The Importance of Animals in Permaculture Systems and Permaculture Diets, Including a Discussion on Veganism

by David Brown

No topic is more central to permaculture than this one, especially when we consider the two aspects of system and diet.

After discussing Earth Health, Permaculture as a Hunter-Gatherer System, and Human Health, David presents his Conclusions. He states his opinions which are rational and factual, but he had to leave out some aspects of such a big topic.

He brings new insights to permaculture:

  • it is a hunter-gatherer mode of meeting needs;
  • plant-life has rights, not just animals (ie, ‘higher animals that are like us humans’);
  • a species is more important than its individual plants and animals;
  • the right to kill is held by the biosphere or an ecosystem, not by any individual animal;
  • our human-centred ethics is narrow and unethical;
  • animals are essential in permaculture systems;
  • we must distinguish permaculture from agribusiness, industrial processes, supermarkets, etc ;
  • we should try to make ethical choices holistically, taking into account all the consequences, and be willing to leave our emotional comfort zone.

In researching for this article, David changed his mind about a number of things and he came to the conclusion that a vegan diet is bad for the Earth, bad for species extinction, bad for climate, bad for health, and bad for animal rights – and should not be adopted except for medical reasons in individual cases. Another conclusion is that the global consumption of animal products is too high, and that although energy foods should be substantially animal, the bulk of our diets should be predominantly vegetable matter.

We welcome respectful, rational and factual discussion on the paper, whether in agreement or not.

Read the article

About David Brown

David’s  involvement in environmental protection in Tasmania in 1977 (pre Lake Pedder) brought him into contact with Bill Mollison and permaculture.  Bill told David to leave Perth and come to Tasmania because: “You are needed here”, so David arranged to visit in 1978.

Whilst there, he managed the final setting up of Permaculture One – the tome that launched permaculture to the world – and assisted with the establishment of a permaculture community in Stanley. He also spent time with David Holmgren at Jackeys Marsh, working through ideas about permaculture. 

David was heavily involved in arranging Bill’s inaugural public permaculture lecture in Perth, which led to the establishment of PAWA (PermacultureWest).  Then he was active in organising PAWA’s monthly public lectures  and the monthly newsletter. David’s signature achievement with PAWA was the editing and publication of the book Western Permaculture Manual to celebrate PAWA’s 10th anniversary. This was the largest project undertaken by PAWA at that time, with David having to write much of the content!

Outside of PAWA, David has lectured on permaculture and provided feedback on both working and proposed designs – including some large municipal proposals such as one in Scotland that aimed to redesign buildings and surrounds inhabited by poorer people (eg, blocks of high-rise apartments). 

David has endeavoured to protect permaculture from distortions over the years – that it is limited to the garden; or is a fancy new name for organic gardening; or that it is a bundle of techniques rather than an overarching design system. He thinks a big future threat will come from “woke ideology, tokenism, and fragmentation, because people are increasingly governed by their feelings rather than by a realistic assessment of consequences.”

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