If vegans don’t want to harm animals, why do vegans not eat eggs? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.
Most people think meat is the main food that vegans don’t eat because there is obvious harm to an animal involved. So, can vegans eat eggs, then?
However, veganism is defined as a lifestyle seeking to reduce the exploitation of animals as much as possible and practicable. And chickens are included in this definition, of course!
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But do hens suffer or die to produce eggs for us? Are backyard eggs ethical and vegan?
Do vegans eat eggs?
Eggs are not vegan because they come from an animal and are animal products. However, if no hen, goose, or duck had to suffer for egg production, technically, eggs could be vegan.
This answer might surprise you because it’s not the dogmatic “vegans don’t eat anything that has to do with animals.”
Here are some of the reasons why vegans don’t eat eggs and why they are not part of a fully plant-based diet.
Why do vegans not eat eggs?
Some people think that it’s okay to eat eggs because the act of taking them from the chicken doesn’t harm it. Plus, wouldn’t it just go to waste if we didn’t eat it?
Let’s shed some light on this topic.
Suffering & slaughter
Chickens are sentient beings who feel pain and can suffer.
In commercial egg production, they are objectified and used as commodities to make profit. Chickens are selectively bred to produce an enormous amount of eggs and once they aren’t “productive” enough anymore, they are sent off to slaughter.
On their way to the slaughterhouse, they are roughly stuffed into crates and can suffer from broken legs and wings, lacerations, bleeding, dehydration, heatstroke, hypothermia, and heart failure; millions die before reaching the destination.
And the end of their lives at the slaughterhouse isn’t quick or painless, either — some are still conscious when their throats are slit or when plunged into the scalding tank for feather removal.
Nobody would argue that today’s large farms offer good conditions for the animals (or the workers there, mind you).
Female chickens are held in tiny cages, unable to spread their wings, giant warehouses holding hundreds of thousands of birds. Neither their basic biological nor behavioral needs are being met.
The birds are crammed so closely together that although normally clean animals, they are forced to urinate and defecate on one another.
The bad conditions and huge amount of eggs the hens have to produce (300 eggs per year compared to 10-15 eggs they would lay in the wild) leads to many diseases and early demise.
Surviving birds are often forced to live with their dead cagemates, who are sometimes left to rot.
Mutilation & exploitation
To avoid picking each other, little hens will get the tip of their beaks cut off (which is done with a hot blade and without a painkiller, a procedure comparable to a human being amputated). Many birds die of shock on the spot.
To maximize their egg production, hens are being starved and exposed to artificial light for many hours per day.
Male chicks are culled
Breeding chickens for egg production means both male and female chicks are being born.
However, since the egg-laying chicken breed doesn’t provide much meat and isn’t economical to raise for that purpose, male chicks who obviously cannot lay eggs are being culled just hours after birth.
They are either thrown in a dumpster and left to die, tossed in garbage bags and suffocated, being ground up alive in meat grinders, or put in little gas chambers. This happens to around 260 million male chicks each year in the US alone!
Read more about the most disheartening factory farm statistics here.Reasons to Go Vegan →
Can vegans eat eggs from their own chickens?
Let’s paint a lovely picture of a poor hen that was once on a factory farm and has been rescued to live her life out in a vegan’s backyard.
Could there be anything wrong with that?
While this chicken’s life is certainly so much better now compared to all of her peers and she’ll invariably lay eggs, it’s probably not the best idea to pick them up and eat them.
Especially if you go ahead and sell these eggs, you try to profit off of a sentient being, which creates a slippery slope!
This backyard chicken’s eggs may seem like a waste product but if her eggs are always removed, it creates the need to keep on laying more eggs — a process that can be very exhausting to a chicken’s body.
It’s much better to let the hen eat her own eggs or prepare them in a way she likes and feed them back to her to replenish vital nutrients such as calcium.
If you genuinely care about your chickens, you need to treat them like a beloved cat or dog. Would you pay hundreds of dollars for their treatment if they get sick? Or do you see your relationship more like an exchange of goods?
This best-case scenario doesn’t even include the more common case where hens are not rescued but bought from a hatchery where they are definitely seen as a commodity.
One situation in which it could be okay as a vegan to eat eggs from your rescued backyard chicken is this: the hen doesn’t care for the egg and it would definitely rot. In this case, why not give it to someone who usually buys eggs from a supermarket?
This would further decrease the demand for eggs.
Are there vegans who eat eggs?
There’s a new term around called “veggan” which refers to people who are otherwise vegan but consume eggs. If they don’t get these eggs from dumpster diving at supermarkets or similar “freegan” methods, they don’t really live by vegan principles — despite confusingly similar term.
A better term for people who eat eggs but no other animal products is “ovo-vegetarian” and they aren’t vegan for ethical reasons.
Are egg whites vegan?
Just like the whole egg, egg whites are not vegan, either.
Some people might confuse healthy eating with vegan diets and because egg whites are referred to as the healthier option compared to a whole egg, the question of whether egg whites are vegan might arise.
Luckily, there are great vegan replacements for eggs and eggs whites which we’ll share with you below!
Why are eggs bad for you?
There are a couple of health reasons why you should limit your egg consumption. However, we totally acknowledge that eggs contain vital nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet!
Cholesterol & heart disease
A single egg contains around 370 grams of dietary cholesterol, a nutrient that our bodies produce and which can be harmful in excess.
This recent 2021 study suggests that intakes of eggs and cholesterol are associated with higher all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.
The inside of eggs can contain Salmonella germs that can make you sick — especially if you eat raw or lightly cooked eggs.
Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever, which can last for 4-7 days.
There are several ways to reduce your chance of getting a Salmonella infection not only from eggs but also from meat, fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to premature death, “the results were particularly strong when people swapped plant protein for eggs (24% lower risk in men and 21% lower risk in women).”
Vegan egg alternatives
There are different ways to replace eggs with some simple vegan food swaps!
- Tofu for scrambled eggs or pureed for baking
- Chickpea flour for omelets
- Aquafaba (chickpea liquid) recreates egg whites in baking
- Kala Namak (black salt) for the sulfurous flavor of eggs
- Mashed banana, apple sauce, mashed avocado or vegan yogurt in baking
- Flax egg: ground flaxseeds mixed with water to create a gel for binding
Popular vegan egg brands at the store include JUST, Follow Your Heart, Simply Eggless and Energ-G.
More vegan guides
Check out the following articles, which make going and staying vegan super easy!
- Going Vegan for Beginners
- Full Vegan Grocery List
- Vegan Food Pyramid
- Vegan Ingredients Checker
- Vegan Questions Answered
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