Former Wynstones employee “bemused” by Steiner criticism

Ianto Doyle has written to Stroud Life this week expressing surprise that there should be any objection to “a local business buying agricultural land for agricultural purposes”

He writes in reply to a partially published letter from me a few weeks ago where I pointed out the reasons why in my opinion the purchase of land at Hammonds Farm is not a good thing for Stroud.

He says he is bemused and confused, and does not understand why “biodynamical” is a problem.

He says  “I looked at their website Stop Steiner in Stroud to try to understand better and came away even more confused”…I am definitely not an anthroposophist but I do support local businesses producing local products of all kinds…”


I will reply to Ianto here as well as writing again to Stroud Life; my last letter detailing the little known facts about biodynamics was rejected by the editor, Ben Falconer, who had also cut out the important part of my original letter about the use of animal organs in biodynamic vegetable production.

When I submitted a second letter I asked the editor to advise me if he considered any part of it unsuitable but I received no explanation for his decision not to publish any of it.

The Stroud News and Journal also edited out the details about animal organs, and when pressed for a reason why, said it “makes them look like maniacs”. When I supplied proof of these practices, the details were published.

Since the facts about the skulls, intestines and bladders were omitted from the Stroud Life letters page, it is on the face of it understandable that Ianto says he doesn’t understand my reasons.

However, on his linked in profile and his Yurt website Ianto tells us he worked at Wynstones Steiner school for 20 years and sent his two children there until the younger child asked to be removed.

Someone who writes expressing surprise that there could be criticism of anthroposophy without mentioning his involvement in the Steiner movement is not being entirely open.

I accept his statement that he is “definitely not an anthroposophist” but clearly he knows what anthroposophy is and that all the 40+ businesses in the area are connected by this belief system.

It is possible that someone new to this blog with no previous knowledge of anthroposophy could be confused, and I am working on a new “front page” now that the danger of  a Steiner free school in Stroud seems to have receded. But surely someone like Ianto, having read the post about the animal entrails, and knowing full well that hardly any of the local population are privileged to know what he knows about anthroposophy, can see how some people might object to the further expansion of the Steiner movement in the area?

Some people will always support the Steiner movement for its alternative, colourful image and apparently harmless, back to basics attitude, and as long as they are not the victims, will never see its defects, and I imagine Ianto to be one of these. But he should nail his colours to the mast in a public discussion and admit his allegiance to the creed of Steiner. It is perfectly possible he does not know anything about the racist underpinnings and the damage that has been done in the name of alternative education. Perhaps now will be the time for him to do some research of his own.

Finally it is worth pointing out that the land at Hammonds Farm had not previously been used for agriculture, and the impact of a change of use by the Biodynamic Land Trust was debated by the Town council at their meeting in July. With a number of councillors present at the meeting supporting anthroposophy in various ways, despite objections, public money was spent on this project.

I too support local businesses and use local shops and markets, but I refuse to buy from an organisation that behaves like a cult, and one that I see behaving unethically and secretively. All local people should be allowed to make an informed choice about how they spend their money, and the facts about anthroposophy are still not widely known.





  1. Jim

    It is hard to understand why Ianto should be bemused by objections to biodynamic – he may disagree with them but bemusement is an odd reaction.

    Is he implying that what is said about the magical preparations made from animal parts etc is false? Or that he has never encountered it? That won’t wash because the practice is too well documented by BD supporters as well as objectors. If he is saying that he was unaware of it then he must have a very unenquiring mind.

    Or maybe he is aware of it and finds it normal and not worthy of comment. But again that would be very odd. I could understand someone saying “look I know it sounds mad but believe me, it really works”. I would not be convinced but at least I could see that the speaker had some awareness of normality and was not totally lost in the Steiner bubble.

    For some it seems the more implausible something is the more profoundly true it must be.

    • Helen

      I agree the practice is well documented, but perhaps not in a way that makes the information easily accessible to casual observers. It is only recently I understood exactly how gory the rituals are – the photos of people scraping flesh off calves’ skulls and measuring out the intestines are not usually found on websites where BD is promoted. I wondered myself whether these organs were actually used here in Stroud, until I spoke personally to a professional BD grower and read the Demeter website in detail.
      It all sounds very far-fetched, and in my view that is what the Steiner movement rely on – people can’t quite believe what they are hearing.
      I’ve been criticising Bd for a long time just because it is part of anthroposophy and provides a commercial arm for Steiner which facilitates the development of all the other businesses, draws local people in, and also draws more Steiner people to the area where they use the services of the therapists etc. But the facts about BD make it unacceptable on it’s own; even if you are not a vegan or a vegetarian, why would you support people who mess about with dead animals for no good reason except superstition?

      • Jim

        Well, if we eat meat and wear leather we have to accept the “messing about with dead animals” bit. Intestines and flesh scraped from bones – ever eaten a sausage? It’s the superstition that’s objectionable.

        If someone could provide the slightest evidence that these preparations had any effect then I would have to accept that there was something more than organic to BD, though it’s association with the wider Steiner worldview would still make it objectionable. But of course they can’t.

