Thursday, August 12, 2010

Answering the Question about Why No Eggs

I received a question in the comments from this post on information and making connections...

I keep seeing in your posts (and others like it) the consensus to give up eggs as well. I've been a vege for many years now (maybe 17yrs now) and I love eggs. But I've never had any guilt issues with buying eggs from free range farms. They don't harm anyone, the animals have good lives and the quality of the eggs are better. Rather than give up something which is a very good source of essential proteins etc., couldn't you just look into sourcing or using your own? Why the objection to (properly cared for) free range eggs?

I am very happy to answer this. I love discussion and to share our thoughts and perspective. I am going to talk some general answers and then my personal reasons.

There are many good reasons to give up eggs. There are health reasons (cholesterol and fat) and environmental reasons. There are many other readily available and much more healthful options for protein, so that is not really a good reason to me to keep eating eggs. There are also many other options for replacing eggs in recipes so I do not feel that they are needed there either.

In a better world, the eggs that hens lay would be naturally gathered and the hens would have lovely lives living outdoors, chasing bugs and having dust baths. I'm not going to go into the whole issue of keeping and managing the life cycles of animals, no matter how benign we may be as caretakers.

That is what free-range should mean.

However, almost all commercial eggs that are marketed as "free-range" or "cage-free" are not, especially here in the US. Not really. It is just a misleading marketing term. I feel that egg farms and the animals there go through more suffering than even animals raised for meat. The hens may not be crammed 7 to a wire cage the size of a file drawer they way most egg factory farms do. Instead they are crammed into airless, sunless buildings many times with their beaks and combs sliced off, little health care or even good food and water. Not to mention the abuse many factory farm workers do to these sensitive animals such as throwing, kicking, stomping on them, etc.

They are manipulated with lights and temperature to lay eggs year round until their bodies are totally spent. Their lifespans are a fraction of the 7 or so years a hen would live naturally. When they are not able to lay eggs anymore their bodies are ground up for lesser food sources like being fed to other chickens or dog/cat food.

Other reasons to not support the egg industry are the breeding practices. Hens are bred to produce and/or be meat. Many cannot even stand up under their own weight. Their bodies and legs become so deformed they cannot stand or walk. And when they drop to the ground or the floor of their cage, they are left to suffer and die. Workers throw them into trashcans, often still struggling to live, like rubbish.

Another "by-product" of the egg industry often overlooked, no matter how "humane", are the male chicks. From a purely statistical view about 50% of the chicks born will be male... Roosters. An egg company has no need for all of these millions of baby male chicks so what do they do? Well sometimes they throw them in to trashcans to suffer and suffocate. Sometimes they, as you can see here, throw them alive into giant grinders.

So to sum up the industry-related reasons, I think you should avoid eggs:

- Grinding up alive millions of baby male chicks
- Short suffering-filled lifespans
- Genetic manipulation
- No real free-range lifestyle
- No health care
- Physical abuse
- When they stop laying they are just killed

But let's say you find a farmer who does truly give his/her birds a free-range life? There are three questions you need to ask. 1) What happens to the hens they stop laying? 2) Where did he get the chicks from to start his flock? and 3) What happens to the male birds born when we wants to increase his flock?

Will this person kill the hens when they stop laying eggs? Yes or No? How can you be sure?

Did he order baby chicks from a breeder? Many people, even backyard chicken owners do this. This is just as bad. Animals are "produced" for this and males are still discarded. Many baby chicks die in transport. Still creating and contributing to suffering.

What happens if he/she orders eggs to raise or decides to let his hens hatch their eggs? What happens if he gets a bunch of male chicks? It's hard to keep all of them in a small space. It can be done but males don't produce eggs so many farmers would not see the value in them... and kill them.

Isn't just easier to stop eating eggs or food with eggs in them? I think so!

And let me be clear, I am speaking this from the standpoint of someone who has 2 hens and could actually be eating eggs if I wanted too. But I don't. Mostly because I don't feel the need to any more.

Sure there is an ideal scenario. I think we have it actually.

We have two hens who were rescues. We didn't buy chicks or eggs to raise. We adopted them because they needed a home and we had the space and the ability to care for them. They live a natural life and will not be killed when they stop laying. They are not manipulated to keep laying in the winter through lights or temperature. They get the best food and health care we can give them. Our neighbors get probably the best eggs they'll ever find.

At the end of the day, for us, it's all about eliminating suffering, living lighter on the earth and living a healthy life. We aren't looking for loopholes. I think that consistency helps us and helps share what we stand for too.

I love to hear more from you and any other questions you may have.



Birdie! said...

I like this! *makes Facebook style thumbs up*

I wondered about that whole no eggs thing. Mi Madre has some laying hens and because they have names I know they won't be eaten. I don't see why you couldn't continue to love them as pets when they stopped laying. :)

What do you do with the eggs though? Do you have chicks?

Poochie said...

No, we don't have any chicks. We give the eggs to our neighbors.

I guess people doing this for profit don't see them as pets and don't want to keep paying to feed them if they aren't laying. Ours lay as their bodies and the season dictates.

We love them so much! They're funny and adorable.

Birdie! said...

My Mom's are too! Chickens are hilarious.

I've been getting eggs from a guy at work who has 2 pet chickies and way too many eggs as a result. I like the idea of cutting down on buying within the consumer meat system, although I'm not in a position to cut out all animal products just yet.

Poochie said...

We stopped eating them mostly for health reasons. They were giving the husband a stomach ache because we were not used to them.

But if you can trust that they person is doing right by their animals that go for it.