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What's Wrong with Eggs?

Eggs, Animal Protection, The Environment and Health


Hens in Battery Cages

Hens in Battery Cages

Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary
No chickens had to be killed to get eggs, right? The truth is that raising chickens for eggs is a cruel and bloody industry that destroys the environment. And on top of it all, eggs are not good for you.

Eggs and Human Health

As with many health issues, we hear conflicting things about how good or bad eggs are. Yes, eggs have protein, but they also have cholesterol. A lot of cholesterol.

In response to the question, "Are chicken eggs good or bad for my cholesterol?" a Mayo Clinic cardiologist responds, "Chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, and a diet high in cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels." Jennifer Moll, the Guide to Cholesterol, writes:

While you may feel fine and otherwise have a clean bill of health, having high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Overall, heart disease is rivaled only by cancer as the leading cause of death in the United States. Also, heart disease doesn't necessarily trumpet its arrival: there may not be any symptoms at all -- until a heart attack.

By contrast, plant-based foods have no cholesterol. There is no need for cholesterol in the human diet because our liver makes all of the cholesterol we need. But if we eat too much cholesterol, or if we are genetically predisposed to make too much cholesterol, our cholesterol levels can reach dangerously high levels.

While it is possible for a person's cholesterol level to be dangerously low, this is not the result of a vegan diet, but the result of health issues. People with impaired liver function can find that their bodies are not making enough cholesterol.

Eggs and Animal Rights

From an animal rights perspective, breeding and raising chickens for eggs is exploitative no matter how well they are treated because we are infringing on the chickens' right to be free of human use. Whenever an animal is used for human means, the animal's rights and freedoms are being compromised.

Eggs and Animal Welfare

While the animal rights view opposes animal agriculture no matter how well the animals are treated, even people who believe the animal welfare view (believing that animal use is not in itself wrong, as long as the animals are treated well while they are alive) would find it difficult, if not impossible, to defend a modern egg factory.

In a modern egg factory, tens of thousands of hens are stacked on top of each other in cages that are so crowded, the hens cannot even stretch their wings. In a battery cage, each hen has less room than an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper. In some factory farms, the bottoms of the cages are made of wire, so that waste falls through the bottom of the cage onto the birds below. The hens are debeaked without anesthesia; the pointy front of their beaks are cut off so that they don't peck each other to death in the unimaginable stress of their confinement.

When they are no longer productive, the "spent" hens are slaughtered. Their flesh is tough and stringy, so the meat of these 100 million hens each year is turned into pet food, compost and school lunches.

At the hatcheries that supply young chickens to factory farms, the males are killed because they are not useful for egg production and they are the wrong breed of chicken to be profitable for meat. At the Hy-Line Hatchery in Iowa, the world's largest hatchery for egg-laying chickens, the male chicks are ground up while they are still alive.

Except for the extreme confinement, these practices even take place at "cage-free" egg farms, including the debeaking, the slaughter of spent hens and the killing of male chicks.

Eggs and the Environment

We often hear that meat is terrible for the environment because it is so inefficient to feed food to cows in order to eat the cows. The same argument applies to eggs, dairy or any other animal product. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, "Livestock’s Long Shadow" documents the environmental devastation of animal agriculture worldwide, including, "•The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops".

What is the solution?

The solution to the cruelty and waste of animal agriculture is veganism. While some activists might campaign to ban battery cages, cage-free eggs are not humane.

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