Can I Eat Cage-free Or Free-range Eggs?

Dear Vegan Abby,

I really like eggs. Can I eat cage-free or free-range eggs and still be a vegan?

Sincerely,
Egg-Lover

Dear Egg-Lover,

If you’re not yet a vegan and you feel you can’t stop eating eggs -  for whatever reason – then be “almost vegan” and eat a few eggs every now and then, but no other animal products. Choose eggs that come from hens who have  been treated less cruelly than conventional egg-producers treat their hens. (In practical terms, that means find someone who raises hens for eggs. Go and visit the hens yourself to ensure the “humane”-ness of the operation. Indeed, if you insist on eating animal products, you have an ethical obligation to visit the farms where your animal products come from.)

But if you’re serious about preventing animal suffering, please  go all the way and go vegan! Stop eating any kind of animal product, including so-called “free-range” chicken eggs.  Here’s why:

For the animals,
Vegan Abby

4 Responses to Can I Eat Cage-free Or Free-range Eggs?

  1. Can You Tell the Difference?

    “Free-Range” Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

    Battery Cage Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

  2. Wouldn’t it be great if Abby (I should say “Abbys” because there have been more than one) actually went vegan?

  3. Indeed, there are many similarities between conventional and so-called humane animal products, which is why I recommend that nonvegans go and visit the farms themselves to ensure the standards of care that they consider appropriate. Farmers who are serious about meeting or exceeding the humane label standards will gladly welcome visitors.

    From Humane Facts ( http://www.humanefacts.org/labels.htm ):
    “most labels only cover how animals are raised. They do NOT change how animals are transported or slaughtered.” [...]
    “all labels allow by omission the standard practice of culling male chicks from egg-laying hens. Since male chicks will not be able to produce eggs, the producers dispose of 250 million newborn chicks every year (apx. 650,000/day).”

    The laws are designed to reduce the amount of suffering animals must endure in order to produce food for humans, but there are a number of loopholes. Moreover, the laws are not adequately enforced. So animals raised “humanely” often suffer just as much as animals raised conventionally.

    However, the laws are a minimum. There are a few, rare farmers who take the concept of “humane” seriously. I disagree with their definition of “humane” but I’m not so stubborn as to deny any difference in suffering. The fact is: eating conventionally raised animal products < eating “humanely raised” animal products < eating no animal products.

    Though veganism is a moral baseline and is the LEAST we can do for animals if we take their needs and interests seriously, most people still view veganism as extreme. If they are unwilling to take the step to go vegan, they should at least be willing to visit the farms where their animal products come from.

  4. Personally I will even say that artisanal (“home-made”) eggs are worse than the others, because:
    - Almost all the artisanal hens are finally slaughetered, while almost all the conventional die by themselves (in bad conditions, but blodless);
    - Artisanal hens make real eggs, zygotes, while conventional hens make only ova; therefore the eating of the former is not even vegetarian.

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