A question that seems to be routinely asked in different ‘vegan’ groups is, “is it ok for a vegan to eat backyard eggs from their ‘rescued’ chickens?”
Like everything that happens within a group of people, there are some who believe that it is ok, and there are others who say that it isn’t.
With the consumption of those eggs being justified in all sorts of ways, the reality of the matter is that if you identify yourself as a vegan, then using those eggs is something that you shouldn’t be doing.
Why Can’t I Eat Backyard Eggs?
Eggs from backyard chickens shoulldn”t be consumed by vegans for a number of reasons, aside from them being an animal product, some of which are as follows:
# They are not ours to be consumed.
# Just because an egg is there, that doesn’t mean we can take it to use as we see fit
# If the hen says to you ‘please take my egg and do as you wish” by all means do what you want with them. Until then, don’t.
# By consuming eggs, even backyard ones, you are telling others that it is ok to consume eggs, so long as the hens are treated in a way that you are comfortable with.
# There is a level of cruelty involved even with keeping ‘rescued’ hens in your backyard, regardless of whether the eggs are consumed or not.
Going by the definition of veganism by Donald Watson the keeping of chickens, even though they may be ‘rescued’, is something that we shouldn’t be doing.
The word “veganism”denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals
For most of us, ‘cruelty’ begins at a practice that we are not comfortable with. And the keeping of hens is no different.
As we are aware chickens have complex social structures, which is used as a reason why hens shouldn’t be kept in cages. Though what about the social interaction we are denying them by not having a rooster as part of the flock?
Roosters, while some see them as annoying, they do play an important role in the flock they are parts of. For example, they are usually the protector of the hens keeping an eye out for predators, and alerting the hens if there is one, keeping other roosters away, and searching for food for the hens to eat.
Therefore, is it cruel not to have a rooster in the flock?
The Hens Ignore The Eggs
This is usually used as the simplest justification by those who have hens for eating them or taking them away from the hens.
What I would like to know is, how do we really know they ignore the eggs. Just because they aren’t looking at them all the time, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know that they are there.
Consider this another way, do you pay attention to every piece of property that you have? Do you go through your cutlery draw every day and acknowledge that you have x knives, y spoons, z forks, etc?
If a chicken is able to recognise another chicken when they are reintroduced into the flock, couldn’t we also say that they know that the eggs are there as well?
It is also worthwhile remembering that layer hens have been genetically bred to lay every day. Doing this puts an enormous strain on their body, and causes the reproductive systems to leech minerals if they aren’t provided in the feed. Allowing the hens to eat the unfertilised eggs, will go some way to help replace those minerals. The eggs will usually need to be broken open before the hens are able to consume them, because a majority of ‘rescued’ hens have been de-beaked, or do not know how to break the eggs open.
They Are Not Ours To Take
This has to be the most important reason for not consuming the eggs laid by ‘rescued’ hens.
If, the eggs of a backyard hen are able to be consumed because their human owners decide that these eggs are ‘payment’ for the ‘protection’ that the owner provides, the same logic can also be applied to those who intensively raise layer hens.
Isn’t part of the reason why most people go vegan being that they have realised that other animals, and their secretions and/or body parts are not ours to use?
If you have hens that you are keeping in your backyard, hopefully this piece will lead you think a little deeper about the consequences of your actions, and come to an understanding that as with other things in life, they are a little more complicated than we initially think they are.
Ultimately, you need to decide are you going to do what is in the best interests of yourself, or the best interests of the hen(s) that you are keeping?
This article was written by the founder of VeganPolice.com.au, Cameron Blewett.
Cameron is a long term vegan (30+yrs), and is passionate about veganism, and helping people to understand more about it and giving other animals equal consideration.
You can find Cameron’s other rants on his website, CameronBlewett.blog