6. Animals


Full recording available to

students of the Academy

How to Integrate Animals in a System?

In natural systems plants & animals form a single system, where all organisms are closely inter-connected, & give each other mutual support.

But normally in systems that we humans have designed, animals are excluded or separated from their vital environment, so creating not only waste & pollution but also terrible conditions for animals & their exploitation.

In this class we explore how to learn from nature & design systems that re-weave the whole web of Life, so creating environments which are ideal for plants, animals & humans, as well as giving much greater abundance of well-being, richness & also production.

Grazing: part of the solution, not the problem

a new e-book gives more details from Allan Savory's TED talk


Also see other pages about this here in this e-book

Out to Pasture: The Future of Farming?

Vídeo de YouTube

Out to Pasture contrasts industrial-style confined animal production with farms that raise food animals outdoors in diversified operations, striving to be sustainable. Several of these pasture-based farmers are profiled and they tell their own vibrant stories of bucking the trends in farming. They discuss how they got started in farming (three transitioned from confinement operations), what's important about their farming methods, how their conventional-farm neighbors view them, how to keep young people on the farm, the future of the food system, and other compelling topics. The film also features Robert Lawrence, director of CLF; and John Ikerd, a leading thinker on sustainable agriculture issues.

On Killing Animals

I've always wondered: why does veganism stop at what you put in your mouth? What happens when you take nonviolence against animals to its logical conclusions?

Why sanction the consumption of industrialized plant products, even when their production often permanently destroys the land they are grown on? Why sanction the consumption of food from land that is tilled, when the practice kills billions of animals each year? Why sanction food produced with the use of biocides, that kill billions more? Why sanction food produced with fertilizers, which inevitably create dead zones in the oceans? Why sanction driving when cars inevitably kill everything from bugs to large mammals? Why sanction the burning or refining of oil that devastates animal habitat and contributes to the end of all life on the planet? Why sanction the use of electricity, which is derived from those same fossil fuels, or from fish-killing dams or bird-killing turbines or turtle-killing solar arrays? Why sanction living in houses built on the bones of forests and all that lived in them?

And what would happen if veganism's pledge against nonviolence applied to humans as well as nonhumans? Should we stop wearing clothes produced under systems of capitalist exploitation? Stop eating food produced by migrant labor or (like most chocolate) by slaves abroad? Stop using money, necessarily the product of slavery and colonial conquest? And shouldn't we stop living on land stolen by violent force?

Maybe, like Jainists, we should stop walking outside for fear of trampling bugs? But of course even Jainists have no problem walking outside on areas already covered in a death of concrete, because like veganism their philosophy isn't designed to resolve violence against animals but to mask one's individual complicity in it.

I'm not saying we shouldn't make the best choices we can, or encourage others to do so. Even more than that we should be nurturing an empathy with the living world that leads to better choices. But as activists we need to stop focusing on people making "good choices" and start working to make the bad ones impossible.

Stella (replied)

We farm and love the animals we have here. They wouldn't exist if we didn't breed them (often puzzled about what vegetarians have to say about that: the 'right to life' of domesticated species is a totally avoided subject). 

The reality is that our needs, well designed for, meet with their needs (to exist) perfectly, as Nature intended. We provide them with a very nice life, relating to them with (mutual!) love & affection like every other member of our extended family. 

Then, instead of letting them die a miserable, painful death from old age & disease (I tortured my chickens that way for several years because I couldn't face killing them, until I grew up in that respect), we provide them with a quick natural death - at the hands of a predator - what would happen to them in Nature.   Thanking them and thanking Life for the honor in taking part of Her sacred cicles.

I really (now) think that learning to kill our food is a very important rite of passage that we mostly miss out on in western culture. 

The feeling of re-connecting to something profound and sacred (the Cicle of Life itself) that I got from going through all the emotional turmoil of learning to do this is impossible to describe, but I think it is something vital for our emotional & spiritual health, and one of the (many!) reasons we are such an adolescent, stuck culture.

On Giving Death

15Aug15 - thanks Sabine for letting us know about this wonderful article!

