Wednesday, June 02, 2010

the problem with eggs

After our 30 mile bike ride two weekends ago, one of the owners of the Bike Shop gave away a few dozen eggs. She has 15 backyard chickens, and they were laying so many eggs that her family couldn't keep up. Even though I'm vegan, Nathan eats eggs for breakfast every morning, so we accepted a carton on his behalf. Later that morning, I decided to take a photo of the eggs, partly because they were so pretty, and partly because they got me thinking about veganism.

My number one reason for not eating animal products is because I believe killing animals for our consumption is cruel and unnecessary. Health benefits, environmental impact, adorable baby cows, pleasant feeling of moral superiority - those are all bonuses. However, I also believe no issue is black and white and recognize that I have the education, the means, and the resources to choose what I will and will not consume. Let's face it - millions of people in the world are lucky if they get to eat at all, nevermind asking the waiter if there's lard in the black beans.

I've read a bit about "ethical meat" - animals that are raised and slaughtered humanly, that get to live a good, fulfilling life before they end up on your dinner plate. I don't buy it. You're still raising and killing an animal for your personal consumption, and I don't know if there's really a nice way to snap a chicken's neck. I also see no difference between dogs and cats, and pigs and cows. If it's wrong to torture a dog, or gross to prepare a kitten for dinner, then why is it okay to slaughter a farm animal?

Which brings me to the eggs. I'm a vegan, but one day I'd like to raise some backyard chickens, and I am sure I would eat the eggs they laid because I'd know exactly how they were treated and raised. I also know my friends at the Farmers' Market who sell eggs; I know the owner of the Bike Shop who can't keep up with her chickens' output. Logically, I should be able to eat these eggs with a clear conscience. But I'm not there yet.

Emotionally, I know eating the eggs - even if they are cruelty free - would mean I'm no longer a vegan. I don't know why I like that label, why I cling to that identity, but I do. It's not like I would go to Sonic and order a breakfast burrito, or start purchasing uniform white eggs in Styrofoam cartons on sale at Kroger - my theoretic egg consumption would be on a case-by-case basis, and only when I am absolutely certain about the origin and treatment of the animals involved. Still, something about eggs - even fresh eggs from a neighbor's yard - does not sit right with me. And until it does, I'm fine with choosing something else for breakfast.