A question that comes up regularly in the Vegan Food UK community is “my friend has some hens in her back garden that really are free range. These hens lay their eggs anyway, surely there is nothing wrong with eating them?”
It’s a good question and you can see why people who are new to veganism ask it. But we have to make it clear immediately that eggs are not vegan. Anything that comes from an animal or as a bi-product from an animal is not vegan, so eggs would be in this category.
Facts (from Viva!)
- Wild hens only lay around 20 eggs per year
- Farm hens can be made to produce up 500 per year
- Over 50% of eggs sold in Britain come from hens in cages
- Around 47% of eggs sold in Britain are ‘Free Range’
- Free Range means that the eggs must have ability to wander outside of their perchery if they choose
- The conditions of the percheries for most egg laying hens are overcrowded and far from the images conjured up of happy chickens on a farm
- Male chickens do not lay eggs and are not the same breed used for meat production. They also cost too much money to raise into adults so instead they are ground up and killed when they are just one day old
- 30-40 million chicks are ground up and killed in Britain each year – thanks to the egg industry
Ok, so you get the picture, the egg industry is a very cruel one. But what about buying a hen for your back garden, are those eggs OK to eat? Whilst they aren’t vegan, here are some more things to consider:
- Where would you buy the hen from? More than likely the hen has been bred or caught up in the egg industry at some point, so potentially by buying a hen you are helping fund the industry
- If you bought a hen from an animal sanctuary (which is a nice thing to do) then you have to be aware that they need a lot of care and money to look after them properly
- Can I eat an egg, that came from a free roaming backyard hen, for whom I bought from an animal sanctuary and receives all the right care? Even now there is the ethical consideration towards the hen itself. You are taking away something that was never meant for human consumption. Many eggs are consumed by the hen herself if left in her nest. She does this to take back on some of the nutrition lost in her body from laying the egg in the first place, so to not leave her to this natural process would be inhumane.
Why do people eat eggs anyway? Most vegetarians and meat eaters alike would say they eat eggs for protein, but what they probably don’t consider in the complete lack of fibre, high fat and high cholesterol.
Do you have any information you would like to add to this article? If so, put it in the comments section underneath with sources.