Vegan Long Island Message Board › Matt Bear's "Eggs from Backyard Chickens: Ethical Considerations"

Matt Bear's "Eggs from Backyard Chickens: Ethical Considerations"

Jennifer G.
user 6937947
Group Organizer
Bellport, NY
Post #: 378
I think Matt does a nice job summarizing ethical considerations surrounding backyard chickens. I often point people to the original Facebook post, or paste the text into a post or email.

Eggs from Backyard Chickens: Ethical Considerations
by Matt Bear on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 1:40pm ·

I posted this in response to someone's genuine interest in the subject. Others have asked if they can cut/paste it -- of course, anything I write is yours if it helps create a more compassionate world.

Q: "It's not hurting the chickens, so why don't vegans eat eggs from backyard (even rescued) chickens."

A: There are at least a few reasons why people choose not to consume eggs taken from backyard chickens. I’m not presenting these as reasons why *you* should not consume the eggs, but if the reasons resonate with you, you might reconsider how your choices align with your own values.

1. Where did the chickens come from? Almost all egg-laying chickens come from breeders or hatcheries. The breeding of animals for human use feels unethical to some people. This is especially true when breeding is forced (research “artificial insemination” to learn about some of the most barbaric cruelties inflicted upon animals by humans).

2. What happened to the males? Backyard hens are female. Males, in both the backyard chicken industry and in commercial egg profiteering, are considered worthless. They do not grow flesh fast enough for the chicken flesh industry and they won’t lay eggs. Once their sex is determined (usually at a day or two old), the males are discarded often just by being thrown away into dumpsters to suffocate and die, peeping; or thrown alive into grinders to be used for fertilizer and animal feed. There are obvious ethical considerations for people who care about animals.

3. Is this natural? Egg-laying chickens have been steadily selectively bred for decades to lay an unnatural number of eggs. This includes backyard chickens. The breeding industry has its own methods of cruelty including keeping breeders captive, killing most of the males immediately (don’t need as many roosters to breed), killing all the chickens when they are no longer profitable/productive. This relates to the ethics of breeding and use of animals for human habit and profit.

4. The health of the chickens. Two main issues here: a) Because the chickens lay an unnatural number of eggs, they tend to become calcium deficient and become ill. Some chickens will eat their own eggs (the shells mostly) to replace the lost minerals. But egg-laying chickens become nutritionally deficient relatively quickly. This leads to: b) Will the backyard chickens be taken care of by animal health professionals when they are ill? It is unlikely that most backyard chicken enthusiasts think this through or are willing to go through the expense of veterinary care. This is of course not true for everyone – it’s just an observation of the chickens in my neighborhood and the chickens I’ve seen abandoned at humane societies where they are usually “euthanized,” i.e. killed (especially roosters who are often not permitted by many municipalities because of noise).

5. The ultimate death of the chickens? How will old or sick chickens be cared for and their bodies deposed? Many backyard chicken enthusiasts are left with the emotionally difficult and ethically challenged task of killing. It may be rationalized as kindness and euthanasia at this point in the chicken’s life, but she was brought into the world by humans to be used by humans who will kill her when they are done with her. Some have ethical concerns about this.

6. The environment. Chickens eat, produce waste litter and need to be kept warm. On average, according to the USDA, chickens each produce 20-30 pounds of litter per year. Say we have a city with a housing density of 100,000 homes. Everybody has 6 chickens. 100,000 x 6 x 20 pounds = 12 million pounds of litter a year. Where does it all go in urban environments? This may sound ridiculous if there are only a few dozen households who keep chickens, but the intention of the enthusiasts is that everyone should get their eggs this way. Chickens also eat grain which must be grown somewhere – this is especially important in northern climates where they must also be kept warm. Grain and energy used for no other reason than to provide a food that is not necessary, but rather a desire. This points to an ethical question of the use of resources, urban health, waste management, etc.

7. Some vegans refuse to eat eggs from backyard chickens because it perpetuates the idea that the use/exploitation of non-human animals is acceptable. Eating eggs says that it is OK to eat eggs, it is OK to keep chickens, it is OK to use others for our desires. This is something many vegans would like to change – away from a paradigm of using and exploitation to one of cooperation, collaboration, and mutual respect.

I hope this was helpful.

All one,
:) m
Jennifer G.
user 6937947
Group Organizer
Bellport, NY
Post #: 379
P.S. from Jennifer: Matt & Barbara Bear are the force behind Nonviolence United. Yes, they're the ones who designed those famous VEGAN buttons & tshirts. smile
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