{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!

{A-Z:Veganism} D is for Dairy Industry

D is for…

Dairy industry.

Recently, I wrote about bobby calves. Today, I want to examine the messages that the Australian dairy industry disseminates to children, specifically primary school students.

What is the dairy industry telling school students about cows’ milk, and the lives of dairy cows and bobby calves?

To answer this question, I visited Dairy Australia’s website, Discover Dairy. Visitors to the site can explore sections aimed at students, teachers, and canteen staff. Apparently, Dairy Australia developed the section for teachers, in order to:

‘engage and educate teachers and students about the Australian dairy industry and the nutritious products it provides’.

Teachers and students are introduced to 3 ‘learning’ modules – Unbeatable Bones, Fuel for Life and Farm to Plate. Teachers are encouraged to ‘Discover Dairy with [their] students today!’.

The site includes lesson ideas and student activity sheets for primary school children covering subjects such as art, mathematics, English, and science & technology.

Fresian Cow


What is the industry telling children about the lives of cows and calves on dairy farms?

In the section aimed at students, I navigated to Games and Interactives. I imagine this is the most popular section for students. Lets face it, any self-respecting 8 year old would head straight there!

I viewed two ‘interactives’:

The Milk from Farm to Plate – What’s it all About? interactive has this to say about the ‘milk cycle’: ‘Milk is created inside the udders of dairy cows on the farm’. It then describes the pumps that ‘gently suck milk from the cow’. There is no mention of her calf.

This interactive provides the illusion that cows naturally or automatically lactate, that they need to be milked by humans. It fails to mention that cows lactate as a consequence of giving birth.

The second interactive is titled: How do Dairy Cows Make Milk?  It begins: ‘ How dairy cows make milk is really cool’. It then describes the four stomachs that cows possess – it is interesting. No doubt about that. But, I was left thinking: hang on! We (humans) are drinking the milk of a species with four stomachs?! It is truly absurd!

The interactive states: ‘Milk is stored in the udder until the cow is milked’ – as though the milk  is just waiting there in a vessel, for humans. For our convenience. It does not mention that the milk is produced for her baby. Children are not told that the cow’s baby would suckle many times throughout the day. There is definitely no mention of the fact that a cow’s udder can become painful and engorged, and that cows can suffer from mastitis. No, the milk is just filling up her udder, ready to be ‘gently’ sucked out by a machine.

Clearly, the ‘interactives’ only tell part of the story.

What about the 3 ‘learning’ modules?

I discovered a reference to calves in the module From Farm to Plate. In a section called Hand-Feeding Calves, it states:

‘After only 12 to 24 hours, calves are weaned off their mothers but are still given milk to drink. The first milk they are given comes straight from their mother and is called colostrum…The colostrum is milked into a bucket which is then transferred to a bottle with a very large teat on the end and fed to the calf’

This paragraph glosses over the severing of the maternal-calf  bond. The industry wants children to believe that life is good for a calf:

The calves soon learn to eat grass and often get to eat the best pasture on the farm to help them grow strong’.

Calves are denied a relationship with their mothers. They are fed from an artificial teat. They are only a day (or less) old. But, apparently, children should not be concerned, because the calves are compensated for this loss by having access to ‘the best pasture’.

There is no mention of male calves, shipped to specialist calf-rearing properties or slaughterhouses. The information gives the impression that calves have an idyllic life in a lush green paddock. Rather, a female calf will ‘grow up’ to be a dairy cow herself, and endure repeated pregnancies and loss of offspring.

peek a moo


In another location, I read this:

‘Male calves become bulls and are often sold’. 

The key phrase is ‘often sold’. Sold to whom? For what purpose? The use of ‘often sold’ implies that some are not sold. What happens to them? Dairy Australia asserts that bobby calves are the foundation of their industry, so why aren’t they telling children the truth about them?

In reality, bobby calves are not given high priority by the industry. A bobby calf’s only ‘use’ is his ability to initiate his mother’s lactation.

At 5 days old, calves can be transported, and the industry standard permits the withholding of milk from calves for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered. They certainly aren’t sharing that information with children.

The module From Farm to Plate includes a section titled ‘How cows make milk’. Here, calves are mentioned in connection with milk production:

A cow only starts to produce milk once her first calf is born.’

The module states that:   

‘Most cows give about 25 litres of milk a day.’

The use of the term ‘give’ implies that cows are willing participants in their enslavement. Obviously, the milk is ‘taken’ or ‘stolen’. This misuse of language disguises the reality of dairy cows’ lives.

Under the heading ‘Milking Time‘, I was disturbed to read the following :

‘Milking time is an enjoyable experience for the cows for many reasons. Sometimes the farmer plays soothing music in the background to relax the cows. It is important that cows are kept happy because they need to be relaxed to produce their milk’ .

