During an interview with Ellen Pompeo this week, Ellen DeGeneres revealed that she eats eggs from her neighbor’s chickens, “because they’re happy.”
Backyard chickens are an often argued point between vegans, vegetarians and “conscious carnivores.” Because the chickens do have a good life, and the eggs don’t really serve any purpose once they are laid, many can’t understand why vegans would object.
As a vegan, I have three reasons. The first is that most people order hens from hatcheries, and hatcheries kill rooster chicks the day they are hatched by grinding, suffocation or electrocution. Special “no-kill” hatcheries sell their roosters at livestock auctions, where they may be sold for cockfighting, meat, or if they’re the lucky few, companions for laying hens.
The second is that layer hens are often killed for stew meat when they stop producing, usually after 2-3 years. A hen’s natural life is 8-10 years, and some can live as long as 20 years.
But ultimately, the reason vegans don’t eat backyard eggs is that we don’t use animals for our personal pleasure or gain. Eating eggs just isn’t vegan. It is however, vegetarian, and being a conscious ovo-vegetarian isn’t the worst thing to be. Taking into account everything I said above, eggs from well cared for backyard hens are still the most ethical way you can get eggs, if eating eggs fits into your ethics. Ellen has done a tremendous amount of work promoting plant based diets and animal welfare, and hopefully she’s not done doing that work. I do hope she’ll maintain her Going Vegan with Ellen page, even if it is a little inaccurate at this point.