Here’s my answer to “What if I had my own hens and ate her eggs?” The answer comes in two parts, one for meat-eaters and one for vegans:
For meat-eaters: Don’t worry about the rare hypothetical scenarios. Just stop eating eggs. They’re not necessary for your health. Just go vegan.
“But…” I can hear you say you’re “trying to eat local, organic, and sustainable” so you’re considering buying some hens to produce eggs for you. You’re “not planning on killing them for their meat,” you just want their eggs.
No, it’s not OK to buy hens and eat their eggs. Even if you care deeply about the hens and even if you treat them well, it’s still not OK. Keeping hens so they can produce eggs for you is wrong. They aren’t your little egg-laying slaves. Just ditch the eggs and go vegan.
“But…” You think a practical solution to the environmental crisis is to encourage people to eat less or no meat and to produce as much food on their own as possible. You think we should all have gardens and those who want to should have hens (or cows or pigs…). You want to return to a time when everyone had their own farm.
Gardens are great, but keeping hens isn’t. There are numerous problems with encouraging people to produce their own animal products. For example, the average person cannot be trusted to treat animals well. They aren’t equipped with the proper knowledge. Just consider how many small animals purchased from pet stores die within a few months after purchase. The average person won’t even be bothered to learn that their guinea pig needs vitamin C. Do they know, or more importantly, do they care that goldfish can live 40 years and that a “goldfish bowl” is the most inappropriate habitat for them?
A small town near my hometown is filled with feral hens and roosters. These are not wild animals, these are feral animals. They were once domesticated animals and have the physical traits of animals bred for human use, that is, they are not physically adapted for life in the wild. These animals have been abandoned by people who kept them for back-yard egg production. The people moved and left their animals. Just like so many cats and dogs on the streets or in shelters, these chickens deserve better.
For vegans: if you’re vegan then bravo! Congrats on making the leap and ditching animal products! Well done!
If you’re asking about eating hens’ eggs then perhaps you’re considering adopting rescued hens. Or perhaps you’ve already adopted rescued hens and you’re wondering if it’s ethical to eat their eggs. In that case, I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t think there’s a terrible ethical problem with it. So long as the hens are rescued hens and so long as the eggs are not fertilized, it’s not a big deal. Basically, I agree with Colleen.
However, I think it could be problematic because:
- It will be seen by nonvegans as hypocritical
- Eggs are nasty
OK, that last one is just my personal opinion. I’ve always hated eggs, even when I ate them. I could only stomach them as scrambled or baked. There’s just something, well, disgusting, about eating what amounts to a chicken’s period.
So, it’s up to you. There aren’t simple, easy answers for complex problems. Do your best. Live as nonviolently as you can. Be as vegan as you can be.