Tag: cruelty

Can You Eat Eggs And Still Be Vegan?

Because hens don’t have to be killed to obtain their eggs, many people have been conditioned to perceive eggs as being healthy, humane, and cruelty-free, despite the fact that the majority of them are from factory farms. To demonstrate their compassion for animals in general and battery cage hens in particular, as well their desire to promote animal welfare, they buy eggs labeled free-range, cage free, humane, and organic, believing they are not contributing to animal cruelty and factory farming.  

Many people often declare that they get eggs from local farmers or backyard hens, who are genuinely cage-free. That leads them to ask me one of the most common questions I receive about veganism, ethics, and animals: what’s wrong with eating eggs from backyard hens / chickens since it doesn’t contribute to animal cruelty. What if that person is vegan in every other way but eats the eggs of their own rescued hens? Or sanctuary hens? Or their hens who are “pets”? In other words:

  1. Is it unethical / problematic / perpetuating cruelty to avoid buying factory farmed animal products but eat eggs from rescued hens? AND 
  2. Can that person call themselves vegan?

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Truth Bombs

  • To call yourself vegan, the presumption is you don’t eat animal flesh and fluids. That’s not an arbitrary characterization. While there are grey areas related to being vegan, it’s safe to say that the most basic definition of that is that you’re not eating anything that comes out of an animal. 
  • There is no such thing as a vegan overlord. In the end, whatever you call yourself is up to you.
  • Eggs are loaded with problematic dietary cholesterol, animal fat, and animal protein — not to mention being carriers of foodborne pathogens such as salmonella.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids reside in plants — not animal products. Skip the middle chicken and get your nutrients directly from the source: plants.
  • If there is no rooster, there is no chance the hens’ eggs will become fertilized. No rooster, no chick.
  • Intention has a lot to do with the decisions we make about the critters in our care.
  • Being vegan is about doing what we can to foster compassion and to avoid contributing to violence. It’s not about being perfect, and it’s not about being pure.
  • Being vegan is a means to an end, not an end in itself. I don’t aspire to be as vegan as I can be. I aspire to be as compassionate as I can be. 
  • In order to help animals, we need to change the paradigm from one of entitlement to one of communality.

Close the Zoos (East Bay Times Guest Commentary)

(The East Bay Times — formerly The Oakland Tribune)

I wonder sometimes if things wouldn’t be better for animals if we were less captivated by them. In a strange, contradictory way, our fascination with them — even our appreciation for them — is what causes us to harm them the most.

Understand animals desire freedom, close the zoos (East Bay Times guest commentary)

We’re so attracted to their beauty that we adorn ourselves with their skin, feathers and fur. We’re so moved by their intelligence that we force them to perform for us. We’re so covetous of their strength that we seek to assimilate it by consuming and ingesting their bits and parts.

We’re so intrigued by their very presence that we confine and display them just so we can gawk, observing with amazement how much like us they actually are.

Exhibiting animals — particularly large, wild, “exotic” animals — goes back as far as ancient times. These menageries, precursors of modern zoos, tended to be owned by the wealthy, whose human supremacy and power could be displayed along with their animal collections.

Not much has changed — except perhaps in the modern way we shroud the ugliness of animal captivity in the guise of science and conservation.

Zoos celebrate their breeding programs as a means to propagate endangered species, but to what end? Not a single lowland gorilla or mountain gorilla — or for that matter, black rhino, elephant or orangutan — all of whom are classified as critically endangered — has ever gone from a U.S. zoo back into the wild.

Zoos populate zoos. Breeding programs replenish cages. For captive breeding programs to be successful, wild habitats must be preserved. The dollars spent (by the public and by zoos) on animal exhibits would be better spent on protecting already-wild individuals and rapidly disappearing habitats.

More than that, thousands of animals in zoos are betrayed by their alleged champions every year. To curb overpopulation, animals are killed on a regular basis in zoos around the world, either to be fed to other captive animals or to zoo patrons.

If they’re not killed, “surplus animals” — those individuals zoos no longer considered profitable because they’re neither young enough nor cute enough to attract crowds — wind up in circuses, private residences and even in the hands of taxidermists.

A two-year investigation by the Mercury News found that 38 percent of the mammals bred in accredited zoos were sold to dealers, auctions, hunting ranches and roadside zoos.

Zoos emphasize their role in educating the public about wildlife, instilling a love of animals and fostering appreciation for the natural world, though evidence suggests that zoos do not in fact increase our knowledge or understanding of either animals or nature.

One of the reasons is that zoo animals don’t exhibit natural behaviors in captivity. What they exhibit instead are neurotic behaviors and repetitive rituals, such as pacing, bar-biting, swaying and circling — no matter how much zoos design their enclosures to mimic their respective natural habitats.

Not only is captivity not beneficial for the prisoners, it instills nothing in us but human arrogance, supremacy and apathy, perpetuating the idea that nonhuman animals are here for us to use, abuse and exploit for our own pleasures and purposes.

Not so when we admire birds in our backyards; watch bees pollinate flowers; or spot wild turkeys, deer, and lizards from a hiking trail. We can be captivated by animals without holding them captive.

It’s not that we should find animals less fascinating or beautiful or impressive. It’s not that we should appreciate animals less.

What we need to do is appreciate more that animals’ inherent desire for freedom, life, autonomy and self-determination is as strong as our own. That in these ways, they are indeed just like us.

We don’t need to change our admiration for nonhuman animals as much as we need to change our understanding of how nonhuman animals see themselves.

If that were the lens through which we looked, we would be as outraged at the mere existence of zoos as we are by those who suggest they be obsolete.

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