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Here’s the Problem With Backyard Eggs

Here’s the Problem With Backyard Eggs

The sad reality is that, no matter how well treated laying hens may be in their foreshortened lives, they remain the product of enormous and intentional cruelty that is inflicted only because people want to consume eggs.

~ Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

A new educational pamphlet titled “What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?” is the latest release from Peaceful Prairie, a farm sanctuary that provides shelter to animals rescued from cage-free, free-range, small-scale and family farms.

Yes, despite the prevalence of the modern myth that family or backyard farming is an ethical alternative to large-scale, industrial, factory farms, the reality is far from how it is portrayed. From hens to goats, sheep to cows, the animal residents at Peaceful Prairie tell a different story, and their human guardians are determined to spread the word that backyard eggs are not the way of the future.

Of course, this isn’t news to many of us who happily avoid eggs in favor of vegan alternatives, and for those who are moved to join this growing trend, you can rest assured that it’s easier than ever to replace eggs in baking, as well as for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For more information about why the farming of hens is problematic in and of itself, regardless of scale, please take a look at the following articles.

A Hens Relationship with her Eggs
My host and I were well into chopping back the lavender when we suddenly heard an agitated clucking below us. As we moved back one of the bushes we discovered a large black hen who had started a nest. She was attempting to shield her brood from the intruders hovering above her, but this hen was not a rescue. She had been brought onto the farm to produce eggs, and even though she had been clever enough to attempt a nest away from the chicken cage, her eggs were not considered her own.

Whats Wrong with Backyard Eggs?
Its easy to conceptualize the relationship as one of respectful symbiosis in which the backyard farmer provides food and shelter to her flock in exchange for the gift of hens eggs. However, this bucolic portrayal ignores several essential ethical questions, not the least of which being the fundamental issue of whether humans have the right to breed other animals for our own purposes, and whether it is appropriate for us to conclude that a hen doesnt care whether someone other than herself decides what happens to her eggs.

Backyard Chicken Farming Leads to Abandoned Hens
The reality is that raising local and home-grown animals will never be humane or ethical, nor is it possible to supply the demand for animal products and flesh in any manner. Small-scale hipster farmers are simply getting a taste of what it means to treat a living, breathing animal as a product, and it appears that many dont have the stomach for it.

Cage-Free? Not Free Enough.
In recent years, the campaign to replace battery-farmed eggs with a cage-free, guilt-free version has gained tremendous popularity. For those who are aware of the suffering of hens in the egg industry, the cage-free movement appears on the surface to offer a win-win situation: improved welfare standards for hens… and eggs can remain on the menu, even for concerned consumers.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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12:31AM PDT on Jul 16, 2014

No, Great White, you did NOT have to say that, and it's just your personal opinion that you might be more evolved than the rest of us. Since this is such an old discussion, and since your reasons have been refuted dozens of times, I kind of disagree that you are amongst the "more evolved". When you can reply to comments with a bit more sense and more factually, you will be given a bit more respect, but not until.

12:08PM PDT on Jul 15, 2014

I have to say this, even though it will at least be disagreed with by less Evolved Non-Vegans:
If we were all most evolved Vegans, then this and all of these type problems would not exist or at least disappear extremely fast. Heck, if most of our species were most evolved Vegans and the rest of our species were more evolved Vegetarians moving towards most evolved Vegans, then this and all similar problems would be going extinct over time.

Read more:

12:01PM PDT on Jul 15, 2014

Thank You, Awesome Article!!!

7:36PM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Thanks for the post.

4:22AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Sylvie B., with all due respect, you are "absolutely positive" about something that is obviously something you know NOTHING about. A hen will lay eggs no matter what, providing the daylight is sufficient and the temperatures adequate and the hen has been given enough food. She will lay if she's the ONLY hen, or one in a flock, and with or without a rooster around. Without a rooster, she will lay an egg, maybe even two a day, and won't sit on them as she has NO maternal instincts. If she'd had those eggs fertilized, she might, and then, yes, when life within started becoming evident, and those eggs hatch, she'll become "motherly". In 18 months, my six hens have never sat on the eggs they've laid, and if I didn't collect them daily, they'd just add up until the oldest ones started to rot. I wonder how "motherly" a hen will get forced to lay her latest egg next to a rotting one?

6:49PM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

good points, sylvie.

6:19PM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

I'm absolutely positive that a hen--or a mother-to-be--cares about her eggs a lot: After all, her chicks--or children--are supposed to hatch from them, which she is sure to know. For animals there are powerful maternal instincts and feelings at play, and it is a matter of self-preservation. Consuming eggs means killing bird embryos, or basically unborn birdies, which a brooding bird must naturally mind. By preventing hens from acting upon their instincts--no matter how much they engage in egg laying, these painstaking efforts of theirs are always futile, never leading to a brood of youngs--, we deprive them of their ethological needs, which must naturally frustrate them.

While the conditions in which they are kept do count--several laying hens who can run freely around in the grass certainly are better off than their factory-farmed sisters multitudes of whom are confined to cages--, I do agree that the keeping of hens for eggs {or for meat, of course} means using them. Such is a selfish and superior relationship: No matter how much good care we take of them, the price we make them pay is high: we use their bodies, we do not let their babies be born, we kill unproductive ones...

Some may say that if their eggs were not consumed and all were allowed to hatch, or if little roosters were not killed, there would soon be too many birds to take care of. Therein arises the question of the rightness of animal domestication and husbandry, the ethics of which remain questionable.

4:50AM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Our hens (and cockerels) are essentially pets, some of them just happen to lay eggs. Nothing wrong with that.

What is wrong however is that the poor ex-bat type of hen are bred to produce too many eggs and get health problems. They should never have been bred like that in the first place.

1:16PM PDT on Jun 2, 2014

For some of us the primary reason for keeping backyard livestock is not ethical, it is about food independence and sustainability. What will you do if you go to your local grocery tomorrow or the next day and there is no food? How can that happen? A national emergency of some sort interrupts the supply chain - the average item in a grocery store travels 1,500 miles to get there. Prolonged drought, torrential rains or severe storms drastically reduce harvests across the country, all likely scenarios as the climate warms. I grow my own food, including fruit, veggies, meat and eggs so I'll be fine if the grocery shelves are bare, how about you?

4:29AM PDT on Jun 2, 2014

I don't even know where to begin commenting. I buy eggs from a co-worker who has chickens. I've been to his house. They are well taken care of, and he doesn't kill them when they stop laying eggs. They hang out in his yard. He doesn't give them feed that promotes laying. He got chickens and sells eggs to friends. No, I'm not vegan, and I have no desire to become one. I don't appreciate the vegan ideals being shoved down my throat as I eat my pappas con huevo. Would you like me sharing my religious beliefs with you as you hang out on a Sunday morning? No, I'd be one of those pushy Christians. The door swings both ways.

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