{A-Z:Veganism} E is for Eggs

E is for…


During my time as a vegan, I have been asked (more than a few times) why I don’t eat free-range eggs. People understand why I don’t eat cage eggs- anyone with half a shred of common sense realises that the battery system is abhorrent.*

So, while I have never had to justify my ‘boycott’ of cage eggs, I have had to explain my opposition to free-range eggs.

As someone who subscribes to a vegan ethic, I do not support a system where hens are valued only for their capacity to produce eggs.

Regardless of the egg production method in place, when a hen stops laying eggs, she is regarded as worthless, unprofitable. Invariably, this means that she is slaughtered. Chickens, like all non-human animals, do not exist for the benefit of humans. A hen lays an egg as part of her reproductive cycle. She does not lay eggs for humans.

Moreover, there is another significant issue that influences my opposition to free-range systems (and other egg production systems):

Male chicks.

Do you ever wonder where the male chickens (roosters) are hanging out while the hens are doing all the egg-laying? Free- range, barn and cage systems require only egg layers, that is, hens. Roosters are not required.

Hatcheries breed ‘egg laying’ hens for free-range, barn, and cage systems.

In hatcheries, the eggs mature in industrial incubators. Obviously, there is a 50% chance of each egg containing a male chick.

What happens to male chicks?

When the chicks hatch they join a ‘production line’, where they are inspected to determine their sex. Apparently, it is not an easy task to differentiate males from females, so the ‘inspectors’ are required to be skilled at this process. Female chicks are separated from male chicks. Female chicks will go on to provide eggs in free-range, barn, or cage facilities.

Male chicks do not leave the facility alive. They are regarded as ‘unwanted by-products of egg production’. They are killed shortly after their emergence from their egg. Weak and sickly female chicks are killed too.

According to the Hatchery Management section of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry 4th ed. there are 2 ‘recommended’ methods by which male (and ‘unwanted’ female) chicks may be killed:

1. Quick maceration, or

2. Carbon dioxide gassing.

There are videos of male chicks being macerated and gassed in hatcheries, on YouTube. I cannot watch them. I won’t inflict them on you either. I feel repulsed by the thought of a live, newborn chick being ‘ground up’ by sharp blades. My heart aches when I envisage a tiny, delicate being, newly emerged from his egg, gasping for oxygen.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) Australia, quick maceration is preferable to carbon dioxide gassing. The RSPCA states:

‘Gassing results in gasping and head shaking and, depending on the mixture of gases used, it may take up to two minutes for the chick to die’.

However, the Hen Welfare Advisory Group states, in relation to male chicks:

‘The majority are humanely destroyed as day-old chicks using carbon dioxide’.

Humanely destroyed? What an oxymoron that is!

If the Humane Welfare Advisory Group (HWAG) is correct – and most chicks in Australia are killed by carbon dioxide gassing – then, by the standards of the RSPCA, the majority of chicks are dying by the least ‘humane’ of these two gruesome methods.

Both of these ‘disposal’ methods sound horrific to me.

Male chicks are bred by humans, and they are killed by machines or poisonous gas at the hands of humans.  They are regarded as ‘surplus hatchlings’. Only their sisters are prized. Their only ‘fault’ is to be born male and, therefore, unprofitable.**

Male and female chicks born at hatcheries never know the nurturing touch and gentle guidance of a mother. They emerge from their eggs into an industrial incubator, to a ‘motherless’ existence. An unnatural and heartless existence.

Free-range systems are not ‘cruelty free’. The killing of 50% of the chicks born at hatcheries cannot be overlooked or disregarded.

I do not believe that the killing of male chicks in hatcheries can be separated from the egg production method. To me, an egg, whether free range or cage, represents the killing of male chicks.

In addition, some hatcheries promote day-old female chicks for use in ‘backyard’ egg production systems. One hatchery charges $3.50 per female chick.

For some male chicks, another fate awaits them. One Australian hatchery advertises live chicks for $1.50 each in their reptile food section. No doubt they are male chicks.

