Unpicking Biodynamics

Biodynamic Preparations 002

The promotion of biodynamics as a superior form of organics was used in the local press recently as a reason for tolerating it or even supporting it. Proponents have also highlighted a “closed system” of farming as a desirable one. I am looking at both those claims in this post, which is a bit long, but it can’t be helped.

Anthroposophists in Stroud and around the world get to live their chosen lifestyle, following Steiner teachings to the letter, courtesy of innocent local people. They conceal the fact that Biodynamics is part of anthroposophy, with all its nasty karmic consequences, as well as the gruesome activities with bladders, skulls and lengths of intestine, from those who should be informed (the customers and the recruits) and allow just enough information about “cosmic forces” and “holistic” methods to be discussed, so as to make them appear harmless if a little unusual.

Sometimes curious people – often vegetarians or vegans – begin to wonder a little more and uncover the details of what is really going on as part of the occult belief system Rudolf Steiner invented, anthroposophy. Questions have been asked on a forum in the States by people interested in the idea of doing biodynamics but put off by the procedures using the parts from dead animals;

Instead of using cow horns, what?
Instead of bladders, skulls, etc, what?

The answer comes

…biodynamics is what it is, it follows the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. You can do similar preparations in a vegan way if you want, but it won’t truly be biodynamic.

Indeed, as I said before the produce cannot be certified biodynamic if skulls, bladders and intestines are not used. Demeter will not allow it. The Goetheanum is the world centre of  anthroposophy – try taking it up with the BD people in the Agricultural Section there.

Understandably, vegetarians and vegans do not want to eat food that is produced using animal organs.

Customers and joiners-in at Stroud Community Agriculture know about the cow horns stuffed with manure, buried and dug up for ritual purposes, and the cosmic forces, but they usually do not know about the rest, nor that BD is part of Steiner’s belief system.

BD consultant Bernard Jarman at Hawkwood College told me that non-anthro recruits have not been joining in with the gruesome bits, but that he carries them out himself.

The BDA recently sent me a very interesting document written by Bernard Jarman, entitled “Biodynamics and being a vegetarian or Vegan”. It is not available on line, but is offered to people like me who query why a vegetarian or vegan would want to participate. If you ring up and ask, I am sure they will send it to you.

In it he attempts to explain the lesser known aspects of BD including the following;

  • Attitudes to animals
  • Animals and the farmer
  • Soil Life,
  • Biodynamic preparations
  • And finally “Use of animal organs”

It’s an impressive feat of obfuscation; for example under the final heading, despite going into great detail about why we shouldn’t object to the use of “animal material”, he does not specify bladders, skulls and intestines. His reasoning for using the animal parts is that there are already earthworms in the soil, and that it contains decayed animal matter.

This is the best explanation for using the “preparations”

There are two groups of preparations – the so-called spray preparations and the compost preparations…The spray preparations are used more directly as tools for plant growth. The one helps to stimulate root growth, vitalise the soil and increase plant sensitivity towards the living resources present in the soil environment, the second enhances vitality, nutritional quality and the sensitivity of the plant towards its atmospheric and cosmic surroundings.

He emphasises however, that the “quantities involved are minute” and that

Tiny amounts of the compost preparations are used to inoculate compost piles (5 grams each of six different preparations are sufficient for a heap 10’x4’x4′) while equally small amounts of the spray preparations are stirred in water and sprayed out over the fields. The preparations themselves are animal free.

It is all done homeopathically, you see.

Similarly the Biodynamic Association explain about “something from the animal world”;

Earthworms along with other micro-organisms act as catalysts in the creation of soil, so it’s perhaps not quite so surprising that several of the preparations require something from the animal world, in order to make them fully effective.

Well, yes, we all become part of the soil eventually, that is a fact of life, but the butchering for bladders etc still does not make sense to anyone for whom the magic spells do not have special significance. And of course, there is no scientific evidence of increased nutitional quality. For all their insistence that the preparations are “animal free” and the quantities are so small, they are still not satisfied with using normal organic methods.

Mr Jarman and his fellow anthroposophists know full well that people would be put off by seeing the skulls and bladders being prepared; he told me so himself when I suggested some public demsonstrations of how to do BD.

The point is often made that we should only consume meat if we are prepared to face up to the reality of how it is produced; shouldn’t this apply equally to biodynamic vegetables?

If BD is better than organic surely the experts should show everyone out there why this is so? I still think a demonstration in the High Street would be of enormous value for local consumers. A large crowd would gather on a Saturday morning, I am sure.

Better than organics? I don’t thinks so.

