Can eggs be vegan-friendly?

Graeme M

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This is interesting. Here is a post from my farmer friend Yolanda who posed this question in our FB Farmers and Vegans discussion group.

"Can eggs be vegan friendly?
I think they can in an ethical sense. After all. Veganism is an ethical stance.
I believe my eggs do fall into the category of vegan friendly. I give most of my eggs away and I have ordered a stamp to go on my egg cartons to outline their status.

Why vegan friendly?:
* Heritage chickens: bloodlines dating back to the 1950's. No male chicks ever killed at birth. No excess egg laying that can be hard on a hen's body.
* Naturally bred: all chickens naturally mated and raised by broody hens.
* natural lifespan: hens stay on the farm for life.
* 100% pasture raised: there is no limit to where these chickens roam.
* organic: not necessarily a vegan thing. But they are.

The only thing that may be considered not vegan friendly is that excess roosters are culled for the protection of the hens. Too many roosters are harmful and stressful to a hen's health. However I don't see it as any less vegan than animals killed in the protection of crops. The difference being, their bodies are also utilised for food. Both human and dog food. They are grown out to adulthood, free ranging on pasture and dispatched quickly on farm.

I am currently experimenting with a method to reduce male chickens hatching. Regardless. There is only a small amount of chickens hatched each year since all hens stay for life and will continue to produce eggs. My oldest hens are 8 years old and still lay."

What do you think? I would say Yolanda's eggs are indeed vegan-friendly and my wife and I usually get several dozen every few months. They are delicious eggs.

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This is interesting. Here is a post from my farmer friend Yolanda who posed this question in our FB Farmers and Vegans discussion group.

"Can eggs be vegan friendly?
It can be an interesting question/discussion.
Vegan friendly, vegan-lite, vegan-y, vegan adjacent? Maybe if these were actual concepts? But we have specific words that have specific meanings/ definitions for the improvement of communication and sometimes to improve thought processes.
We could discuss if keeping chickens, harvesting eggs and roosters can be ethical. But they are not vegan.
The only thing that may be considered not vegan friendly is that excess roosters are culled for the protection of the hens.
Certainly not the only thing. Maybe not even the Main Thing,
What do you think? I would say Yolanda's eggs are indeed vegan-friendly and my wife and I usually get several dozen every few months. They are delicious eggs.

I'm pretty sure we have discussed this before. Sure vegansim is not an absolute, there are gray areas. and since most of us are not 100% vegan in our lifestyles we should allow for some deviation.

However, IMHO, it's almost entirely about intent. You don't accidentally go buy Yolanda's eggs and eat them. She does make a good attempt to raise the chickens ethically. And one could argue that more harm would result if she stopped. But still it's all about intent. There is nothing essential or necessary about eggs. We don't need them.

We can justify many things based on Utilitarianism: Capital punishment, war, whatever....
And maybe even Yolanda's chickens,
And to be fair there are lots of good utilitarian arguments about veganism. Peter Singer even uses Utilitarian principles in his vegan arguments.
But I think Dentology (not my favorite philophy) is what most of us vegans use. It's not vegan to exploit animals (full stop).
 
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I don't think eggs can be vegan friendly.

I read somewhere that chickens use even the unfertilized eggs that will never produce a chick.
 
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Vegan friendly, vegan-lite, vegan-y, vegan adjacent? Maybe if these were actual concepts? But we have specific words that have specific meanings/ definitions for the improvement of communication and sometimes to improve thought processes.
We could discuss if keeping chickens, harvesting eggs and roosters can be ethical. But they are not vegan.
Perhaps it's just semantic hair-splitting but I take the view that only humans can be vegan, given veganism exists only inside the minds of humans. Foods and actions can be consistent with veganism which I take to mean "vegan-friendly".

You don't accidentally go buy Yolanda's eggs and eat them.
No, Yolanda gives them away. We talk a lot about veganism and she understands the distinction about raising animals to benefit financially. So she raises chickens because she likes to for a variety of reasons and the excess eggs she gives away to anyone who wants them. Her actual income-generating work is farming sheep and cattle.

But I think Dentology (not my favorite philophy) is what most of us vegans use. It's not vegan to exploit animals (full stop).
Hmmm... I agree, most vegans seem to be deontologists. Is my personal philosophy in this regard deontological? I don't really know quite what that is, I suppose. I get the idea that a set of rules and principles describe what is right and wrong but that shouldn't mean that one blindly applies the rules/principles without considering contexts, benefits and consequences. So... I don't think Yolanda's chickens are being exploited.
 
I don't think eggs can be vegan friendly.

