Sometimes people ask us vegetarians and vegans test questions, like, “So do you ever wear leather?” ” What if you were starving in a jail and the only thing you could eat was a cockroach?” etc. In that vein, people sometimes feel the need to tell us how even the most virtuous of activities, for example, growing organic vegetables, can involve fertilizer made with blood or bone meal. This is all as if to say… you can’t be vegan, it’s too hard not to wear leather, not consume animal products in your food, there might be some extreme situation when you can’t follow your values, so if you can’t live without hurting other beings, you shouldn’t even try to go part of the way…. Without addressing that directly now, let’s shift gears to a story.
This past summer, Christian was excited to grow cherry tomatoes. He decided to plant the seeds in a bucket (from a recycled products shop) and hang itfrom his roof to get more sun. But he didn’t know exactly what he could use as fertilizer that wouldn’t involve blood or bone meal slaughterhouse by-products.
Meanwhile, Christian had a co-worker who kept a companion rabbit (or as kids would say, a pet bunny). When he or I prepared dark green leafy greens to eat(the calcium and iron rich kind), we’d cut the tough spines, save and give them to his co-workers bunny. Well, at some point, he was talking to his co-worker about the fertilizer dilemma, and voila, a solution was borne. The next day, his co-worker presented him with dried bunny poop, which worked just fine as a fertilizer all season.
I’m sure that people could draw all kinds of conclusions from this story. My way of interpreting it is that even if problems seem really hard and insoluble, if we are open to unique solutions, they present themselves. It may not be possible to answer all vegan “test” questions in a general and always-correct way, but if you have the intention to do well, you will probably find a way to meet your needs in a specific time and place with least harm to other beings… So you might not need to wear leather, even for those super special hiking boots. And you might not have to eat a cockroach if you find yourself in jail. And instead of using slaughterhouse byproducts, you can get bunny poop to feed your companion tomato plant. Here is Tummu, the tomato plant, in all her glory .