“working towards a closed system”

 BD practitioners often mention that they aspire to the closed system of farming, where the farm is self-sufficient and nothing is brought in from outside.

In his interview with Star and Furrow (a BD magazine published in Stroud ) Timothy Brink admits “ It is never possible to be completely self-contained since there will always be something coming in..”

He says

 It is permitted in the Demeter Standards to buy in non-organic straw.

This is because it is so difficult to get hold of BD or even Organic straw.

Then he says

Demeter standards allow you to bring in sires from non organic farming when necessary.

This is because it is difficult to find a bull or ram of the breed you keep and from a biodynamic or organic farm.

The other obvious items that are brought in are the parts from dead animals for the rituals; there is the example of the deer bladder that is strung up in one preparation “BD 502 Yarrow”  – apparently it must be from a stag.

In “Making Compost and the use of the Biodynamic Compost Preparations” by  Tom Petherick in the Star and Furrow we are told

BD 502 Yarrow

The flowers of the yarrow plant should be picked in the early morning and then put into the bladder of a stag. When it is full the bladder is sewn together and hung up in full sunlight for the summer before being buried underground for winter. It will need protection from birds while hanging up so some type of birdcage is ideal. The stag’s bladder is used because of this animal’s sensitivity. The stag is flighty and aware with keen eyesight and a strong sense of smell.

There are not many stags on BD farms.

All this does not add up to a sustainable, self-sufficient farming system. The rules Rudolf Steiner dreamt up a century ago are not compatible with food production in today’s world; not only do attitudes to animals differ substantially from those of 100 years ago (Steiner’s reasons for being vegetarian were spiritual and for his health, not because of his concerns about animal welfare), but feeding today’s population would be impossible if all farms were Biodynamic.

The anthroposphists have commandeered local food initiatives such as Stroud Community Agriculture without making sure participants and customers are informed about their reasons and their methods. Those who use Food hub for example, are people who really care about where and how their food is produced.

When they do find out, what will they do? Are the consumers already so used to their food being labelled BD that they will overlook the dishonesty and the gruesome activities involved? Or will they take a stand and reject BD produce?

If you wonder why I don’t just let the BD people get on with their weird stuff, this post explains why we need to be worried;





  1. Hollywood Tomfortas

    Hello Helen,

    I think you and your readers here will be interested in a feature article that appeared in Frankfurt’s main newspaper, the FAZ, almost 3 years ago. The photograph shows the ruins of a greenhouse that used to be part of the thriving Bio-Dynamic Plantation at Dachau Concentration Camp that was created and supervised by an ardent Nazi follower of B-D practices, Heinrich Himmler.

    I’ve translated a few paragraphs and copy them below along with the caption for the photo.


    Nazi Nutrition: “HEIL, HERBS!”

    By Jan Grossarth
Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung
    September 13, 2013

    translated by Tom Mellett

    80 years ago, the Nazi regime created the Reichsnährstand (RNS) = The Reich Food Estate. Here the farmer became esoteric and whole-grain bread became a political issue — and German careers took their course.

    “Heinrich Himmler liked to visit the Dachau plantation and made sure everything was going well there. He would ask his SS brothers if “alles war in Ordnung” in the bio-dynamic herb garden. And everything was always in the very best of order: There were gladiolas, thyme and savory sprouting in long lines facing the sun. The bio-dynamic herb garden was located right outside the Dachau concentration camp. Many hundreds of prisoners, who were herded there every morning as slave labor, would bring in wheelbarrows filled with bags of organic medicinal herbs into the field — and later wheel back the emaciated corpses of prisoners who did not survive the workday.

    Today the plantation is in disrepair. The glass panes of the greenhouses are broken, irrigation pipes are rusted through, and the herb beds are now overgrown. This locale north of Munich is a macabre relic of Nazi nutrition policy. Cow horns were ground up here, moon phases were studied, and the SS leader Heinrich Himmler himself was devoted to esotericism and to Steiner’s agriculture with all its unconventional recipes. From this SS-owned plantation, black pepper would be shipped to the Eastern Front while other herbs were used for human experiments with homeopathic medicines. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, ordered rose-hips, and the citizens of Dachau shopped at the farm store. Here the co-existence of genocide and unprecedented state health care was simply taken for granted. 

    It is a baffling relic. Himmler’s greenhouses leave as many questions as shards of glass: Why were the Nazis occupied, not only — as is widely known — with hallucinated enemies, weapons and contours of the cranium, but also with basil? Why was it so important to them what people ate? — [Just like today, Nazi] food was regional, organic, seasonal, unprocessed, rich in vitamins and low in meat, produced by rural farms, free from pesticides, whatever anyone could wish for. . . . ” 

    PHOTO CAPTION: Grass grows over the plantation in Dachau, where the Nazi dictatorship had cultivated medicinal herbs.

