Egg-Laying Hens: Mothers, Not Machines

Is it ethical to eat eggs?

Chickens are inquisitive, intelligent animals. In nature, they live in large social groups with complex hierarchies (aka “pecking orders”) that reflect their distinct personalities.

Yet the current demand for eggs in Australia means that millions of these birds spend their entire lives inside cramped cages, never able to stretch their wings, breathe fresh air, or feel the sun on their backs. They lay eggs every day until, exhausted, they’re sent to their deaths.

Crowded Cages, Broken Birds

About 16 million hens are used for eggs in Australia, and the majority of them are kept inside severely crowded battery cages and typically given less space than the size of an A4 piece of paper. A single shed can contain up to 100,000 hens.

These birds’ existence is a living hell. The wire mesh of the cages rubs off their feathers, chafes their skin, and cripples their feet. Farmers cut off part of their beak with an electrically heated blade when they’re just a few days old to prevent them from pecking each other to death out of stress caused by the severe crowding. The hens often sustain broken bones and suffer from osteoporosis, and disease runs rampant in the filthy sheds. Many birds die, and the survivors are often forced to live alongside their rotting bodies.

Battery Cage Chickens.

Male Chicks: Discarded and Killed at a Day Old

All egg farmers – even those on “free-range” farms – are faced with a universal “problem” when it comes to hatching chicks to be raised for laying. Because male chicks can’t lay eggs and haven’t been bred to produce excessive flesh for meat, they’re regarded as useless and thrown away. This means half the chicks born into the egg industry face a horrific death the very day they’re born: they’re either left to suffocate in a gas chamber or thrown into a high-speed meat grinder while still alive. Every year in Australia, around 12 million male chicks are killed as waste products of the egg industry.

Chicks minced alive.

Sentenced to Slaughter

The male chicks’ mothers and sisters are hardly more fortunate. Although chickens can live for more than a decade, hens raised for their eggs are able to keep up intensive laying for only about two years. Regardless of their living conditions, once their production begins to wane, they’re shipped off and killed. Shoved into small crates, they endure a harrowing journey to the abattoir. Once there, the birds’ legs are shackled and their throats are cut (often while they’re still conscious). Their bodies end up as “low-grade” meat such as the type used for dog food.

A free-range egg farm.

The ‘Free-Range’ Fallacy

“Free-range” does not mean cruelty-free. In most of these systems, thousands of birds are packed together in sheds. Farmers are able to have up to 10,000 hens per hectare of landand still use the “free-range” label, and male chicks are still minced alive.

Ultimately, these animals are treated as no more than egg-laying machines and subjected to stressful, uncomfortable conditions before being killed in the same abattoirs where battery-cage chickens are killed. There’s no way around it – the only way to prevent chickens from suffering for food is to stop eating their eggs and their flesh altogether.

Female Menstruation Farming

Most people don’t associate eggs with chicken menstruation, but they should. Chickens naturally have cycles that are similar to those of female humans, producing around 15 eggs per year. But the egg industry has manipulated hens’ reproductive systems to include extra laying cycles, causing them to produce as many as 300 eggs per year. Because of this, the birds often suffer from cysts, infections, ovarian carcinomas, and other reproductive tumours – and sometimes,multiple eggs become lodged inside them. Their bones often shatter from osteoporosis because their bodies are made to produce massive quantities of eggshells. Because female birds are exploited for their reproductive organs, feminists should not eat eggs.

Sad Baby Chick

Eggs Can Be Harmful to Your Health

Eggs are extremely high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. They’re also a common cause of salmonellaand other types of food poisoning. Another health concern is the massive overuse of antibiotics in the egg industry. Stuffing chickens with huge doses of drugs is thought to result in dangerous drug-resistant superbugs.

What You Can Do

Turning your back on the callous cruelty of the egg industry is simple – just stop eating eggs! It’s the kindest thing you can do for chickens, along with not eating their flesh. There are plenty of scrumptious substitutes: try a tasty tofu scramble for breakfast, and use bananas or applesauce instead of eggs in your cookies and cakes.