All use of animals, for whatever human ends, is wrong and exploitative. Whether those animals are on a factory farm or in someone’s backyard, in a medical laboratory or in a zoo, the treatment and living conditions of the animals change nothing about the inherent exploitation of the situation. In the case of agriculture, so-called “humane” animal products entail many of the same practices that are used on large-scale industrial farms: for example, conducting procedures like castration, de-beaking, and disbudding of horns without anesthesia; premature slaughter of animals based on productivity and market value, not natural lifespan; withholding medical treatment because of costs and the low value of farmed animals; and transport to and “processing” in the same slaughterhouses used for factory-farmed animals.
But, to repeat, these methods of treatment and living conditions are not what determines whether using animals is right or wrong. They are only symptomatic of the underlying problem: that viewing animals as means to ends, as commodities, will always and inevitably create instances of exploitation. There is no escaping that.
Many people focusing on factory farming as the REAL problem, but factory farming simply takes to the extreme (and sickly logical) conclusion the underlying belief that non-human animals are human “property” (hence the word livestock) to be used for whatever purposes we deem acceptable and necessary. This means that, even if factory farming was stopped today, the exploitation of animals and their unnecessary suffering would continue, indefinitely, until humans stopped all forms of use.
We most often encounter the humane myth when it comes to eggs. People tend to see eggs as benign foodstuffs that chickens “just lay anyway,” so eating them is no big deal.
The sad reality is that the biology of modern chicken egg production is a case study in domestication’s damaging effects on living beings. The victimization of hens begins before they are born and is carried in their bodies until death. All for the sake of human consumption of eggs, these wonderful beings have been manipulated to lay at such frightening rates that their bodies are virtually ticking time bombs. The wild ancestors of modern chickens lay 12-15 eggs per year, solely for reproduction. The hens whose eggs we steal lay between 250-300 annually, and typically live for only a few years before they die. This absurd laying rate takes such a toll on their bodies that it causes, directly or indirectly, a whole host of devastating health problems: cancer, egg yolk peritonitis, impacted oviducts, osteoporosis and other bone conditions, and many more.
Whether a hen is in a battery cage, on a “free-range” farm, or in a backyard flock, the biology is the same…the exploitation is unchanged.
Backyard and other so-called “humane” eggs are not a step in the “right” direction, or a “better alternative” to factory-farmed eggs. There is no such thing as an ethical egg.
The only better alternative for the animals is to go vegan.
(Pictured above: Bibi, the amazing little hen. Read her story at https://trianglechanceforall.org/residents.)