Chicks. They commonly decorate Easter cards. They are a symbol of life and renewal. Chicks are undeniably cute, fluffy and fragile. Children adore them. I believe that my children would be horrified and outraged to learn of the sacrifice that male chicks are forced to make in order to satisfy humanity’s appetite for scrambled eggs.*** I imagine most children would be.

Chicken eggs are not necessary for human health. We can nurture our bodies, and our children’s bodies, without consuming eggs.

Did you know about the killing of male chicks? What are your thoughts? Are YOU outraged?



For tips on baking and cooking without eggs, go to VegWeb Guide to Egg Replacers


* The industry still defends the ‘battery’ system method. The Hen Welfare Advisory Group states: ‘the weight of scientific evidence shows that cages systems provide many welfare benefits to hens compared to other methods, including reduced cannibalism, better disease control and lower overall mortalities’.

** Of course, the life of a female chick is not a ‘walk in the park’. She will live her days in a cage, barn or free range system- her body valued only for as long as she is able to produce eggs. Ultimately, she will be slaughtered when her role as an ‘egg layer’ is over.

*** Up until now, we have told our children that chickens do not like humans to take their eggs. This has been a sufficient explanation. I do not look forward to the day that they will discover the unpalatable truth about male chicks.


In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

About Ally
Mamma. Vegan. I blog at Made of Stars.

24 Responses to {A-Z:Veganism} E is for Eggs

  1. susykat says:

    Yes, I am extremely outraged. Egg production certainly hinges on misery, doesn’t it? It absolutely sickens me that male chicks are simply treated as garbage and killed in such a violent manner. I would hope that if more people knew about this, that they would reject eating eggs altogether. Thanks for providing this informative piece, Ally.

    • Ally says:

      Thanks for reading it Su!
      I couldn’t help but see the parallels between bobby calves and male chicks- both unwanted, both regarded as by-products. I truly hope that people will change their eating habits once they learn about chicks and calves.

  2. andra muhoberac says:

    I reckon Ellen should read your blog! I sent her an email today on her website. I really love Ellen and don’t want to see her get bashed over this but it is important that anyone who claims to be vegan totally understand the implications, that they embrace the entire philosophy. Your “E is for Eggs” is a perfect explanation of why eggs from any source are not vegan.

    Did you have coffee with Sienna?�

    oo’s, Andra


  3. Xiomara says:

    Ahh. I wrote a comment and it got deleted.

    On top of the free range eggs question, I often face the “what if you have chicken in your backyard question”. How would you address this?

    I didn’t know about the gassing method and could not bear to watch those videos either.

    I really enjoy your A-Zs and like to make up in my head what the next letter will be about. I predict F is Factory farming :p

    • Xiomara says:

      Deleted by WordPress I mean not you, ally:)

    • Ally says:

      Oh you won’t believe it! My comment was just wiped before I had finished it. Aargh! It was 4 paragraphs long.
      Are you using the WordPress app? I am.
      I’ll get back to it I promise. There is a lot to say about the backyard issue. I’m glad you asked.
      I am happy that you enjoy A-Z! F is not for Factory Farming but that was a good surmation:)

  4. Very well said Ally. There is no way around it: free-range, caged or backyard hens all come from hatcheries. Hatcheries kill chickens. You eat eggs, you give cash to the killing machine. If you care about animals, you don’t eat eggs. There are no loop holes in my books.

  5. Vanessa says:

    It was easy to be vegetarian until I realized the truth about male chicks. It’s unfortunate more people don’t realize where these little guys end up. Definitely makes giving up eggs a no-brainer. Great post!

    • Ally says:

      Thanks Vanessa. Yes, I wish more people knew about the plight of male chicks. I hope that most people would act once they knew the truth. The sheer numbers of chicks killed per year is staggering.
      Thanks for your comment Vanessa.