A ‘happy’ cow. (Source: Discover Dairy)

I wonder what style of music ‘keeps’ cows happy, and compensates for the loss of a baby? Mozart? Moby? Muse? Despite the assertion that there are ‘many reasons’ that milking time is ‘enjoyable’, no further information of this nature is provided. Perhaps they’ll start telling children that the gentle sucking of the machines is quite relaxing, and preferable to the constant suckling of a baby.

What is the industry telling children about dairy products?

Children are told that dairy is ‘fuel for life‘, and that they require 3 serves a day.

(Fuel for life? That is actually true. A cow’s milk is fuel for her calf; nourishment that is biologically designed to promote bovine life).

Children are encouraged to:

‘speak to [their] teacher or principal about adopting a healthy canteen policy that includes plenty of milk, cheese and yogurt on the menu’. 

Children are directed to ‘lead by example’ so that their friends will be:

‘slurping yogurt, slicing cheese, and sipping milk right along with you before you know it…Keep up the yummy fun!’

‘Yummy fun’ (Source: Discover Dairy)

I was surprised to read the following in a curriculum guide for the Picasso Cows program:

‘New research has found milk is a more effective drink than water to rehydrate active kids’.

A footnote is provided in the curriculum guide.* I imagine that this finding would be regarded as a boon to the industry. Time constraints prevent me from following up on the ‘new research’ at this stage. However, I find it difficult to believe that the lactation fluids of a mammal with 4 stomachs can provide ‘more effective’ rehydration of ‘active’ human children than water. Water is fuel for life!

So, why am I concerned about the information that the Discover Dairy web site promotes to teachers and students? 

Firstly, lets examine the stated role of Dairy Australia:

‘Our role is to help farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and achieve a profitable, sustainable dairy industry’.

Secondly, lets look at the language that the industry uses about primary schools and school children.

In a curriculum guide for a national project called The Great Wall of Dairy, it states:

‘Primary schools provide an ideal channel to reach a large number of children aged 5–12 years’.

A captive audience!

 ‘Children are also developing their long term food consumption behaviours at this age so it is important to build healthy, positive eating habits while they are young’.

And who better to ‘educate’ them about positive eating habits than Dairy Australia?!

And this:

‘Educating children about nutrition and where their food comes from is important to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry and the products it produces which they can carry into adulthood’. 

Clearly, children in classrooms are fair game for an industry seeking to advertise its products and ensnare lifelong consumers of dairy products.  Naturally, the establishment of ‘positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry’ would be hindered if young children were provided with factual information about bobby calves, rather than misinformation. A young child who has been unwittingly separated from her parents (such as losing sight of them in a shopping centre) would be able to identify with the fear and panic of a calf who has been separated from his mother.

I am opposed to school teachers being used as conduits to promote dairy products to students in their classrooms. I would not be impressed if my children were learning about calcium and nutrition from Dairy Australia.

Source: Discover Dairy

As mentioned above, Dairy Australia’s stated role is to achieve a ‘profitable’ industry. They do not develop learning modules, free classroom resources and national curriculum programs because they care about the health of Australia’s children. The industry is not interested in educating children about nutrition. The industry is interested in ‘educating’ children about dairy products. They are interested in maximising their profits. These programs, modules and resources are part of a marketing strategy.

Nutrition education in schools should not be driven by industries with vested interests.

Dairy: ‘A unique combination of bone-building nutrients’. (Source: Discover Dairy)

It’s unlikely that parents would give consent for their children to view television advertisements (during class time) that are designed solely to establish positive ‘perceptions about [an] industry and the products it produces which [their children] can carry into adulthood’.

So, why should we tolerate this covert form of advertising being conducted under the guise of ‘education’?


*Footnote cited by Dairy Australia – Volterman K et al. Children and Exercise XXVII: The Proceedings of the XXVIIth International Symposium of the
European Group of Paediatric Work Physiology 2011; Chapter 13: 101–105

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!


{A-Z:Veganism} C is for Carnism

C is for…


Carnism is a term coined by Melanie Joy, author, psychologist and vegan.

Carnism has been referred to as ‘an extremely important concept that has the potential to dramatically transform the way society thinks about eating animals.’ *

It has been termed a ‘revolutionary concept that neither animal advocates nor meat eaters can afford to ignore’. **

So, what exactly is carnism?

Quite simply, it is ‘the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals’.

Where I live, in Australia, it is perfectly ‘normal’ for people to eat chickens, cows and pigs (among others). It is regarded as inappropriate or repulsive for people to consider eating cats, dogs and budgerigars (among others).

Most people do not question this. It is just the way it is. I certainly never questioned it during my childhood and most of my adolescence.

As a child, I was served lamb, beef, chicken and fish on my dinner plates. Our companion animal friends were cats, dogs and mice.  I never thought twice about it. I didn’t stop to consider why some non-human animals were friends and some were food. I remember, as a young child, finding out that people in some meat-eating cultures ate dog meat. I was horrified! How could anyone do that? How could they be so callous?