Can you describe how you slaughter your goats?


I would never slaughter anything.  I am a woman. I give birth. I give death. I am Kali, dancing through birth, life and death. I do not slaughter, kill, murder, or take life. I give the gift of death.


The giving of death is a sacred rite. We are very serious about it. We never threaten death for misbehavior. We set the date for giving death and tell the animal when it will be. We invite the soul or spirit of the goat to get ready to go; pack your bags!


Our ceremony of giving death includes four positions. She-who-holds-the-knife, She-who-holds-the-animal, and She-who-walks-in-the-woods.


She-who-holds-the-knife is a solitary position; no one else can hold the knife with her. She is in charge; she decides when to cut. She stands astride the goat, facing in the same direction as the goat, knees holding the goat’s shoulders, hands free to lift the head and cut the throat.


She-who-holds-the-animal is more than one person when we give death to a particularly feisty young buck or on the rare occasion of giving death to a full-grown goat, otherwise it is one person. She holds the legs of the goat.


She-who-stands-in-support is as many people as there are present. We support She-who-holds-the-knife, the process, and the animal by chanting Om mani padme hum, the holiest of Tibetan mantras. When death is clear, we change our chant to Om shanti, shanti, shati, peace, peace, peace.


She-who-walks-in-the-woods is often not an actual person, though on occasion someone does walk in the woods. She-who-walks-in-the-woods represents the part of all us that does not want anything to die, ever. She-who-walks-in-the-woods is the part of each of us that resists change.  We honor and recognize that part of ourselves. The part that wakes up on the morning of giving death and says “Could I put it off? Could I refuse to wake up? Do I have to do this?” I don’t dread giving death, but I am never happy about it. It is part of keeping a healthy goat herd.

I believe that there is a difference between life force, which is personal and present only so long as the body lives, and soul force, which is timeless and unbounded.  When we give death, we remind ourselves that we will consume the life force. It does not end; it does not die; it continues on in the form of our bodies. Nor can the soul force die; it also continues on, and perhaps will choose to take another form. 

She-who-holds-the-knife must first cut through her own resistance. When she must cut through the energy field of the animal, then through the hair of the animal, then through the skin and the muscles of the throat. Only when she sees bright red blood – not the dark blood of the vein, but the bright blood of the artery, pumping powerfully – does she stop cutting. Bleeding to death is pleasant. I have talked to women who have almost bled to death (when giving birth) and they have all said that bleeding to death is blissful, oceanic, ecstatic. We collect the blood in a bucket half-filled with cool water, which we place under the neck. We dilute it and use it to fertilize our plants. Nothing is wasted.

The chanting, the stroking and the holding of the animal create a vortex of calm, clear intention. The animals never exhibit any fear. We don’t hide. The goats come to the ancient oak tree where we give death and, in their curious way, check out what we have done when we have completed the ceremony. Afterwards, I usually give an anatomy lesson to the apprentices. Then we carefully skin the goat with a technique I created which leaves the fascia behind, thus eliminating any scraping of the skin. A two-inch thick layer of borax on the wet side of the skin dries it in about two weeks. The skins are stiff, but they make great rugs. At the moment I am sitting on a goatskin from a lovely buck we gave death to several years ago.


That was beautiful Susan.

I truly believe Julie, that we can end war by reclaiming the act of giving death. When every woman is willing to pick up the knife and give death when needed, then there will be no more war. Death is necessary. In the classical images, Kali gives death to one child even as she is giving birth to another. When women put down the knife, we force men to pick it up. Men don’t give birth; they don’t know instinctively how to give death. Certainly they can participate. Certainly they have a gift to give that precedes the giving of birth. But they don’t give birth.

It’s not easy. At the opening talking stick with the thirty women in my German apprentice group, all but one of them complained: “Why are you asking us do this terrible thing of giving death?” The last woman said: “I have come to this apprenticeship because I want to learn to give death. I keep a herd of sheep and I can’t stand it anymore to have to hire a man with a gun to slaughter them.” When the day came, three weeks later, to give death to the rabbits we had tended, verbal battles ensued because so many women wanted to be She-who-holds-the-knife. They understood the value of what I asked.

