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a Vegan Shell Out
for Free-Range Eggs?
What is the vegan position on free-range
"Free-range" is not a legal industry
term; therefore it is essentially meaningless. Farmers
use the term to imply that they practice a more humane
standard of production but, in reality, there is no
regulation regarding how the word is interpreted or
used. Although most consumers imagine free-range hens
have access to the outdoors with plenty of sunlight,
vegetation, and normal social interaction, to most egg
producers, the "range" is simply a bigger cage than
those in which battery-caged hens are kept.
Free-range egg farming is, above all
else, a business. Consequently, profit surpasses concern
for the animals' comfort, welfare, or behavioral needs.
In addition, it is common for free-range layers to be
debeaked just like battery-caged layers.
But even if free-range hens were treated
with kindness and given all the space they could use,
they will still be killed for meat when their egg production
wanes, usually after one or two years, even though in
a natural environment a hen could live fifteen years.
And, like all other animals raised for food, they will
be subjected to the horrors and abuses of transportation,
handling, and slaughter.
An inherent problem with all egg production,
whether free-range or battery-caged, is the disposal
of unwanted male chicks at the hatchery. Because male
chicks don't lay eggs and do not grow fast enough to
be raised profitably for meat, they are deemed a financial
liability, except for the few used as rooster studs.
On average, one rooster is used to service ten hens.
Hence, nine out of ten male chicks are considered virtually
useless and will be killed by the cheapest means available,
including suffocation and being ground up alive.
No matter what words or systems are
used to candy coat animal production, when we treat
sentient beings as commodities we invariably invite
abuse. From a vegan perspective, the use of animals
for human profit or gain, regardless of how they are
raised or treated, is incompatible with vegan principles
and the practice of compassionate living.
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