If you're a vegan you're used to getting a lot of questions about your lifestyle. Some questions come out of curiosity, others are meant to challenge your beliefs. One question I receive pretty regularly is: "if you had a cow & chickens in your backyard, would you drink milk & eat eggs?" In other words, is the cruel dairy industry and lack of control over it what's stopping you from consuming? Most vegans will answer no to this (including me) because they don't want to use animals in any way, no matter what. However, there are certainly some who become vegan to boycott the meat and dairy industries, so they may eat dairy and eggs if in the backyard.
I grew up on a small farm with chickens as pets yet my family eats their eggs, my friend across the street has ducks for their eggs, and the family down the street raises livestock solely for the purpose of eating them. Though I don't eat any of these animal products, I will say that if someone is going to I'd rather they do it this way. The people I know that do say they do it for taste and health. While taking eggs from birds nests doesn't disturb them too much, I can't imagine taking an animals life for food, especially after they've lived in your backyard and might even have a name...
But this post is about dairy & eggs, not meat. The reason I'm often asked the above question is because it doesn't seem very cruel to take these products directly from animals that are living a happy life. My personal view is that we shouldn't take anything from living creatures, including dairy and eggs, for the following reasons:
- It's not ours to take. Don't you think chickens get upset when their eggs are taken away from them with no logically explanation? Can you imagine what it would be like to have some stranger come up and suck milk out of your nipples that was meant for your newborn?
- We're not meant to drink milk from other species. We're the only species that drinks the milk of another species, so our bodies are not designed to drink it. Plus, cow's milk is made to raise healthy calves, and I don't think any of us want to develop the body of a cow.
- We don't need milk or eggs. We can easily get calcium, protein, fat, and vitamins from plant sources. As for taste, if you like milk, try a nut based alternative. If you like eggs, try tofu for meals and banana, flax, or Ener-G egg replacer for baking. Check out this great list of egg substitutes.
- It's not that healthy. Despite all the advertisements, dairy and eggs aren't really super foods. For examples, eggs are high in cholesterol and milk contains a lot of fat. Click here for a great list of the health benefits of going vegan.
- Milk & dairy is kinda gross. Most milk contains a lot of pus from rough handling, and eggs are chicken ovulation - no thanks!
There are a lot of other reasons not to consume mil and dairy and many of them were vocalized when I posed this question on Facebook & Twitter, such as:
- Vegans don't use animals. Treatment is not the issue. I will add that chickens eat their own eggs to replace the calcium they lose from being bred to be egg laying machines. You'd have to impregnate a cow for your milk, which would be unethical, as would breading your cow. If we eat animal products, it is a choice we make, not a necessity. Since we have no biological need to consume animal products, the question becomes: why do we believe that we can use animals? Why do we think that we can breed, confine, torture and ultimately murder animals for food when we have no need? It is a speciesist mindset that believes that human beings have the right to use animals, that mindset flows into racism, sexism and all other isms of superiority.
- Removing the eggs for human consumption prevents the hen from nuturing the eggs (even if they're not fertile) and it sends her body into a laying mode again prematurely. So her body is sapped of calcium and other nutrients because they go into the constant egg-laying. A weakened hen can have serious medical problems at that point, including prolapse, which can lead to death. So no. I wouldn't eat the eggs of evenly the most humanely treated chickens.
- For me personally no. what started out as a movement against the factory farming & cruelty industry, quickly became as much about my health & that of my family, as it is about compassion. reading The China Study really spells it out in a manner that is absolutely undeniable.
- Wouldn't you have to catch these animals and confine them? yes. Question answered game over.
- The issue is about the 'ownership' of the chicken. Why do we think we can take animals from nature, breed them to be of use to us, then sell them as property?
- I would not eat these.. I am so happy with eating fruits and veggies.. My body does not even want these flesh foods anymore.
- I think it would be really time-consuming for an individual to farm animals
- Most humans lose the ability to digest lactose after infancy since it's a waste of energy to produce it, because there is no reason to be drinking milk once you are done nursing. Additionally, it appears that those who do not consume dairy have fewer problems with a wide range of health problems. It seems quite clear that our bodies are not happy when we consume milk (aside from human breast milk as an infant), and if you really think about it the idea is very disgusting. Similar points could be made about eggs.
- The problem with that is where the chickens come from. It's hard to buy chickens anywhere without getting them from a place that killed the roosters. But let's say you rescued some chickens from a factory farm and now they live on your land and are well cared for and happy. I don't think it's nutritionally necessary for them to eat their own eggs, so why NOT eat the eggs? Not saying I would, I'm just saying I don't see anything ethically wrong with it at all. I don't think I would because I'd feel a tab hypocritical I guess.\
- Absolutely not. The milk is for the calves. We used to have some rescued battery hens and did not eat the eggs. We either fed the eggs back to them (calcium and other nutrients) or just got rid. It's waste and we don't need to eat it. Some animals eat their waste to get the nutrients their body missed first time round.
- I grew up in a household with cows in our backyard. They were like pets, and I was brought up drinking their mammary excretions while brainwashed that it was good for me. Today, the thought of it grosses me out and I could never do it again.
- The only way I'd eat either one is if I were starving,and there was no other food.
- Personally, no ... but all vegans are different. As Jonathan Safran Foer points out in Eating Animals, the living conditions of animals are important, but so are the conditions in which they're born/ hatched. So I would want to know how their mothers were treated. And presumably, the backyard managerie would be all females, leading me to ask, "What happened to their brothers?"
- Do I eat my dog' poo or cat fur? Nope. Dont eat my own period nor a hens.
Some pro dairy or egg comments:
- I wouldn't drink the milk but I might eat an occasional egg. I'm new to (leaning into) Vegan and grew up having cattle and chickens that were well treated (but the cows were sold and I didn't EVER like that). The more I know the more I move away from animal products. My dad still has chickens that are free range and they provide a nice service of controlling some of the bug population (so no chemicals). They lay far more eggs than the property could support in chickens..... haven't figured that life cycle out yet. Most of the chicks would be killed by predators.
- I had been thinking that, because i want to own a cow and a couple chickens. No milk, it just disgusts me too much. And, eggs i need to think about. If my chickens want to eat them, they can do that; but if they lay too many to each i may have the occasional egg because i know i'm being good to my animals :3
- my grannies they have chicks in the back of the house and i think there is nothing wrong with eating eggs from them as any cruelty is involved. they live very close to them, take so much care so it is like cooperating somehow. The same if you would have cow and drink milk from them. no hurt, only pure love.
- Curious... while I agree cow milk is not meant for anyone but baby cows, I have to ask: foxes, raccoon, all other manner of animals regularly and whenever possible dine on chicken eggs, all other bird eggs, turtle eggs, alligator eggs, any egg any mammal can get their paws on. What does that make them? Brutal? Inherently evil? Unethical? Or, they just don't know better and cannot make choices like people can? Eggs are laid by chickens regardless. Just let them rot? Isn't that wasteful?
- I would never keep a cow or a chicken.. aside from this, in a "natural" situation I would not drink milk but I would sometimes eat eggs
- I would never drink the milk of a pet cow because their milk is meant for their babies and it's screwed up to drink it. However, if I had *rescued* hens I would eat their eggs. I'd give them a chance to sit on their eggs and hatch them if they showed interest. I'd only eat the eggs that would otherwise rot.
- Milk no, I think its gross but eggs for sure
- I come from a community and family of farmers. I personally dont see a problem with consuming animal products that you are 100% responsible for. But thats just me.
Got another opinion? Share it in a comment.