One past apprentice loved herding my goats. She applied for her “dream job:” herding a huge herd of sheep in the wilds of Alaska. The man who was hiring called me for a reference. He said he usually didn’t hire women because he worried they wouldn’t be able to kill a sheep if needed. I was able to reassure him that I knew she could do it because I had seen her hold the knife. She got her dream job.

That just gives me chills. It’s my favorite part of this interview so far. 

Read the rest of this interview here in the Goat Page

How Wolves Change Rivers

As usual, we find Nature has the optimal designs (if we only understand them), that have been perfected over millennia.  This beautiful short video is an example of how predators regulate eco-systems towards more fertility.

Vídeo de YouTube

Visit http://sustainableman.org/ to explore the world of sustainability.
For more from George Monbiot, visit http://www.monbiot.com/

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir

So how do we restore, or imitate, this wonderful perfection?

All eco-systems have plant-animal interactions at their core, and there are many imaginative ways that have been invented to reproduce this optimal cycling in human designed eco-systems. 

Video: Djanbung Gardens in NSW Australia

A brief tour of Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre in Nimbin, NSW Australia. Executive Director Robyn Francis, walks us through this beautiful land which she transformed through permaculture design, working with nature - rather than against it, from a barren cow pasture into a mix of tropical food forest, cold-temperate orchard, vegetable gardens, chook yard, and more. Visit permaculture.com.au for more information about this amazing place.

Videos: PolyFace Farm

an ingenious system integrating animals, introducing Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

part 2

Video: Pig Tractors

Good Poo, Bad Poo

Manure Matters - How manures measure up

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and 

Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul

In the 1960's, when the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) secret gadget-makers invented a listening device for the Asian jungles, they disguised it so the enemy wouldn't be tempted to pick it up and examine it: The device looked like tiger droppings.

The guise worked. Who would touch such a thing? The fist-sized transmitter detected troop movements along the trails in Vietnam.

While most people would find tiger droppings offensive, there are millions of gardeners who look at look at manure as money in the bank. Many zoos, for example, are marketing giraffe even hippopotamus droppings. Can you guess what the best zoo doo is? (You'll find the answer at the end of this article).

In the days when most families kept a milk cow and a flock of chickens, manure was a primary garden fertilizer.   But with changes in food production practices and the advent of synthetic fertilizer in the 1930's, many gardeners stopped using manure.   Today, organic gardeners have rediscovered the benefits of manure as a fertilizer, soil conditioner and compost ingredient.

Where to find manure

Remember the story of the little boy who was digging through the pile of manure? "There has to be a pony in here somewhere," he told his father.

horse manure organic fertilizer

The hopeful lad probably lived on a farm, the best place for home gardeners to get manure. Or any place where domestic animals are raised, for that matter. Just listen for moos and clucking! Farm manure is often sold as bagged manure and is available at garden centers and hardware stores. 

Manures and composted plant materials add organic matter, which helps soil retain moisture and structure which prevents compaction, and helps prevent nutrients from leaching away. They also balance extremes in soil pH.

"The fairest thing in nature, a flower,
still has its roots in earth and manure."
—D.H. Lawrence, English novelist, poet (1885-1930)

Good poop, bad poop

What is good for the goose, is not always good for the gander. There are a few manures that should not be used, primarily those of meat eaters.   According to Cornell University, "Homeowners should not use any manure from dogs, cats, or other meat-eating animals, since there is risk of parasites or disease organisms that can be transmitted to humans."

The most common sources of manure are horses, cattle, goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry. Below is a guide showing how manures measure up, nutrient-wise.   While all animal manures are good sources of organic matter and nutrients, it's impossible to make a precise analysis, mostly because bedding materials vary so much.    For example, manure with straw or sawdust will have a different nitrogen composition than pure manure.   But it's useful to know whether the manure you're using is rich or poor in a particular nutrient such as nitrogen.

chicken manure organic fertilizer

As you review the list, don't be misled by the N-P-K numbers that suggest manure is less powerful than chemicals.    It is actually far better because it contains large amounts of organic matter, so it feeds and builds the soil while it nourishes the plants.   This is one of the primary ways that organic fertilizers have a leg-up on chemical ones.

