What about meat and dairy farmers and their businesses? This question is often raised in protest to veganism, but perhaps this question is best answered with another: What happened to cassette tape and floppy disk manufacturers? They evolved or became obsolete! As demand for meat, dairy, and eggs declines while demand for plant-based products grows, savvy farmers are starting to adapt to the changing market scene. Here is a list of seven farmers who are one step ahead of the game and have already fully, or partially, turned their animal farming operations over to plant products.
1. Adam Arnesson
Adam Arnesson is a goat farmer from Sweden who is slowly transitioning over to growing oats for the production of plant-based milk and cheese. Arnesson began this conversion after learning about meat and milk production’s contribution to climate change. He is being helped along by a Swedish company called Oatly, which manufacturers oat milk. Oatly contracts with dairy farmers and purchases all of the grain they produce so as to help them move away from dairy production. Arnesson believes that such transitions are presently difficult without contracts but he hopes this will change as demand for plant milk grows. His efforts have borne fruit. Researchers studying his farm have confirmed that the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by its operation was halved since he began making the transformation.
2. Sivalingam Vasanthakumar
In January, Sivalingam Vasanthakumar, a sheep farmer from Devon, England was driving a truckload of lambs to the slaughterhouse when he had a change of heart and took them to Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries instead. He told the sanctuary that he was troubled by the “animals going through that stress” and that he “just couldn’t cope any more” and ”had to say no.” In lieu of sheep farming, Vasanthakumar now grows vegetables and sells home cooked Indian food. His story made international headlines and spread a message of compassion across the globe. Many animals aside from his 20 lambs were likely spared by this act of mercy.
3. Bob Comis
Bob Comis was a pig farmer who strove to raise his pigs in an environment “as close to natural as is possible in an unnatural system” before slaughtering them. He gave them large open fields to roam in and grew corn for them to harvest at their leisure. He thought of himself as “honorable” and “humane,” but gradually realized that “behind the shroud, I am a slaveholder and a murderer.” After this revelation, he gradually gave up pig farming and now manages a large vegetable farm in Schoharie, New York where he grows everything from beets and squash to beans and potatoes. His farm is “veganic,” which strives to avoid all preventable harm to, and exploitation of, both wild and domestic animals. No animal-based fertilizers are used and steps are taken to avoid harming wildlife during harvests. His transformation was documented in the award-winning film The Last Pig. If you live near Schoharie feel free to contact his farm and place an order for some of his produce.
4. Jay Wilde
Jay Wilde grew up on his father’s English dairy farm and became vegetarian at a young age. He originally thought that treating animals ethically was compatible with dairy farming. However, when he took over the farm in 2011 (following his father’s death), he realized that there was no ethical way to take baby calves from their mothers and slaughter them. He eventually decided to shut down the dairy operation but felt duty-bound to maintain his land as a farm and honor his father’s legacy. He switched over to beef farming since beef cows are at least able to keep their calves until they become six months old. But even beef farming became too heavy of an ethical burden. Wilde described taking his cows to the slaughterhouse as “soul destroying” and said “You knew that you were taking them to what must be a terrifying experience.” Wilde recently terminated his beef business and sent his remaining cows to Hillside Animal Sanctuary. He is in the process of transforming his land into an organic vegetable farm.
5. Jennifer Barrett
Jennifer Barrett is a farmer from Arkansas who bred and slaughtered chickens for 18 years. Her journey towards animal rights began when she was diagnosed with a number of medical conditions including arthritis and hypertension. She began to restrict certain foods from her diet and eventually spent three weeks on a plant-based diet, which greatly improved her health. After this, she slowly started to realize the immorality of her business model. “I remember standing in one of our chicken houses the day before they went to slaughter and feeling so heavy with grief that they were all going to die…my heart started to break when I would see their terror and suffering. Suddenly I saw them as birds, not products!” Jennifer and her husband eventually cancelled their chicken farming contracts and are currently in the process of turning their property into a mushroom farm, with help from the Rancher Advocacy Program.
6. Gustaf Soderfeldt
Gustaf Soderfeldt is an organic farmer from Sweden who spent almost 10 years breeding and slaughtering “free range” chickens, sheep, goats and pigs for their flesh. He also managed a butcher shop that focused on “humane” meat. He entered this meat industry sector in the hopes of promoting an ethical alternative to factory farming but gradually realized that “ethical meat is an impossibility whenever it is possible to grow plentiful plant-based foods.” Gustaf believes that the “humane” and “organic” labels on his products gave his customers “an excuse to continue eating all types of animal products generally, because humane labels still designate animal lives as existentially worthless and that killing them for completely unnecessary reasons can still be embraced.” Gustaf has successfully turned his farm over to vegetable production and now grows tomatoes, peas, carrots, and lettuce.
7. Carol and Julian Pearce
Carol and Julian Pearce spent 20 years raising goats and producing widely acclaimed cheeses with their milk. In addition to breeding goats, they also devoted a lot of time towards rescuing and caring for homeless and neglected animals, including farmed animals. They recently decided to stop exploiting goats since they, “can save animals from cruelty, not compound it by bringing more into the world.” Carol and Julian have transitioned over to producing cashew cheese. In fact, many of their longtime customers continue to purchase their cheese, even though it is now plant based! They also manufacture vegan soaps, candles, chocolates and candy.
All these farmers transformed their livelihoods to avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals, but for most of us reading this, avoiding complicity in animal abuse is much simpler. We don’t need to revamp our occupations and business models but just need to leave animal products off our plates. Learn how to transition to a plant-based diet by downloading our free and easy starter guide today.
Featured image: Bob Comis with a pig. This image and all images in this story via In Defense of Animals.