        • Helen

          if we eat meat and wear leather

          That’s the issue – these people are not producing meat or leather, they are growing vegetables!!!
          And a lot of their customers are vegetarians and vegans who would never dream of eating meat.

          • Jim

            Agreed – I was commenting from the non veggie perspective.

            I suppose, to be fair, the BD proponents do not pose as veggies, and quite apart from the animal based preparations BD seems to require such quantities of animal manure as to presuppose significant livestock. Actually it must be near impossible for those who choose vegetarian or vegan diets to totally avoid animal ‘contamination’ since even conventional farmers spray slurry on their fields. And those animals aren’t kept as pets.

            • Helen

              They may not pose as veggies, but they certainly don’t advertise the bloody practices involved in biodynamics. And the vegetarians I know who buy into Stroud community Agriculture had no idea, and insisted it was not happening around here, despite the evidence.
              I did suggest to Bernard Jarman once that if they really want to inform people about what makes biodynamics so special, they should set up a stall in town and demonstrate exactly what they do with the entrails and skulls. After all they are always saying that their methods are so much kinder and superior, so why not advertise how they produce these magical potions?
              He said he thought it would put people off….

          • Jim

            Just remembered – I once went into the farm shop at Tipputs before I realised it was part of the Ruskin Mill empire. Loads of meat on the shelves so no veggie could be under any illusion there.

  2. David Clark

    Hi Both,

    As you may expect, I’m not “bemused” by “Steiner criticism”, not just because I’m intrigued by Steiner’s results. BTW I really like the notion that “Steiner criticism” is a kind of philosophical school. What surprises me, however is its secretive espousal of secularist principles. These are revealed here by a surprise reference to a “cult” and by insistent ambitions to claim monopoly and superiority in governing the public realm by attacking and policing the private one. Please do not be surprised when people react after you have said “STOP!!! I DON’T LIKE THAT!!! DO AS I SAY!!! If nothing else, they may not appreciate your benevolent intentions. BTW my reading of academic literature in international crisis management and sociology suggests that even European Union organisations are becoming concerned about possible public order consequences of “non-reflexive” secularists’ activities. Apparently, they just keep going and enjoy the fight in the pursuit of their faith.

    But hey, it’s a free country, so go ahead anyway.

    Speaking of entrails, you may not be surprised that I smell a rat. Being an amateur “wannabe” statistician, I’ve been wondering just how much fertiliser would be required per acre, for example.

    Thinking of food and eating. Of course, Stroud is picturesque and who am I to disturb this. Who would want to spoil the peaceful aesthetic with thoughts of death in agriculture? Oh yes, nearly forgot, perhaps you would. Never mind – it’s part of political debate.

    In the red brick Midlands, I expect things are rather different. Large slaughterhouses and lots of people. Applying logic, my eating and digestion are very much related to blood, entrails and the like. Perhaps mercifully, I’m protected from intimate knowledge of this until I have indigestion, for example.

    • Helen

      Wow, thanks David! Finally a comment from you I understand and can respond to – even if you (deliberately?) misrepresent my arguments.

      Yes, I am a secularist, but not a secretive one; I would prefer there to be no “faith” schools, but at least other religious schools do not mislead parents about their beliefs so everyone knows what they are choosing for their child, unlike Steiner.
      Not sure what you mean by the “private realm” – what’s private about businesses that ask for public support and money?
      And what are “non-reflexive secularist activities”?
      On biodynamics I think you are reminding us that animals are killed for meat. I hadn’t forgotten that but they do not normally need to be dead to grow vegetables…
      After all the months you have been commenting here I am surprised at your apparent misunderstanding – but at least we have a discussion now rather than the monologues you normally submit.

      • David Clark

        Hi Helen,
        Thanks for the debate. Best wishes for 2016.
        So glad that you’re still absolutely confirmed in your views. Referring to “non-reflexive secularist activities” I was referring to a current concept in academic usage. From the context, I reckon the term suggests that those pursuing widespread lobbying in pursuit of their values did not appear to evaluate their activities or learn from others’ responses to their well-intentioned efforts.

        Hmm … secularism was not stated within the argument of this blog post but was implied as I suggested. We have discussed our shared questions and different answers around parental choice in the past.

        Apologies. The logical point about food was unclear. Essentially, I was commenting that dead meat and vegetable food is ingested and passes through our living digestive tract. Accepting that this is a self-evident fact, I reckon it is one that can be overlooked. BTW I’m not suggesting that local cafes and restaurants need to refer to this background within their menus :-)

        • Helen

          I think I will always be an atheist and a secularist, if that’s what you mean by “confirmed in my views”. If you mean my views regarding Steiner, the more I find out about it the worse it gets as far as I can see. The karma aspect is not only bizarre but hateful, when you delve and find out what anthroposophists really think about human life, disability, child development, etc.

          I am too busy right now but will come back to the non-reflexive secularist bit when I have more time.