  2. Hollywood Tomfortas

    Peter Staudenmaier has written a paper on the history and politics of B-D Agriculture in Nazi Germany

    Organic Farming in Nazi Germany: The Politics of Biodynamic Agriculture, 1933 – 1945

    by Peter Staudenmaier


    The controversy over the nature and extent of official support for organic agriculture in Nazi Germany has generally focused on the minister of agriculture, R. W. Darré , and his putative endorsement of biodynamic farming. By shifting focus from the figure of Darré to other sectors of the Nazi hierarchy, this article re-examines a contested chapter in the environmental history of the Third Reich.

    Using previously neglected sources, I trace several important bases of institutional support for biodynamic agriculture spanning much of the Nazi period. Both the biodynamic movement and the Nazi Party were internally heterogeneous, with different factions pursuing different goals. While some Nazi agencies backed biodynamic methods, others attacked such methods for ideological as well as practical reasons, particularly objecting to their occult origins.

    The article centers on the political dimension of these disputes, highlighting the relative success of the biodynamic movement in fostering ongoing cooperation with various Nazi organizations. I argue that the entwinement of biodynamic advocates and Nazi institutions was more extensive than scholars have previously acknowledged.

  3. Jim

    The whole BD business is so nonsensical it’s hard to know where to start, or stop. So just a couple of points.

    Anthros love to disparage science yet can’t resist trying to present their ideas as scientific. Hence the reference to catalysts in the description of how the preparations are supposed to work. It sounds sciency but it’s complete nonsense. It is true a small quantity of a catalyst can assist or enable a reaction in a large quantity of reagent that would otherwise be impossible or inefficient. But the nature of catalysis is well understood and the reactions can be precisely defined in chemical terms. Can Mr Jarman say precisely what is acting as the catalyst and what exactly is the chemical reaction it is catalysing? As a clue a typical catalyst is a rare metal deposited upon a matrix of some inert material so as to maximise the surface area of the catalyst exposed to the reagents. Not a cow horn. Nor a worm.

    Moving on to the animal products and vegans question, it seems Mr Jarman’s point is that since the amount involved is small and none ends up in the final product it should not concern them. ( Assuming that is that they are not bothered by magical thinking.) There is some truth in that point since many vegans are happy to eat food grown using animal manures, which in turn are a product of the meat and dairy industries. If you are a vegan for ethical rather than health reasons this would seem to be inconsistent. And indeed there is a movement ( the Vegan Organic Network ) supporting completely animal free agriculture, using composts rather than manures. So at least some are aware of the inconsistency and are unlikely to be persuaded by Mr Jarman.

    I should say I’m not vegan and doubt the viability of large scale vegan organic agriculture, though if they dropped the organic part they might be on to something.

    • Helen

      There is some truth in that point since many vegans are happy to eat food grown using animal manures, which in turn are a product of the meat and dairy industries.

      Using manure is different to preparing animal parts for the rituals though. The animal doesn’t have to be dead. Some people use human manure, but presumably wouldn’t use human body parts.
      What is noticeable about Mr Jarman’s promotional article is that he is only trying to persuade vegetarians and vegans to buy the produce, not to take part in making the preparations with the animal parts.That would be a step too far, even for most of the carnivores among their customers, I would imagine.
      So are they happy to eat the veg even when they have been informed about the skulls with the flesh scraped off or not? I’d really like to know. A couple of people I have spoken to just don’t believe the facts. Willful blindness, maybe.

      Looking at the pictures of the young people doing the gory jobs,
      I think most of them are recent Steiner school leavers.

      • Jim

        Helen – my point was that the manure used doesn’t come from cows kept as happy pets until their natural end. The animals that produced it are probably dead by the time the manure is ready to spread on the land.

        As a non vegetarian the idea of scraping the flesh of a cows skull does not in itself revolt me – I do occasionally eat brawn. It’s the magical nonsense which offends me. And I agree that Mr Jarman is trying to mislead vegans, or at least exploit the inconsistency of those who don’t object to the use of animal manures.

        I can well understand that many find it hard to believe these rituals are real, which is why it’s so important to highlight them and undermine BD’s spurious claim to some special righteous.

        • Helen

          I never thought we’d be arguing about poo!

          I must admit I never thought about that aspect of veganism – but then I am not a vegan. We mentioned stock-free farming once before and I suppose it’s the same thing.

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