Still, many gardeners can't resist comparing the numerical amounts listed below with what they read on packages of synthetic fertilizers.   Unfortunately, the values of manure and organic fertilizers in general, are often based on the relative amount of nitrogen (N), phosphoric acid (P) and potash (K) they contain.    While these are important elements, "it is misleading to make a direct comparison between farm manures and chemical fertilizers on the basis of the relative amounts of N-P-K," says Jerry Minnich, author of Rodale's Guide to Composting.

Just like we need to eat to maintain our health, soil needs continual replenishment of its organic matter to decompose into humus. Humus helps create a rich, moisture-retaining soil and makes nutrients available to plants.( For more organic gardening tips, read the current issue of my UpBeet Gardener newsletter.)

How common manures measure up

ManureChickenDiary cowHorseSteerRabbitSheep
N-P-K1.1 .80 .50.25 .15 .25.70 .30 .60.70 .30 .402.4 1.4 .60.70.30 .90
Sources: Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic GardeningAn Illustrated Guide to
Organic Gardening
, by Sunset Publishing, and the Rodale Guide to Composting.

Note: Nutrient values of manures vary greatly, depending on the diet and
age of the animals, and the nature and quantiy of bedding in the mix.

Chicken manure
Poultry manure (chicken in particular) is the richest animal manure in N-P-K. Chicken manure is considered "hot" and must be composted before adding it to the garden. Otherwise, it will burn any plants it comes in contact with.

Dairy (cow) manure
"Dairy Manure may be the single most useful soil-builder around," says Ann Lovejoy, lifetime organic gardener and writer in Seattle, Washington. "Washed dairy manure from healthy cows is just about perfect for garden use; it can be used as a topdressing and for soil improvement," she adds. Dairy manure is preferable to steer manure, which has a higher salt and weed seed content. Though cow manure has low nutrient numbers, that's what makes ist safe to use in unlimited quantities.

Horse manure
Horse manure is about half as rich as chicken manure, but richer in nitrogen than cow manure. And, like chicken droppings, it's considered "hot". Horse manure often contains a lot of weed seeds, which means it's a good idea to compost it using a hot composting method.

Steer manure
Steer manure is one of the old standbys, but it's not the most beloved because it often contains unwanted salts and weed seeds. 

cow manure organic fertilizer

Rabbit manure
Rabbit manure is even higher in nitrogen than some poultry manures and it also contains a large amount of phosphorus--important for flower and fruit formation. 

Sheep manure
Sheep manure is another "hot" manure. It is somewhat dry and very rich. Manure from sheep fed hay and grain will be more potent than manure from animals that live on pasture.

How to use manure

No matter what kind of manure you use, use it as a soil amendment, not a mulch. In other words, don't put raw manure directly on garden soils. Raw manure generally releases nitrogen compounds and ammonia which can burn plant roots, young plants and interfere with seed germination. In fact, it's recommended that all animal manure should be aged for at least 6 months. Many gardeners spread fresh manure in the fall and turn it in to the top 6 inches of soil a month before spring planting.

A better treatment is to hot-compost manure before applying it to the garden. Hot composting, where the pile reaches at least 150 degrees F) helps to reduce the probability of passing dangerous pathogens on to people who handle the manure or eat food grown with manure compost. (For more information about compost, read my Compost Happens! article.)

While the chance of contamination is slim, severe sickness and even death may occur if contaminated produce is eaten. To be safe, either compost your manure or apply it in the fall after harvest. Wash up after handling manure and don't forget to rinse the vegetables and fruit well before you eat them--always a good idea whether your use manure or not.

The bottom line

Anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the plant nutrients fed to animals are excreted in their manure, so it should be no surprise that the stuff is an excellent fertilizer. E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web, agrees. "There is no doubt about it, the basic satisfaction in farming is manure."

The best zoo doo? Elephant dung!

So there you have it: The scoop on poop!