- Wilding Kitchen
- Our Charity
- Wilding Kitchen
- Our Charity
This year at Knepp, we are championing ‘Regenuary’ over ‘Veganuary.’ Embracing the occasional consumption of organic, pasture-fed meat supports a well-balanced and eco-conscious diet.
No doubt you will have heard of Veganuary, the global pledge to try being vegan for 31 days. We applaud every effort to adapt our diets to reduce emissions and combat climate change. And here at Knepp we certainly believe we all need to be eating less meat. If and when we do eat meat we must be certain it comes from a sustainable, nature-friendly source. That’s where Regenuary comes in (Regenerative Agriculture January!) Initiated by The Ethical Butcher in 2020, this movement promotes sustainable farming practices. The Ethical Butcher provides a comprehensive guide on their website to help individuals actively participate.
Most people imagine that the biggest threat to biodiversity is climate change but it is, in fact, industrial farming. Our global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone being the identified threat to 86% of species at risk of extinction. For that reason, supporting regenerative and organic producers is critical.
In a similar vein to Veganary, Regenuary obviously lasts the whole month of January. But instead of cutting out animal-based products for the month, you’re encouraged to consider the environmental impact of everything you buy and eat.
Regenuary asks consumers to consider the land on which their food is grown and to source as much of their food as possible from ethical businesses and regenerative agriculture. It involves ensuring that the food you consume is locally produced, ethically sourced, and seasonal.
As Isabella Tree wrote in the Guardian more than five years ago, calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.
Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.
Our old English longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, and red and fallow deer live in natural herds and wander wherever they please. Since the animals live outside all year round, with plenty to eat, they do not require supplementary feeding and rarely need to see the vet. The cattle and deer graze on wildflowers and grasses but they also browse among shrubs and trees. The pigs rootle for rhizomes and even dive for swan mussels in ponds. The way they graze, puddle and trample stimulates vegetation in different ways, which in turn creates opportunities for other species, including small mammals and birds.
Crucially, because we don’t dose them with avermectins (the anti-worming agents routinely fed to livestock in intensive systems) or antibiotics, their dung feeds earthworms, bacteria, fungi and invertebrates such as dung beetles, which pull the manure down into the earth. This is a vital process of ecosystem restoration, returning nutrients and structure to the soil.
Not only does this system of natural grazing aid the environment in terms of soil restoration, biodiversity, pollinating insects, water quality and flood mitigation – but it also it guarantees healthy lives for the animals, and they in turn produce meat that is healthy for us. In direct contrast to grain-fed and grain-finished meat from intensive systems, wholly pasture-fed meat is high in beta carotene, calcium, selenium, magnesium and potassium and vitamins E and B, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – a powerful anti-carcinogen. It is also high in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is vital for human brain development but extremely difficult for vegans to obtain.
Much has been made of the methane emissions of livestock, but these are lower in biodiverse pasture systems that include wild plants such as angelica, common fumitory, shepherd’s purse and bird’s-foot trefoil because they contain fumaric acid – a compound that, when added to the diet of lambs at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, reduced emissions of methane by 70%.
In the vegan equation, by contrast, the carbon cost of ploughing is rarely considered. Since the industrial revolution, according to a 2017 report in the science journal Nature, up to 70% of the carbon in our cultivated soils has been lost to the atmosphere.
So there’s a huge responsibility here: unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, “no-dig” systems, you are actively participating in the destruction of soil biota, promoting a system that deprives other species, including small mammals, birds and reptiles, of the conditions for life, and significantly contributing to climate change.
There’s no question we should all be eating far less meat, and calls for an end to high-carbon, polluting, unethical, intensive forms of grain-fed meat production are commendable. But if your concerns for participating in Veganuary are the environment, animal welfare and your own health, then it’s no longer possible to pretend that these are all met simply by giving up meat and dairy. Regenuary for January and beyond!
Knepp Wildland Safaris and campsite are all about the quiet and patient observation of nature.
Some of the species we are likely to encounter are shy or can be frightened by loud noises or sudden movements. Our campsite with open-air fire-pits, wood-burning stoves and an on-site pond is unsuitable for small children.
For this reason, our safaris, holiday cottages and campsite are suitable only for children of 12 and over.