I used to eat a lot of eggs, on the premise that eating just the eggs doesn’t hurt chickens. I imagined the idyllic barnyard of yesteryear, with a dozen hens pecking wherever they like, enjoying life in the warmth of the sun, dustbathing, and forming social bonds, free to move about with a few chicks in tow and each hen with a cozy personal nest to lay her eggs in when she wanted to. Of course, Farmer John would occasionally whack off someone’s head with his axe on special occasions to eat the oldest, over-the-hill bird, but until those last few seconds, life would be good for the hens. I turned a blind eye to the realities of modern-day agriculture.
Then I saw the video “Meet Your Meat,” which shows how egg—laying hens are treated on factory farms. The footage shows how their beaks are chopped off so that they can be crammed into unconscionably tiny cages without pecking their cellmates—each allotted a space the size of an 8-inch-by-11-inch piece of paper for their entire lives. The concept of chopping off part of someone’s face and sentencing her to a life of sheer hell just to save space is wrong on so many levels that I can’t even imagine who could think up something like that. Suffice it to say that I haven’t eaten an egg since I watched that video. And I set aside any naïve notion I may have had that the pain of slaughter only involves the last few seconds of life. You’ll find none of the kindness of Farmer John on today’s factory farms, as “Meet Your Meat” makes painfully clear.
The abuse involved in providing billions of eggs for human consumption every year doesn’t stop with the hens. If a chicken is born male, he may be spared the months of hellish confinement that his sisters face, but his suffering is equally nightmarish. Since males are of no use to the egg-laying industry, they are killed. Many are callously manhandled, crammed onto conveyor belts, and then forced into a meat grinder while fully conscious and still peeping. This is the reality for more than 200 million of these poor chicks each year. They are victims of a factory without a conscience, with machines designed for moving them around like items before grinding them into pulp. The easiest way to help shut down this cruel industry is for consumers to simply stop buying and eating eggs.
There are numerous tasty substitutes for vegan cooking that don’t involve cruelty to animals. For many years, I have been using apple sauce or flax seeds to replace eggs in nonvegan recipes. I prefer flax seeds: 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds plus 2 tablespoons of water, mixed up to replace one egg. A bonus: Flax seeds contain plenty of omega-3. You can also use bananas or even buy “egg replacer” pre-packaged in a box ready to go.
On a recent visit with friends, I was treated to a breakfast of scrambled tofu that got the day off to a great start. Way better than scrambled eggs: plenty of protein, nicely spiced with onions and a bit of curry—a regular down-home, stove-top breakfast, just like Mom used to make back on her childhood farm. And no chickens were harmed!