I read somewhere that chickens use even the unfertilized eggs that will never produce a chick.
Unfertilised eggs are waste products. Chickens can and do eat them and they can be a good source of nutrition for them. But it should be clear they did not evolve to eat their own eggs (put better, chickens do not produce eggs for food any more than humans do). Fertilised eggs on the other hand are intended to result in offspring so serve a real purpose for the chicken. However, in Yolanda's case she cannot allow all of the fertilised eggs to hatch because the population would grow out of control. She allows all of the birds to mix freely, so roosters do mate with hens. Therefore, Yolanda is thwarting the chickens' goals, but chickens are already altered by human breeding processes to produce more eggs than they need. So Yolanda is effectively acting ethically to manage her flock's size and overall health and success.
 
It's a shame there isn't a word to describe people who believe that animals and what they make is not for people to steal, or profit from. 🤔

I get that eggs, wool, even milk, can be ethically sourced, but why the insistence on calling it vegan? Like a whole camp that wants to bolster the vegan population by changing the definition.
 
Humans have so many 'waste' products that can save the lives of others, yet we have laws prohibiting their use without the persons consent.
Umbilical cords--https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23981-cord-blood-banking
Organ donations--cannot use the functioning organs after someone dies if they hadn't given permission

I could change my mind if these FAR more necessary uses of animal products were allowed
 
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It's a shame there isn't a word to describe people who believe that animals and what they make is not for people to steal, or profit from.
That's a fair point. I suppose I think that anything that exists is fair game for someone; I mean that is the basis for organic life. The reason we humans worry about this is that we have the capacity to do so at a much greater scale than the other animals and we seem to have moral agency.

I get that eggs, wool, even milk, can be ethically sourced, but why the insistence on calling it vegan? Like a whole camp that wants to bolster the vegan population by changing the definition.
Because I don't think that any way of treating other animals ethically - if by ethically we mean "fairly" - can be anything other than consistent with vegan philosophy. At the end of the day, why do we have ideas about rights etc for other people? Because we believe we should be fair to them. And vegan philosophy is simply the idea that other animals attract the same consideration when we can do that.

Humans have so many 'waste' products that can save the lives of others, yet we have laws prohibiting their use without the persons consent.
Umbilical cords--https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23981-cord-blood-banking
Organ donations--cannot use the functioning organs after someone dies if they hadn't given permission

I could change my mind if these FAR more necessary uses of animal products were allowed
Good point. I don't really know the answer to why we have rules around these things. I guess people just have sensitivities about them. Other animals do not.
 
This is interesting. Here is a post from my farmer friend Yolanda who posed this question in our FB Farmers and Vegans discussion group.

"Can eggs be vegan friendly?
I think they can in an ethical sense. After all. Veganism is an ethical stance.
I believe my eggs do fall into the category of vegan friendly. I give most of my eggs away and I have ordered a stamp to go on my egg cartons to outline their status.

Why vegan friendly?:
* Heritage chickens: bloodlines dating back to the 1950's. No male chicks ever killed at birth. No excess egg laying that can be hard on a hen's body.
* Naturally bred: all chickens naturally mated and raised by broody hens.
* natural lifespan: hens stay on the farm for life.
* 100% pasture raised: there is no limit to where these chickens roam.
* organic: not necessarily a vegan thing. But they are.

The only thing that may be considered not vegan friendly is that excess roosters are culled for the protection of the hens. Too many roosters are harmful and stressful to a hen's health. However I don't see it as any less vegan than animals killed in the protection of crops. The difference being, their bodies are also utilised for food. Both human and dog food. They are grown out to adulthood, free ranging on pasture and dispatched quickly on farm.

I am currently experimenting with a method to reduce male chickens hatching. Regardless. There is only a small amount of chickens hatched each year since all hens stay for life and will continue to produce eggs. My oldest hens are 8 years old and still lay."

What do you think? I would say Yolanda's eggs are indeed vegan-friendly and my wife and I usually get several dozen every few months. They are delicious eggs.

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I like the photo's of the happy and healthy chickens.
I do not think of eggs as vegan but i do not think it is unkind to the chickens to collect a few eggs.
 
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Because I don't think that any way of treating other animals ethically - if by ethically we mean "fairly" - can be anything other than consistent with vegan philosophy. At the end of the day, why do we have ideas about rights etc for other people? Because we believe we should be fair to them. And vegan philosophy is simply the idea that other animals attract the same consideration when we can do that.
So according to this theory of veganism, who is to decide what is ethical/fair? What is to keep the production of said product to ethical standards?
I strive to maintain vegan standards, but not personal purity. My issues with the eating of things like eggs or other foods sourced in a sustainable and non exploitative manner is that they create such a niche and bougie audience. The ordinary family in the US doesn't buy $5 a dozen eggs, they look for sales from large scale factory farms-because an egg is an egg.

