Why I Consider Myself Vegetarian

The simple answer is that I don’t eat meat, which, for meat-eaters, is usually distinction enough. But where we can all go one step further and become vegan, in the past I’ve had responses range from quietly accepting to outraged; both are understandable.

The answer that warrants longer explanation (or, at least, more detail) is that I believe eggs are not inherently cruel – in the right circumstance. Eggs are, of course, a by-product of poultry-birds (hens, ducks, geese, etc), and when poultry are farmed in certain ways this affects the grade of the eggs: caged hens produce cheaper eggs due to the confinement of space (commonly four birds to a single cage, with three-quarters of A4 space to one bird) and so the amount of birds kept; free-range refers to hens (and their eggs) that aren’t caged but doesn’t necessarily mean they go outside (they are allowed to roam in concrete-floored sheds), and are usually still debeaked; organic refers to eggs laid by hens that are allowed outside access at all times and are not supposed to be debeaked. Birds are debeaked to stop them pecking other birds, not because it’s what they would do naturally, but because it’s what happens when they are confined in cramped conditions and under a lot of stress.

Those grades also refer to the type of food hens receive. Caged hens are fed chickenmeal (ground up chickens, usually male birds that are of little use to the farming industry); free-range hens are fed a higher grade of food minus the chickenmeal, but are still fed antibiotics in their feed. Organic hens eat best: no animal byproducts or genetically modified crops are allowed to be fed to organic hens, and the feeding of antibiotics is disallowed.

Obviously, organic is the best way to go – that is, it would be, if male chicks were not culled, as is also the case with caged and free-range hens. Male chicks have no use – they don’t lay eggs, presumably they have a different texture and taste, because I’ve never seen rooster advertised as a meat product in Britian, and no farm needs one rooster per hen. Even with organic farms, there is no law stopping them selling chickmeal to other, non-organic farms, thus, there is still profit in the deliberate killing of male chicks.

It is of course at this point that I say I don’t eat any of the above eggs. Even if organic chickens get a better deal (they themselves still get killed once their laying-rate drops), it still contributes to slaughter. But I have previously eaten eggs from my uncle’s own hens. He bought three hens taken from a factory-farm, and they were rehabilitated in his yard, given the whole run in the day-time (they were in a coop at night-time due to foxes), and yes, they naturally produced eggs. I do not believe it is inherently cruel to own laying hens if you have the space, the means to look after them, and do not intend to kill them or any potential offspring at any other point in time. Eggs are a natural by-product of hens. Cruelty is not a natural by-product of humanity. There are alternatives to eating eggs without contributing to the slaughter of other animals.

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