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