Aquaponics may be vegan or not. It all boils down on what is the purpose of doing aquaponics. Commercial aquaponics is clearly incompatible with the vegan philosophy. Still, if you set aside the aspect of profiteering from the fish, several reasons could prove that aquaponics works well with veganism.
What are the types of veganism?
Those who practice vegans may be categorized differently, but for the sake of aquaponics, let me shortlist three types of veganism:
This type of veganism involves not eating any food that is a product of any form of animal exploitation. Ethical Vegans are individuals who have chosen to live a vegan lifestyle because they oppose animal cruelty. Vegans of this type do not want their lives to be based on the exploitation of animals, direct or indirect. About a third of vegans do so because they care about animals.
This type of veganism chooses to live a sustainable, greener lifestyle to protect the planet and its natural resources. Environmental vegans think that by not supporting animal agriculture, they are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize their role in deforestation, and reduce pollution. According to a study conducted in Texas, animal feedlots in the state emit more than 7,000 tons of particle dust each year. (https://p2infohouse.org/ref/48/47954.pdf) Environment vegans are opposed to the continuity of such practice.
By adopting a vegan diet, you will achieve a healthier lifestyle. This is the reason why some are recognized as health vegans. Here are some of the health benefits of a vegan diet:
- Lower your cholesterol levels to lower your risk of heart disease.
- Weight loss should be encouraged.
- Lowering A1C levels can help you manage diabetes.
- Reduce your chances of developing some cancers, such as colon cancer.
Does aquaponics inflict harm to aquatic animals?
To answer this question, allow me to address the two types of veganism: environment and health and how aquaponics fit their preferences.
Aquaponics and the Environment
When you utilize any aquaponics technique, you are just mimicking what is happening in a natural ecosystem. This fact suggests that aquaponics is sustainable. Below are some of the good reasons why aquaponics does not pose a threat to our planet in the same way conventional farming does:
- Space saver - In performing aquaponics, you are utilizing less space without experiencing scant produce. In fact, to have a working aquaponics it would not take you acres of agricultural land. You are likely to grow six times more per square foot through this system than long-established soil farming. Furthermore, by farming in abandoned warehouses, you can save money, energy, and other essential resources by utilizing discarded existing structures.
- Water saver - The process of recirculation in an aquaponic unit yields 95 percent to 99 percent water re-use efficiency, according to a study done by the University of Gothenburg. Despite the constant use, the system's water quality is maintained, and it only took less than 100 liters per kilogram of fish.
- "Food miles" diminished - Growing vegetables and fruits at home, at schools, and within communities becomes possible thanks to aquaponics. This implies more excellent nourishment because our favorite greens arrive fresh and less of the drawbacks of long-distance travel.
Aquaponics and health
The primary reason why aquaponics' plant produce is good for your health is that they are organic. Here are some reasons to support this claim:
- Aquaponics employs chemical-free pest management. Pest control is always a factor when you cultivate plants in any growing system, aquaponics included. But in aquaponics, managing those destructive organisms could be achieved without using harmful chemicals. Thus, you are ensured of healthy, chemical-free fruits or veggies.
- Aquaponics does not use growth hormones and antibiotics. The beauty of aquaponics is you are mimicking what is happening in a natural ecosystem. Your fish and plants grow by following nature's intended design. In aquaponics, you create a natural environment by relying on bacteria and composting red worms to transform the fish's ammonia and solid waste into complete plant food. It's an unavoidably organic process. The fish is harmed once pesticides are used on the plants. Conversely, if the fish are given growth hormones or antibiotics, the plants will suffer. Because aquaponics is the management of an entire ecosystem, one input will necessarily interact with everything else.
- Aquaponics has no synthetic fertilizers. In aquaponics, the only fertilizer available is that which comes from fish effluents. It's vital to remember that fish produce waste in the form of ammonia, which is generally poisonous to both aquatic organisms and plants. This ammonia is absorbed by bacteria in the grow beds, converting it to nitrates, used as plant fertilizer, as part of the nitrogen cycle. This natural fertilizer can also be found in our environment. Fish feces is the only source of nutrients for most plants in lakes and ponds. Plants give cleaner water to the fish in exchange.
Aquaponics and animal cruelty
I am convinced that when you use aquaponics to produce your favorite greens, and the fish are left to live, not becoming part of your diet, such a situation does not foster any form of animal cruelty.
Although plants rely on the fish for nutrients, this is achieved not by hurting the fish but through the latter's waste material. Now, some may argue that the fish labor for the sake of the plants. Similar to conventional farming, where cows are used to produce milk, the fish is being exploited. However, the fish swims naturally in any aquaponics setup as well as being fed. They are not forced to work. In this situation, animal abuse is absent.
But what about the fish food? If the chosen fish to breed is either carnivorous or omnivorous, the grower is violating the vegan principle of no animal cruelty. If you are concerned about the animal proteins in your fish feed, you may freely choose a herbivorous fish that only eats plants or feed manufactured with plant proteins.
Can a vegan perform aquaponics?
My answer to this question is an emphatic yes. Any vegan can practice the aquaponics methodology for the sake of producing fruits and vegetables. As shown above, in aquaponics, you are helping to preserve the environment. Growing healthy plant edibles is also another upside for vegans when they adopt aquaponics. Finally, if you use herbivorous fish, you are not participating in the practice of animal exploitation.
For vegans to show care for the fish, their needs should be taken into consideration. Otherwise, the system as a whole will fail. Here I advise maintaining a healthy stocking density and regular tank maintenance to promote a safe aquaponics environment.
Is aquaponics vegan?
The answer to this question could be yes and no.
If the grower is raising fish to eat or sell them, this, of course, is inconsistent with the vegan belief.
But, suppose the reason for adopting the aquaponics approach is to practice an environmentally friendly means to produce food and only farm organic fruits and vegetables; then, the system suits veganism.
The issue between aquaponics and veganism is a polarizing one. Some find these two practices in conflict with each other, while others argue otherwise. With the points I made in this post, I am sure there are good enough reasons to say that aquaponics is vegan.