written with Christine Wells, www.GentleWorld.org
Vegans are accustomed to being asked certain questions: How can you live without cheese? (Easily and with clean arteries); Where do you get your protein? (Ask a gorilla); What if you and a pig were stranded on a desert island? (….what?). But we also get asked just as frequently (though somewhat less facetiously) about backyard chickens being kept specifically for eggs.
Initially, raising backyard chickens may seem to address a number of problems from the perspective of avoiding industrialized farming, buying local, and animal welfare. However, as we look more closely at the reality of the backyard chicken trend, it becomes increasingly clear that it is the same commodification of animals, packaged in niche marketing to appeal to the modern “conscious consumer”.
It’s 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 concerns, not the least of which being the fundamental issue of whether humans have the right to breed and use other animals for our own purposes, not to mention buying and selling them as chattel property, which is unavoidable when animals are being used as resources.