I did not realise it at the time, but my beliefs were carnist in nature. I had been successfully inculcated with a carnist value system- from my parents, society and the media. I thought it was cruel to eat a dog, but normal to eat a cow. I never asked: why does one deserve my love, and not the other? 

At 19, I embraced veganism. I adopted vegan values because I recognised that all animals were worthy of my respect. Prior to veganism, I regarded myself as an animal lover. However, once I embraced veganism, I understood that true respect meant no longer eating animals. Now, the thought of eating any sentient being horrifies me. I no longer make the distinction between a cow or a dog or a chicken.

But carnism is more than a belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals -it is a belief system that conditions us to believe that eating meat is normal, natural and ‘value-free‘.

There is recognition that veganism – choosing not to eat animals and animal products -is rooted in a belief system, a philosophy.

But the same is true of meat-eating – although this is not usually acknowledged.

Choosing to eat meat- indeed, to eat animals –  is the manifestation of a belief system.

In Australia,  meat eating (non-veganism) is regarded as the ‘normal’ way of being. It is the default position. Anything that deviates from that, such as veganism, is regarded as different or abnormal.

Sometimes, vegan parents are asked whether they will ‘allow’ their vegan children to eat meat when they are older. I assume it is uncommon for non-vegan parents to be asked if they will permit their meat-eating children to be vegan when they are older.

Moreover, non-vegan parents don’t usually ask their young children if they want to eat animals. Yet, vegans are encouraged to give their children ‘a choice’.

Some vegan parents have been accused of  ‘forcing’ their values on their children, as though meat eating parents aren’t passing on a value system to their children – one that says ‘eating animals is acceptable and ethical’.

This demonstrates how deeply entrenched carnism is.

Most people do not recognise that they are subscribing to a belief system when they eat meat- a carnist belief system. Meat-eating is not value-free.

Meat eating is certainly more common than veganism in our society, but this does not mean that people should engage in meat eating without making a conscious choice to do so. I do not think that saying ‘it’s just the way it is’, ‘it’s the way it has always been’, or ‘everyone else I know is doing it’ is adequate. Not when the lives of millions of animals depend on our daily choices.

Melanie Joy states that eating meat is a choice, and ‘choices always stem from beliefs’.

When I broached this subject with a friend recently – that eating meat stems from a belief system; a belief system that says it is OK to eat animals – she told me that she ate meat because it is how she was raised. She appeared horrified that I had described it as stemming from a value system. Perhaps many people think like this.

I am truly grateful that I was able to remove my carnist blinkers, that my food choices are now in harmony with my belief system.

Today’s post is a basic introduction to the concept of carnism. For a more detailed analysis, refer to Joy’s book ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows’ and Carnism Awareness & Action Network.


* Gene Baur, President and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, and author.

** John Robbins, author of  Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution


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!

{A-Z:Veganism} B is for Bobby Calf

B is for…

Bobby calf.


Last Spring, at a children’s ‘story time’ session at our local library, the librarian excitedly informed the pre-school aged children that a special guest would be arriving soon. 

Within minutes, I heard squeals of delight and surprise from the children –I saw a calf. Her brown eyes were wide with what I could only interpret as fear, as she was half dragged, half carried into the room by another librarian. A strong stench enveloped the room as the calf lost control of her bowels. She was placed on a rug at the front of the room, in clear view of everyone.

I could not stop staring at her – how could anyone have thought this was a good idea?  The parents smiled and pointed, and the children wiggled about and gazed excitedly at the calf.  We sang songs (‘cows in the kitchen, moo, moo, mooooo’) and listened to stories that featured cows. I could hear a woman repeatedly saying to her children: ‘Look at the moo!’ (‘She’s a calf’, I wanted to yell).

I couldn’t wait for the session to end. The calf looked so miserable. She was only 5 weeks old. In a world kinder than ours, she would have been suckling from her mother. I wanted to stand up and shout ‘look at her beautiful eyes, look how peaceful she is – please stop eating cows!’ But I didn’t, of course. I looked around the room, seeking to make eye contact with another parent. Is there another vegan here? Does anyone else feel empathy for the calf?

The ’story time’ calf highlights the gap between the admiration that humans feel for the ‘cuteness’ of a calf and the ability to feel true empathy for her and her kin. No doubt, some of the children and parents that patted the calf’s soft head and commented on her beauty went home to a cheese sandwich for lunch, or perhaps a veal cutlet for dinner – and did not think twice about it.

That is exactly how the dairy industry wants it.

What is a bobby calf?

According to Dairy Australia, a bobby calf is:

  • aged less than 30 days old,
  • usually a dairy breed or cross, and
  • destined for sale or slaughter.