I think it's crazy ironic that omnis will insist they buy meat from small local farmers, & milk and eggs from neighbours wandering chickens and pet cows 🙄

l find no value in insisting on conflating ethics with veganism.
I know hunters who do more good for animals and the environment then i ever have or will, but that doesn't make them vegan
 
So according to this theory of veganism, who is to decide what is ethical/fair?
Do you think this is an odd "theory" of veganism? I came to this forum with some idea of what veganism is, but Lou actually clarified for me that I had misunderstood. And having read a lot since then, I am pretty sure that I am more on track now. The bottom line is, why do we want to be vegan? The answer is, because we don't want other animals to be harmed, misused, exploited, or otherwise regarded as no more than a means rather than an end in themselves. And we have THAT feeling because it is the standard human idea of fairness. Which I think is the basis for all of our ethical consideration of others. All vegans do is take this and extend it to other animals. That's veganism - expanding the scope of our moral concern. And like with humans, how we work that out is ultimately up to us.

So, who decides? We do. Each of us, according to our understanding, willingness, motivation and circumstances. That is really all there is to it.

l find no value in insisting on conflating ethics with veganism.
Then maybe you are fooling yourself? There is no way in the world you would be vegan for the animals if you do not have an ethical stance. It is impossible. Of course you might be "vegan" for the environment or your health, but that is not veganism. It is just a strategy you take which can be swapped out for another if you find it isn't working. ONLY an ethical (moral) stance can guide you to make choices that seek to value other animals.

My issues with the eating of things like eggs or other foods sourced in a sustainable and non exploitative manner is that they create such a niche and bougie audience. The ordinary family in the US doesn't buy $5 a dozen eggs, they look for sales from large scale factory farms-because an egg is an egg.
Don't you think that is misdirection? Veganism asks that we make the best (most ethical) choices we can. If Yolanda's eggs are vegan-friendly, Bob can accept them from her without that meaning anything at all about commercial production. Think of it like this. If Bob doesn't care where the eggs come from, then accepting her eggs has nothing to do with veganism. He might be driven only by value for money. On the other hand if he is seeking vegan-friendly foods and he believes that her eggs may very well be better than plant-based alternatives, then he is driven by vegan ethics in making his choice. The eggs are vegan-friendly from his point of view and there seems no reason to criticise his choices because some other system is not vegan-friendly.
 
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Could this apply to milk too, then?
 
Could this apply to milk too, then?
I think as some have said above, milk and eggs are generally considered non-vegan IF your interpretation of veganism is simply never eating animal products. However when we examine just why vegans don't buy animal products, we should see that it's primarily to prevent animal-using industries from using animals as a means of production. In the case of Yolanda's eggs, she isn't profiting from having her chickens and the eggs are given away so using animals as a means rather than an end is not what she is doing.

For this to work for milk, you'd need to find someone who is running a few cows and gives away the milk. One possible difference might be that cows need to be pregnant so as to produce milk so there would be a constant supply of calves that would need to be killed or sold on to other farms. Yolanda does allow her hens to breed and kills the roosters, so perhaps the two are equivalent.

On the other hand, any commercial dairy would not be vegan-friendly, though for someone who wants to consume milk but remain consistent with vegan ethics, there are some dairy farms that have very ethical practices. There is one here in Australia that I know of, I think it's called Mother Cow. They have high welfare, keep animals until they are old, and on-sell any surplus calves to beef. That is probably as ethical (vegan-friendly) as a commercial dairy could be. According to the standard definition of veganism, it is still not acceptable.

No standard commercial dairy farm is vegan-friendly.
 
Do you think this is an odd "theory" of veganism? I came to this forum with some idea of what veganism is, but Lou actually clarified for me that I had misunderstood. And having read a lot since then, I am pretty sure that I am more on track now. The bottom line is, why do we want to be vegan? The answer is, because we don't want other animals to be harmed, misused, exploited, or otherwise regarded as no more than a means rather than an end in themselves. And we have THAT feeling because it is the standard human idea of fairness. Which I think is the basis for all of our ethical consideration of others. All vegans do is take this and extend it to other animals. That's veganism - expanding the scope of our moral concern. And like with humans, how we work that out is ultimately up to us.

