On Friday I went to the dentist and as I was chatting with the dental hygienist she made a joke about not giving me any anesthesia because I might bite off part of my tongue and swallow it. I said that would be really bad since I’m vegan and don’t eat meat.
Her: “So you don’t believe in eating eggs?”
Me: “No, for me I have made the choice not to eat any animal products.”
Me: “Because of the way the farmed animals are treated. Did you know…”
The temperature of the room dropped a bit.
Her (interrupting me): “Well my family raised chickens for eggs and we gave them plenty of room and care. Would you eat the eggs then?”
Me (keeping in mind that this woman would soon be putting sharp objects into my mouth): “At this point I personally just can’t bring myself to eat animal products, but I believe it is a personal choice and I think it is wonderful that you and your family care for the animals you raise.”
The temperature in the room returned to normal.
While this could have been a very difficult situation she did raise a valid question. What is wrong with eating eggs that come from a family farm environment that allows chickens space to roam around? Certified Humane Meat or Happy Meat is a big movement right now that is growing in popularity because of unanswered questions just like this one. The premise is that animals can be raised in an environment which is very similar to a Norman Rockwell picture of the small family farm where dairy cows are called Betsy and chickens freely roam the yard. Seems the perfect solution doesn’t it? Actually, no it isn’t and the Human Meat movement is a big problem. However, for this post I’ll stay focused on the specific question of eggs from family farms. In another post I’ll talk about the larger Happy Meat issue.
So what is wrong with eating the eggs from family farmed chickens? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Even on family owned, small farms, male chicks are of no value. They do not give eggs and thanks to modern breading, they do not grow big enough to be a “broiler” chicken. Therefore, they are killed after hatching. It isn’t cost effective to raise them. It just rips at my soul to think of these little innocent beings eagerly breaking out of their shells to greet the world only to be suffocated or ground alive.
Granted, not all family farms hatch chicks, which would require dealing with the male chicks. A good portion of them order the chicks which are shipped in the mail or they go to the local feed store to buy them. That doesn’t eliminate the death of the male chicks of course. It just moves the actual act of killing to someone else. I’ll bet Norman Rockwell never painted that part of the simple farm life.
And what about after the chicken is no longer able to provide eggs? Chickens naturally live for 7-10 years (this is not the case for factory farmed chickens). However, they start decreasing egg production after the first year and by the end of the second year most are “removed”. But let’s say our compassionate farmer keeps all the chickens and allows them to live a natural life span. After a couple of years that would not be financially viable for Mr. Farmer. Very quickly he would be feeding and caring for more retired chickens than productive chickens. The reality is that our family farms participate in the killing of male chicks and the killing of hens when they become no longer useful. That is not how a feeling sentient being should be treated and it isn’t humane. People do not need eggs to live a healthy, happy life so killing living beings just to eat eggs is hard to justify. I would say impossible to justify.
I won’t eat family farmed eggs because the beginning and the ending for these miracles of God are just the same as factory farmed chickens. The two to three years they get to live while serving humans is not an equitable trade for the life of a feeling, thinking being.