The term ‘vegan’ was coined back in 1944 and isn’t the ‘shades of grey’ that vegetarianism seems to have become. Simply put, by definition, vegans do not use or consume any animal products whatsoever.
So if you want to blindly follow the rules set out by some guy a whole load of years ago, then avoid eggs.
But the fact that you’re here tells me that you like to be a bit more thoughtful than that, so I’ll tell you the real reason that I avoid eggs – then you can make up your own mind.
Presumably by buying free range as opposed to eggs from battery hens, you feel that you are doing your bit for the birds, that it’s a cruelty free option. For a great many years I presumed the same thing. Unfortunately that’s not the case.
Like me, you probably have an image of hens happily scratching about on a farm, while a jolly farmer’s wife goes around collecting the eggs in her apron. Does that sound like a profit making business to you? The truth is that even ‘free range’ hens are kept at a density of up to 9 birds a square metre (battery hens are kept at a density of about 12 per square metre – not much difference is there?).*
The lack of space, leads to feather pecking. Farmers solve this by ‘debeaking’ the birds – searing off the end of the bird’s beak in a painful act of mutilation. The stress of their living conditions means that hens are more or less spent after a year of laying so their tragic lives are cut short by a trip to the slaughterhouse.
The aspect of the egg industry that I find the most disturbing, and of which I had no idea until I dug a bit deeper, is the slaughter of day old male chicks. Of course they are no use for egg laying and are not acceptable for meat either so they are killed when only a day or two old, gassed or thrown into a giant grinding machine that shreds them alive. Can you imagine the pain and the fear that they experience in their short lives?
So that, in a nutshell is the truth behind your ‘cruelty free’ eggs. I’m not going to tell anyone how to live their lives, but I for one, do not want to be a part of that cycle of suffering.
Happily humans can live perfectly well without eggs. I don’t really miss omelettes or scrambled eggs but I did question how I would live without cake! Luckily there are many options for replacing eggs in the baking process. Commercial egg replacers are available (though I’ve never tried them myself), or you can use mashed ripe bananas, ground flaxseeds mixed with water or apple sauce in your baking. If you are looking for something more savoury you can try scrambled tofu – scramble it with a mix of herbs or spices and some fried spring onions. Yum!
If you can think of a dish that traditionally requires eggs, let me know in the comments and I will try to find an alternative recipe for you.
*Credit to the Vegan Society’s ‘Animal Free Shopper’ for the statistics.