evolved together. 

Long before humans appeared on the scene, plants and other animals had been evolving together. Some plants with spines and chemical deterrents survived to reproduce and stay one step ahead of the herbivores. Some herbivores had harder mouths than other individuals in their population and were able to exploit these animal deterring species and the dance continued through time. We have only to think back to our grandparent’s, or maybe great grandparent’s generations to remember horse drawn milk floats and or garbage collections and the fight over horse droppings for the garden. This may not be a memory passed on in your family history but it happened.Neighbours refused to speak for years over a horse poo dispute. We knew that poo was the way to go and we must get back to adding it to our gardens.

If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, I opened a new Facebook group with just myself in there at the moment. I’ve called it, imaginatively, ChangeUnderground Podcast Group. You search on the FB or there’s a link in the show notes and in the transcript over at WorldOrganicNews.com episode 252. 

Decarbonise the air and Recarbonise the soil.

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:



email: jon@worldorganicnews.com


Bubugo Conservation Trust



NSW Mouse Plague


episodes 226, 245, 249 and 250 

Gabe Brown


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