So, who decides? We do. Each of us, according to our understanding, willingness, motivation and circumstances. That is really all there is to it.
Firstly, that's ethics. I have always, and will continue to, define veganism as A lifestyle that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey; animal derived products like leather; and, as far as possible, products tested on animals.
What you describe has it's own definition--ethics.
As far as who is to decide what ethical--you're right, ethics are subjective, and that is exactly why we have subsets to describe what we feel is ethical--like saying "I don't believe that animals are ours to use, I am vegan"
My hunter friends are absolutely ethical, and truly believe in living as with, and caring for, nature as possible. Are they vegan? Why not? They meet every standard as you wrote
 
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A lifestyle that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey; animal derived products like leather; and, as far as possible, products tested on animals.
I suppose I just don't follow your argument. Ethics are moral principles that guide our behaviour. So, why do you want to live this lifestyle? Just because you like to follow some rules? Or are you doing it to accord with a moral belief about how we should treat other animals? If the latter, then you are adopting a moral stance and pursuing certain ethical principles, which is precisely what veganism is about. If though you just ike to follow rules, well.... what can I say. That is not veganism as I see it.

My hunter friends are absolutely ethical, and truly believe in living as with, and caring for, nature as possible. Are they vegan? Why not? They meet every standard as you wrote
I think that they are living consistently with vegan ethics. ALL of our ethics depend on circumstances and context, willingness and motivation. We've tackled this with crop deaths. Your argument seems to be that so long as you eat plant-based, it doesn't matter what damage is caused to the environment or the harm caused to other animals to produce those crops, because the ethics don't matter. Rules are what matters.
 
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I suppose I just don't follow your argument. Ethics are moral principles that guide our behaviour. So, why do you want to live this lifestyle? Just because you like to follow some rules? Or are you doing it to accord with a moral belief about how we should treat other animals? If the latter, then you are adopting a moral stance and pursuing certain ethical principles, which is precisely what veganism is about. If though you just ike to follow rules, well.... what can I say. That is not veganism as I see it.


I think that they are living consistently with vegan ethics. ALL of our ethics depend on circumstances and context, willingness and motivation. We've tackled this with crop deaths. Your argument seems to be that so long as you eat plant-based, it doesn't matter what damage is caused to the environment or the harm caused to other animals to produce those crops, because the ethics don't matter. Rules are what matters.
why bother having words to catagorize anything then?
Orthodox religions have far more stringent rules than simply being a Christian or Jewish, but with your idea of all being equal there is no reason to identify as orthodox--you're simply ethical, or at best, religious.

Veganism is more than having ethics about welfare, it's the idea that animals should not be used. People are not buying eggs from happy chickens not because they have no ethics but because it's a very expensive way to buy eggs. People that want eggs want eggs, and that demand means raising hens that get to have all the roaming grazing land they need, never killing roosters, finding ways to let the roosters live.....means expensive eggs. In reality, if people are more concerned with ethics, and cannot afford eggs ethically produced, they won't eat eggs. This of course also means ethical ('vegan eggs') further solidify the idea that veganism is only for the privileged.
 
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why bother having words to catagorize anything then?
Orthodox religions have far more stringent rules than simply being a Christian or Jewish, but with your idea of all being equal there is no reason to identify as orthodox--you're simply ethical, or at best, religious.
I'm not saying "veganism" has no meaning, but rather that it emerges from moral considerations. You have defined veganism as a lifestyle, whatever that means. I don't agree. The lifestyle is the consequence of the moral and ethical principles. Just as with religions. You can't say you do X (where X is choice about behaviours) without having some reason for that. If the reason for doing X is to follow rules, fine. But at that point you have abandoned any moral imperative for anyone - including you - to do likewise.

I don't think you really mean this. I think you are taking a moral stand and pursuing moral principles - ethics - in being vegan.

Veganism is more than having ethics about welfare, it's the idea that animals should not be used. People are not buying eggs from happy chickens not because they have no ethics but because it's a very expensive way to buy eggs. People that want eggs want eggs, and that demand means raising hens that get to have all the roaming grazing land they need, never killing roosters, finding ways to let the roosters live.....means expensive eggs. In reality, if people are more concerned with ethics, and cannot afford eggs ethically produced, they won't eat eggs. This of course also means ethical ('vegan eggs') further solidify the idea that veganism is only for the privileged.

I still don't follow your line of reasoning. First, I said nothing about the "ethics" of welfare. Second, we aren't talking about buying eggs. We are talking about being given eggs that have been produced in a very ethical way. A way that is largely consistent vegan ethics, hence the idea that such eggs could be called "vegan-friendly". I am making no claim about buying eggs commercially beyond agreeing that is not vegan-friendly nor saying anything about what people do more generally.

I don't think we are disagreeing, at the end of the day.
 
I'm finding this thread fascinating. Unfortunately, I cannot engage in the debate as I am pretty black and white. Nothing about eggs/dairy is vegan to me. But I am enjoying reading the back and forth.