Permaculture systems can be designed with or without livestock depending our your particular ethical stance in relation to the use of animals as food. Within the broader ethical remit of permaculture, systems can they be designed for a cross section of dietary needs from those who eat meat on a daily basis, to vegetarians and Vegans who do not eat meat as part of their daily diet.
As a vegetarian, we keep chickens in the back garden as they help to maintain the fertility of the garden and get rid of insects that are likely to feed on our crops, they also provide us with around 20 eggs per week, which go towards feeding ourselves and another two families who are struggling to make ends meet. On a larger scale vegetarian permaculture project people also integrate goats, sheep and cows both for their input of systems management in terms of providing fertility for the land via animal manure, and in managing areas of vigorous growth through grazing, and the animal outputs of these larger systems comes in the form of milk and cheese. Larger systems are also able to incorporate the use of chicken tractors to clear designated areas of land of growth and insect eggs.
Vegans refrain from the use of using any resources derived from animals whatsoever, so in a vegan permaculture system soil fertility is created and maintained primarily by using green manures and nitrogen fixing plants to ensure the soil is healthy, a vegan system would deal with vigorous growth by mulching or finding a use for the access growth within their system, for example if a vegan system had an excess of grass through vigorous growth it could use this grass as compost, as a plant feeder, or as a mulch. The available protein within a vegan permaculture system comes from the growing and production of a variety of nuts, seeds, pulses and beans.
A permaculture system that is designed for meat eaters will integrate animals into their system for soil fertility, land management and the meat and other products that come from the livestock that are part of that system. Permaculture systems that incorporate animals within their systems can also make use of the chicken tractor as a method of ground clearing and the removal of insect eggs, which would end up eating the crops within the system once they turn from egg to insect.
Permaculture systems of the future
It is unlikely that there will ever be an across board consensus on the use of animals in permaculture design systems, many vegetarians, and Vegans hope that one day we will live in a world where animals are not consumed as food, we do not know whether this will ever come about, but at least using permaculture as the method of feeding ourselves, those who do employ animals as both an integrated part of their system and as a food output will do this ethically, this is the probably the best that we can hope for, certainly in terms of the treatment of animals that people use as a foodstuff. It would be interesting to see what people make of this, your views and input about these issues as always are welcome.