    • Jim

      Welcome back David – it’s always fun to read your mangled writing in search of the occasional shards of meaning.

      I have to agree with Helen on the question of “secretive secularism”. Who would have thought hiding something in plain sight would be so effective! And have you only just noticed the references to Steiner as a cult? It has all the characteristics of a cult – a charismatic leader whose pronouncements on all things are blindly accepted, the separation of the followers from competing world views, the denunciation of defectors.

      Do your would-be academic musings on fertiliser per acre mean anything? How much per acre for what?

      The point about the animal parts in BD is that it is superstitious nonsense and that its practitioners are often secretive about it, potentially misleading those who want to avoid all animal products. Actually I suspect that the only way to totally avoid any animal input would be with the sort of synthetic chemical fertilisers the organic growers reject. Manure requires livestock which involves killing unwanted animals.

      • Helen

        Interesting you mention totally avoiding animal imput – I had an interesting response from one of the Town councillors I wrote to about Hammonds Farm, including this;

        “As a vegan I disagree with biodynamics insistence on using animals, BUT (b) I considered that the purchase would help preserve the land (i.e. on a ‘lesser evil’ basis).

        Thinking about this again has spurred me on to try and source stockfree organic…”

        • Jim

          This is slightly off the main topic Helen, but interesting. It does seem some vegans are becoming aware of the problem ( for them, but not for non vegans ). Stock free seems to be a new sub class of vegan/organic farming but currently very limited – maybe 20 – 30 producers in the UK.

          As organic is generally less efficient than conventional I wonder if vegan/organic is less efficient again. Or perhaps I should say “lower yielding” rather than less efficient. Neither sounds practical for world scale food production, though nor can we defend current levels of meat consumption.

          • Helen

            I wonder if “Stock free” would include the use of draft animals if there were no tractors? It is largely a choice based on animal welfare or moral reasons I guess, but I think there is much more to the issue of vegetarianism for environmental/social justice reasons than is often mentioned. For example the machinery and fuel used in arable farming is sometimes not taken into consideration. Also the idea of local, small size, organic food production may well not be better for the environment, not least because the amount of land used would be so much larger if all food was produced in this way, as you suggest. It seems that all of us going “back to the land” would ultimately not help humanity or the environment.
            I am not saying these are reasons for not being vegetarian, merely that the subject is a complicated one.
            I think vegans and vegetarians are usually very concerned about where and how they source their food, and I am surprised there is not more curiosity about biodynamics. Probably they are given the kind of spiel I received form Bernard Jarman – the anthroposophists are very convincing when they talk about “nurturing the soil” and sustainable methods if you don’t have prior knowledge of their rituals. It’s what they don’t mention that is more important, and its so improbable people just don’t believe it even when it is spelled out.

            • Jim

              I imagine that the use of draft animals in the absence of tractors would cause a further split. Some would be fine with it, assuming decent retirement conditions at the end of an animals working life. Others would no doubt consider it slavery.

              I can’t in all honesty find the lack of curiosity about biodynamics surprising. That is in no way to condone it, it’s just human nature to avoid too much truth.

  3. David Clark

    Hi Jim,

    Many thanks for this robust response. Best wishes for 2016.
    My response to Helen covered several themes.
    Please feel free to disregard the logical and statistical aspects.
    The point about agricultural inputs is intriguing. There are implications on many levels.

      • David Clark

        No, I offered logical and statistical aspects of an argument. Of course, you have been at liberty to discount these, and you have.

        • Jim

          David, let me try to put this in terms you might understand. When I say you have not offered any statistics I mean that you have not put forward any argument which you have then supported by statistical evidence. You have merely described yourself as a amateur statistician and hinted at some vague incoherent question about fertiliser use. If all you are saying is that statistical evidence might be relevant, well yes but that’s not an argument.

          As for logic, well I’m afraid you seem incapable of anything more than vague assertions about your own musings. They say nothing about the issues and seem only interested in projecting an image of yourself as a thinker. I’m sorry to be personal your thoughts seem merely confused and self absorbed.

          I’d be happy if you wrote something to prove me wrong.

  4. Helen

    David you seem now to have reverted to your previous commenting style where you succeed in saying absolutely nothing of any interest or consequence.
    However, going back to your previous quite interesting remark about “non-reflexive secular activities”, I have come to the conclusion you do not really understand what secularism is – a common misunderstanding as it happens; anyone can be a secularist, whether they are religious or not, as long as they reject the idea of privilege for believers, and support the separation of religion and state. The National Secular Society has the support of religious believers who identify with these aims. I do not see how campaigning or lobbying as you put it, for a secular society can or should be “relexive” – people either agree with it or they don’t. I am guessing you don’t.
    My objection to Steiner is not because I am a secularist, it is because hardly anyone knows what they are getting involved in when they join a Steiner school or residential community, or get drawn into biodynamics. As soon as anthroposophy is widely acknowledged and publicised by Steiner people,and the public are fully aware, I will stop these efforts to inform people.

    Please think carefully before you reply without providing at least one cogent remark – we know you are capable of that now.

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