  6. Ally this post make me do sad and sick to my stomach. I have turned vegetarian recently for ethical reasons . I feel disgusted when i think that we nurture and shelter our children from even the slightest of unpleasant situations but so nonchalantly destroy other living beings. Wonderful post, thank you! Now I know why I don’t eat eggs though it’s “considered” vegetarian in most places!!! My heart knew. Regards Ramya xxx

    • Ally says:

      Hi Ramya, I’m sorry that my post made you feel sad and sick. It really is heart breaking isn’t it? Yes, humans do a good job of compartmentalising issues- we love and nurture our own babies, but give little regard to the babies of other species; many people care for companion animals but have little regard for the suffering of the animal that ends up on their dinner plate.
      Thank you for visiting. I hope you are able to find another post here that does not make you feel sad.
      Kind regards,

  7. mrsnikkiv says:

    As a new vegan, I am often asked why I’m not just vegetarian, because it’s so much easier. I explain about the poor, unwanted male chicks and the lifetime of misery to which female chicks are subjected. I won’t contribute to that just for some french toast. It’s the same way I feel about milk. I will not go along with the dairy industry and, therefore, the veal industry in their enslaving and torture of animals for the benefit of a chocolate shake or some cheese once in a while.

    I love the A-Z series you’re doing!

  8. Ally says:

    Hi Nikki! I’m glad you are enjoying the A-Z series. Thank you! I am enjoying researching and writing it. F is for…. will be up shortly.
    I became vegan for the same reasons as you. I can’t accept that bobby calves and male chicks are the ‘surplus’ or ‘unwanted by-products’.
    Thanks for visiting! I look forward to reading your views on other topics.:)

  9. Pingback: {A-Z:Veganism} H is for Hatching Project « Made of Stars

  10. Joe McGrath says:

    Another point that is really relevant to this is the definition of “free range”. In most cases, that simply means they have “the opportunity to access the outside world” or something similar, which in practice means there is a single, tiny door in the side of a barn filled with thousands of hens, leading to a small outside enclosure. Most hens are too messed up by their traumatic lives that they never even realise they can go “outside”.

  11. The movie, Vegucated (you will have to watch it some day girl!), graphically shows baby chicks being ground up alive for dog food. It’s horrible to watch, but I’m sure it’s much worse for the chicks! This movie is what prompted me to become an ‘ethical vegan’ instead of just someone following a plant-based diet for my health. I even switched my dog to a vegan diet after watching Vegucated, but he started throwing up yellow bile everyday, so I’ve switched him back to eating meat. I hate that I’m feeding him meat (probably ground up chicks), but I don’t know how to feed him vegan and keep him healthy. I’ve heard that some vegans are able to successfully transition their dogs to a vegan diet, so I suppose I need to learn what exactly they feed their dogs. Celeste:)

    • Joe McGrath says:

      I feed my dog a mix of different vegan dog foods. Most commercial dog foods are actually mostly plant based anyway, so it’s not as big a shift as you might think. They’re slightly more expensive than the “normal” dog food, but it’s still a miniscule amount when you really think about it.

      The key was just a slow transition, we slowly gave her a higher and higher proportion of the vegan foods each day over the course of a couple of weeks, which makes it easier to adjust. She’s noticeably more energetic now, and she was in great shape before so that’s saying something!

      • Hey Joe! Thanks for your comment – I appreciate it! You’ve given me the courage to try this again. The only vegan dog food I’ve been able to find in our area is Natural Balance, and I don’t want to use that again. I suppose I can look online for some other vegan dog food brands. Thanks! Celeste:)

      • Joe McGrath says:

        You’re welcome! There aren’t any vegan dog foods available in shops around here either (I get the feeling that anyone who sold them would be attacked by an angry mob claiming it was animal cruelty…), but I’ve found a few websites that deliver throughout Europe, often with reasonable delivery prices. I’d assume it’s even easier in the US since it’s a single country! I’ve just checked the brands I use and they’re mostly Europe only, so unfortunately I can’t recommend any for you, but good luck with finding some anyway!

      • Thanks Joe – I appreciate the support!

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