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Without a doubt, aquaponics offers a highly self-sufficient system that supports the growth of both plants and animals, even with limited space. It is sustainable and generally environment-friendly because it doesn’t require acres of land and wasteful irrigation. Despite this, many people practicing a vegan lifestyle would question the welfare of the fish and believe that aquaponics is not as cruelty-free as it may appear on the surface. So this begs the question, is aquaponics vegan?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, and this depends on the level of veganism one would practice. Before choosing a side on whether or not aquaponics can be considered vegan, there is a need to understand the levels of vegan practice. Some vegans believe that this farming method is completely cruelty-free while others argue it isn’t.
In this article, you will learn about two types of veganism that most people recognize and how aquaponics can or cannot fit into the lifestyle.
Understanding Veganism: Dietary vs Ethical
Opinions on whether or not aquaponics is vegan are divided, as can be seen in many vegan forums. While there are several categories of veganism, this article will explore two of them specifically – dietary and ethical – and how each lifestyle generally views aquaponics.
Dietary vegans are also called strict vegetarians and those who live this lifestyle refuse to eat meat, dairy products, eggs, and other substances derived from animals. However, they are not against rearing or keeping animals as pets or for general human benefit. They might even think clothing made from animal products is acceptable.
Ethical vegans, or also called moral vegetarians, extend their beliefs to more than just food. They are against keeping animals for whatever purpose. They believe animals strictly belong to their natural habitat and should not be kept for human benefit. In general, they are against the use of animal products, whether for fashion or for food consumption.
If you believe that animals can be kept as long as they’re living a cruelty-free life and that they’re well-cared for, then aquaponics won’t be a problem. A vegan can practice this method of gardening. But if you believe animals, including aquatic creatures, should not be contained, then aquaponics is out of the question.
Why Aquaponics Is a Cruelty-Free Practice
A better question to ponder on would be, “is aquaponics cruelty-free?” because then, the answer will be a definite yes. Anyone who’s concerned about the welfare of the fish will, understandably, worry about aquaponics. Everyone may have their own beliefs and stand on the welfare of animals in an aquaponics setup, but generally, it’s safe to say that aquaponics is cruelty-free for the following reasons:
The fish provide the food
The fish themselves are not the food for the plants but their waste is. In traditional farming, crops are fertilized using animal manure; in some, as in the case of fish emulsion, parts or the whole fish is used. Even then, eating crops fertilized by animal waste won’t be a problem for a strict vegetarian but the same thing cannot be said of ethical vegans. In addition, no animal labor is also involved in aquaponics; in fact, the fish are just fed, allowed to swim around, and not forced to work.
No fish is harmed
This will depend on the aquaponic grower’s preference. Some will grow fish or even crustaceans in aquaponics for personal consumption, while others raise them to sell them. However, many growers do bond with their fish, refusing to kill and eat them. After all, some people would feel it’s hard to kill a fish after they’ve helped so much in growing plants. In this case, the fish are treated as pets and considered vital members of the system that need to survive.
Growers are mindful of the requirements needed for the fish to thrive. Otherwise, the entire system will fail. The steps taken to ensure a safe aquaponics environment include maintaining a healthy stocking density and performing regular tank maintenance.
This is another concern since veganism is typically against the use of animal products. If you worry about your fish feed being derived from animal proteins, then opt for an herbivorous fish that strictly need plants or feed made with plant proteins. Just like any species of animal, fish can either be carnivorous, omnivorous or herbivorous.
Can a Vegan Practice Aquaponics?
Depending on the level of veganism, aquaponics can fit into a vegan lifestyle provided that the fish are living in optimal conditions (i.e. excellent water quality and housed in a large tank without overcrowding) and that they are raised as pets or as a valuable member of the aquaponics ecosystem instead of as food. In addition, there are vegans that do support aquaponics, provided that the fish are rescue fish and are being given excellent treatment.
Conclusion: Is Aquaponics Vegan?
Yes and no, aquaponics can be considered vegan, depending on which category of veganism one belongs to. But if you ask if aquaponics is a cruelty-free and environment-friendly practice, then without a doubt, it is.