The ‘story time’ calf wasn’t a bobby calf – she was approximately 35 days old.  I don’t know where she lived or where she was destined. I didn’t ask because I was afraid that the answer would upset me. But I do know that she wasn’t with her mother. According to my world view, baby mammals should be with their mothers.

During pregnancy, a cow’s body nourishes her unborn offspring. At the birth of her baby, her body responds as nature intends – she produces colostrum and, later, milk to nourish her newborn.

On a dairy farm, humans remove (steal) the baby from her mother shortly after birth, severing the maternal – child bond forever.

She is not permitted to nurture the baby that grew within her body. Her body, her baby and her milk do not belong to her. She will never see her baby again. Worse, this loss will happen multiple times during her life on a dairy farm.

She does not choose this. She does not willingly give up her baby.


On its web site, Dairy Australia states: ‘Calves are the foundation of our industry and enable us to continue providing you with safe, high-quality, nutritious milk and dairy foods’ (my emphasis).  There is no doubt that the industry is entirely dependent on calves – cows do not lactate unless they are pregnant with, or have given birth to, a calf. Simply, the industry would not exist without calves.

So, what does the industry say about the removal of calves from their mothers?

A section on Managing Calf Welfare states: ‘ Calf welfare is improved by removing it [sic] from the cow within 12 hours of birth….’ Also, sadly, this: ‘Research suggests that separating cow and calf as early as possible reduces the stress on both as there will be minimal bonding between them’ (my emphasis). This statement would be ludicrous if it were not so callous.

I assert that within twelve hours of the births of my babies, I loved them with every fibre of my being. My body was physiologically primed to nurture them, and my heart was bursting with love and adoration. I am a mammal. Cows are mammals. It is not difficult to envisage that cows experience love and affection for their babies too.

In her book Domestic Animal Behaviour, Katherine A. Houpt discusses cow-calf bonding.  She states: ‘Contact between the cow and her calf for as brief a period as five minutes postpartum results in the formation of a strong, specific maternal bond. Cows groom their calves during the early postpartum period…Licking the calf occupies up to half the cow’s time during the first hour postpartum’ (my emphasis).

It is apparent that mother-calf bonding happens very soon after birth, within minutes (rather than hours). Clearly, the industry’s assertion that only ‘minimal bonding’ occurs within the early hours of a calf’s birth, is inaccurate.

Theoretically, there are two ways of looking at the relationship between cows and their calves. Which do you think is most likely?

1. Cows feel no connection to their babies; they have no desire to nurture their offspring, and they have no compulsion to nourish their babies with milk.

2. Cows have a deep bond with their offspring, one that resembles the bond that human parents have for their offspring. When that bond is severed, they grieve and experience distress.

Cows are not inanimate objects.  Their behaviour and actions suggest that they do have affection for their offspring.

Holly Cheever, Veterinarian, shares a remarkable tale of a dairy cow that actively hid her newborn calf to prevent a farmer from removing him from her care. Sadly, despite the pleas of Cheever and the tenacity of the mother cow, the farmer removed the calf. He was destined for a veal crate.

If we accept that a cow has a ‘strong, specific maternal bond’ with her calf, how on earth do we justify severing their relationship? Is a glass of milk worth that much?


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!

{A-Z:Veganism} A is for Animals

Welcome to the first post in a series called My A-Z of Veganism. In this series, I will discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan.

A is for…


Specifically, non-human animals; those sentient beings that humans share the planet with. Our fellow Earthlings. The motivation behind my transition to veganism.

Whenever I am asked ‘Why did you become vegan?’, my answer- whether brief, or more detailed- always includes ‘for animals’.

In my late teens, I stumbled across a book in my local library called Old McDonald’s Factory Farm. My world view changed that day. For that I am deeply grateful. I remember feeling horrified as I flicked through the pages – horrified, sickened and shocked. Broken bodies, over-crowding, eternal darkness, filth, misery. Why did I not know about this?

I immediately stopped eating ‘land’ animals. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first step on a journey that would lead me to embrace a vegan ethic.

Until that point in my life I had never heard of factory farming. Why? Why did I not know about the suffering of ‘food’ animals?

The answer is simple, really. The industries concerned do not want us to know.

In factory farms, the miserable existence (and death) of pigs and chickens is hidden from public view. This protects the interests of companies and individuals that profit from the torture, slaughter and consumption of these animals. Industry profits are dependent on our ignorance. But we do not have to be ignorant.

Many of us share our lives with companion animals. When they are sick, we seek help to heal them. When our animal friends die, we grieve. And rightly so. (Most) humans love, nurture and protect companion animals.

Yet, we turn our backs on animals raised for food. Suffering on an immense scale is happening right now. And it breaks my heart.

I gain inspiration and hope from the following quote:

“If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others… why wouldn’t we?” – Edgar’s Mission




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