Q13. Are Eggs unfertile? Then why are eggs not considered vegetarian food and why are Jains not allowed to eat eggs? What are the facts about Eggs?
Let’s first look at some of the most commonly followed diets, including Vegan and Vegetarian:
How do Hens produce Eggs? Are all Eggs Unfertile?
Just as Female humans, Hens ovulate for the same reason: to reproduce. Female human ovaries also contain developing eggs. In women, a mature egg is released from the ovary once a month. If the egg becomes fertilized by male sperm, then it attaches to the wall of the uterus and begins to form an embryo. If the egg is not fertilized, it is eliminated during monthly menstrual cycle
In chickens, the ovary is a cluster of developing ova, or yolks. If Rooster mates with Hen before Hen lays eggs, then these eggs can be fertilized, otherwise Hens lay eggs which are unfertilized. Most commercially available eggs are unfertilized since Hens are kept separately on farms for breeding eggs only.
Even though commercially produced eggs are unfertile, why should we avoid consuming as part of our vegetarian diet?
Let’s understand how birds produce eggs in the wild vs. on commercial farms today:
Although Hens do not menstruate like Female humans, the cycle of creating and passing much larger eggs relative to their body size and weight is arguably even more physically taxing, especially in modern hens who have been genetically manipulated to force them to bred to produce such unnaturally high rates of eggs.
In fact, the process of making and passing an egg requires so much energy and labor that in nature, wild hens (aka The Red Jungle Fowl - from whom domestic hens are descended) lay only 10 to 15 eggs per year. Their bodies could never sustain the physical depletion of laying hundreds of eggs that domestic chickens have been forced to produce through genetic manipulation.
It is a common misconception that Hens are always just naturally “giving” eggs, because modern Hens have been intensively bred to lay between 250 to 300 eggs a year. But in the wild, chickens, like all birds, lay only during breeding season — primarily in the spring — and only enough eggs to assure the survival of their genes.
Egg harvesting from chicken does not require killing chicken, like caviar or fish eggs are obtained by killing fish. Not every product that comes out of an animal requires killing that animal, the best example being milk. However, it does not mean there is no animal cruelty or violence (Himsa) involved in the process of harvesting these products (Eggs, Milk) even if direct killing act is not conducted. Extreme cruelty is inflicted on cows for milk and all associated dairy products as outlined in this blog post.
When you look closely, it becomes clear how the entire process of harvesting eggs involves inhumane cruelty or violence against these animals
Any animal food that is produced at a large scale for commercial purposes, brings many unwanted and often unknown (to mass population) violence. Many inhumane practices are carried out to increase and sustain high production of eggs.
Hatcheries often breed chickens in an undesirable/inhumane way. For example,
- Female chicks are given hormone injections to boost their reproductive cycle earlier than nature intended.
- Chickens are kept in a very tight space, crawling on top of each other, not able to stand on ground, no outdoor space.
- Chickens are poorly fed, which has many negative effects on chickens’ health.
- Female chickens are left to die or used as food (for animal consumption) once their reproductive cycle stops and are not producing eggs anymore.
- Most of the male chickens born are grounded up for food (while they are alive) as they do not have any reproductive value.
Please refer to some of the highly viewed YouTube videos showing Egg production lifecycle, showcasing how much cruelty and violence is involved (Viewer discretion advised):
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9aQx8czbt8 - 6 min
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssOEJpBQErc - 3 min
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-gSoXwFlIE - 1 min
All this violence is inherently part of producing “Unfertile” eggs that some may consider as valid vegetarian diet.
What about eggs from free-range or cage-free, farm raised birds? Are they cruelty free?
With recently raised awareness of commercially raised chickens, many people recognized ethical problems that arise from animal factories producing animal products. And so, to distance themselves from such inherent cruelty and harm done to these animals, they turned to free range birds’ eggs, farm raised organic chicken eggs or some using their own backyard chickens.
So, what’s wrong with that? This non-commercial egg production happens almost without human manipulation or intervention, where is the ethical problem or Himsa involved in there?
Well, if you just scratch little beneath the surface. Such as:
1. How are these hens bred? All hens in small farms, big farms or in animal factories are bred in hatcheries.
2. What happens to these hens when they no longer produce eggs?
3. What happens to roosters (male chicken babies) in this type of farming?
Just because they are kept in a pleasant open farm space, free of medicines and antibiotics does not free then from untimely, unnatural killing. Killing of under productive Hens or unproductive Roosters are done regularly by these farms that declare their hens happy or consider them free range animals.
Some eye-opening facts:
- Between 470 Million to 490 Million chickens are produced every year for eggs harvesting. Approximately, half of them are male babies. These male babies have no value in the egg production cycle and thus are killed through suffocation, maceration, carbon dioxide poisoning, electrocution, cervical dislocation etc.
- There is no such thing as slaughter free animal agricultural system. Animal factories, farm raised, cage-free, however they are bred.
- Even if one considers byproducts such as eggs as technically Vegetarian food, production/harvesting of eggs inherently involves violence and cruelty against these animals.
- Many studies show that eggs are harmful for human consumption due to high saturated fat in yolk. Many alternative plant-based proteins are healthier options.
- Animal farming and harvesting of animal by-products have much higher environmental impact compared to Vegetables/Fruits farming.
- As learned above, consuming eggs conducts harm against five-sense living beings vs. one-sense living beings when you follow only plant-based diet.
- As per https://unitedegg.com/facts-stats/, U.S. table egg production totaled 95.3 billion in 2018, up 3 percent from 2017.
- The U.S. has 328 million commercial laying hens (January 2018), up 3 percent from January 2017. The daily rate of lay averaged 79 eggs per 100 layers (January 2018). On average, each laying hen produces 289 eggs per year.
- According to www.statista.com › Consumer Goods & FMCG › Food & Nutrition, In 2019, consumption of eggs in the United States was estimated at 289.5 per person.
- Millions of male chicks and laying hens are slaughtered every year as they lose their reproductive value - https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/egg-industry/
- Detrimental Environmental effects: In comparison to plant-based produce, the production of eggs, like other animal-based produce, generates negative effects on the environment, including the emission of greenhouse gases or the contamination of soil and water.
In short, even though immediate harvesting of animal byproducts such as MILK, EGGS are not killing them directly, if looked closely at the whole agricultural life cycle of its production, it comes to realization how much cruelty and violence is involved in every step of the way.
Lastly, we want to emphasis on why it is so important to stand by your compassionate choice and not make exceptions:
Many vegetarian diets following people in the modern world often make exceptions by allowing themselves to consume eggs as part of an ingredient of a food product, dish, while not consuming eggs directly as food.
If you think - what harm do I really cause, what violence do I really conduct when I consume just one cookie, one piece of cake, a slice of bread, baked pie or a small chocolate bar once in a while… then
Think deeply and think broadly!
1. By saying YES to consuming products containing Eggs, you are promoting that industry at large.
2. You are participating in the cruel agricultural life cycle by consuming products made from eggs in any shape or form. Since the commercial industry is all about demand and supply.
Think about the possibility if you decide to say NO to all products that contain animal products (e.g. Eggs) and instead ask for, demand for products made without animal products, byproducts.
If enough of us choose to stay strong by our choice of being compassionate, we will help in creating demand for cruelty-free products of all kinds. Today we have so many Vegan options available in grocery stores, restaurants and shopping malls.
Today, we are able to consume these cruelty-free products thanks to those before us who chose to stay strong by their choice of compassion.