Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Evil Vegetarian and Her Eggs - The Almost Untold Story

Many of us leaning to plant-eating types often allow ourselves dairy products. Eggs in particular are a staple allowed protein. As we pay our premium for eggs from free range roving happy hen clucking chickens we think, well, that's pretty good right? Happy beasties laying those eggies. Where's the harm?

Let us set aside for a moment the scenes from Chicken Run and the fate of hens who do not produce their quota. Indeed, let us not think of the happy hen yard at all. Instead, let us ask the question, whither all these chickies brudders? I mean, when we think about it, while all chickens that lay eggs are of the same sex, not all chickens are of that sex. Where are the males of the species that pop forth all hopeful from such eggs from time to time?

Pet food. Among other places.

Yup, about two years ago now, Jamie Oliver did an intriguing series called "Jamie's Fowl Dinners" to show what happened to chickens in different contexts from factory to free range to simply free (yes chickens do exist in the wild).

He modelled each stage of the process. Including what happens to all the male chicks. And how.

For some reason i woke up remembering this scene, thinking right, we think we're doing such good stuff not eating meat, but these psuedo chicken by-product choices indirectly do exactly that: cause a whole lot of creature culling. There's no market for so many live male chicks. I wonder, i thought, how many people know this?

And so, dear b2d reader, now we both do. Will that shift our eggy behaviour? I think that as i'm at meetings this week at a hotel where the buffet veggies are dripping in something like butter and the only veggie protein is "vegetarian lasagne" which means lots of carbohydrates in a white sauce it seems, and that salmon beside it is looking a heck of a lot saner, despite the environmental damage from evil farmed salmon fisheries.

At least i remembered to bring some protein powder. From non-organic/free range cows
great great great. i am a total ethical food failure. i abdure myself. dang.

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Janet said...

In Lierre Keith’s book “The Vegetarian Myth” he explains how many animals lose their homes to clear cutting and petroleum-based, industrial farming. He explains that vegetarianism isn’t the moral high ground one might imagine.

Reading your post, two trains of thought popped into my mind. One about egg production, and one about vegetarianism. I've thrown them together with the hopes that you'll understand the bigger picture I'm hurriedly trying to create.

(after describing the horrifying conditions of battery caged chickens:) "After one year, egg production naturally decreases to 80% which means a loss of revenue for the industrialized factory farm profiting from the misery of these animals and so they are often “disposed of” and replaced with younger stock. Sadly, one of the most common ways that farmers dispose of laying hens is to throw them into a wood chipper (alive). The gruesome remains are then often fed to other animals as a cheap protein ration or used as compost.”

While the information from RASTA's website is horrifying, I don't share their conclusion that not eating eggs is the answer. As well, one wonders when and how the chickens who produce organic, free range eggs are killed.

I think the best choice is to be an informed consumer (be willing to know the ugliness behind our sanitized, grocery store options), to buy from companies that share your values, and to make specific requests of companies to make their products more humane overall. For example, throwing live chickens into a wood chopper is unthinkably cruel to the chickens and a waste of potential food.

L. Wu said...

"Certified Humane Raised" eggs are also a good choice, as that tends to mean more than simply being marketed as organic / free-range.

At least in the States, you won't always find eggs of this kind in your supermarket, but you could try. Don't know how this extends outside the States though.

jkuo said...

As an ovo-lacto vegetarian, this issue bothers me. It is nearly impossible to get ethical eggs from the markets around me. I tried going vegan for a while, but I found that to be a highly inconvenient lifestyle choice. There is no perfect solution that I can see. There are practical considerations in the messy reality of life. It is not usually practical to produce one's own eggs or spend countless hours trying to track down a source of eggs which meet a certain ethical standard.

I try to at least shop with the local farmers and keep myself as best educated about my food choices as I can. Worrying too much about things over which we have limited control gets us nowhere.


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