Biodynamic farming is seen as the ‘more organic than organic’ method of sustainable farming.
It is not. Biodynamics is the method of farming proposed by occultist Rudolf Steiner, who created the crypto-religious movement of Anthroposophy based his clairvoyant visions and a racist view of human development, reincarnation, karma, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes.
People who want to get into progressive farming these days are driven by concerns of health, taste, animal welfare and low environmental impact.
In contrast, the philosophy of Biodynamic farming is driven by concerns of working with the spirit world and life forces in order to produce food with good karma. If it has good envirnonmental consequences then it is accidental.
Nonetheless, Biodynamics is presented by its marketing arm, the Demeter Association as ‘actively contributing toward the shaping of a future worth living for, creating healthy foods of distinctive tastes, truly “Foods with Character”‘
I have in front of me the 2012 Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar. It is not the sort of gardening book you might expect. It mostly consists of astrological tables, showing the positions of the Moon, stars and planets and telling me when it is allowable to plant and harvest various crops depending on these heavenly variables.
For those of us in the UK wondering about out awful rainy weather, we are told that August will have Mars and Saturn remaining in the ‘cold constellation of Virgo’, Mercury is supported by the watery influence of Uranus in Pisces, and that “Pluto in Sagittarius may bring some warmth”. And August is a good month ‘ash ants in houses’. That is, burn the little buggers to prevent more coming back.
A central feature of Biodynamics is the creation of various ‘dynamized’ manures. These are ritualised recipes, often using animal skulls, dung, and other ingredients buried for months, to create magical concoctions that capture the life forces needed for plants. My Almanac tells me in great detailhow to create ‘Barrel Preparation’ from cow manure, eggshells, sand and a wooden barrel. I have to dowse where to place my barrel so that it does not lie on a force field and make sure I mix it all up when the Moon is in Leo or Virgo. Ten litres of the resultant gunk can have magical properties on half an acre of land – as long as I stir within a cylindrical container with proportions of 2 to 3 in width and height and spray at dusk.
Naturally, this barmpottery has been embraced with gusto by Prince Charles at his Highgrove estate and Home Farm. Biodynamics was also embraced at Dachau during the Second World War. Indeed, the academic, Peter Staudenmaier, has written about how Steiner’s environmental beliefs were not some kind of humanist worldview, but were actually blatantly racist and ”suitable only for a spiritually enlightened elite”. Anthroposophy, according to Staudenmaier, “had a powerful practical influence on the so-called “green wing” of German fascism”, and that the “mix of mysticism, romanticism, and pseudo-environmentalist concerns propagated by Steiner brought anthroposophy into close ideological contact with a grouping that has been described as the green wing of National Socialism”.
Biodynamics only still carries the associations of being “progressive, tolerant, enlightened and ecological” because Anthroposophic philosophy is highly esoteric and its true origins and doctrines are only discussed within an inner initiated group. Outside of the blue card carrying “First Class” members of Anthroposophy, all such associations with its darker roots are systematically obfuscated.
So, to answer my question, is Biodynamics vegan? Although biodynamic farming covers both livestock and agricultural practice, use of animal products on plants happens in quite a bizarre way. Steiner was heavily influenced by that other barmpot, the German doctor who invented homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemnan. Homeopathy says that ‘like cures like’. A poison that can give you a headache, can cure a headache if given in micropscopic, or even non-existant, doses. Steiner adapted this to getting rid of ‘disease’ on the farm. By sacrificing and burning pests and then adding them to the fields, you can eliminate everything from slugs to mice.
So, what are we to make of Biodynamics? If you are interested in animal welfare, low-impact and progressive farming, and care that approaches should be basedon reason and evidence, then Biodynamics should not be for you. Its chief concerns are spiritual, religious and romantic. If its practices converge with progressive farm practices, then that is by accident. Most importantly, Biodynamics is based on the infallible clairvoyant revelations of Rudolf Steiner, and as such, is immutable to change as new ideas come along. That is the exact opposite of sustainability.
Organic farming practices share a common heritage with Biodynamics. Most absurd beliefs have been shed, although, most noticeably, a commitement to using homeopathy on animals still remains. That makes it unethical as far as I am concerned. But more insidiously, the romantic notion of being spiritually connected with nature and the rejection of science still haunts modern Organic farming.
If that looks as though I am dodging your questions then so be it – and in a way I am because they are not sensible out of the context of the much bigger picture and I hate the idea of point scoring on something as important as this.
Having known you for nigh on 20 years – albeit with great gaps – I suspect that you are as temperamentally and intellectually suited to immersing yourself in organic, holistic agriculture as I am in particle physics. Your mind just doesnt work that way. That does not make you wrong or me right. Well,OK, I am just being polite but it doesn’t make you bad for being wrong…
His response carries the esotericism and elitism instilled by Steiner in his Biodynamic farmers. Somehow, if you want to understand the justifications for organic practices, you have to see ‘beyond science’. This is straight Steinerism and his “Occult Science” – the belief that science has to be extended through special elitist insights, available to the few, and unquestionable by the uninitiated.