Vegan Q & A ~ But What About Milk & Eggs?

Some days I wonder why I even bother with plans; I mean, I know full well that things never go quite as I predict. Here I am, only one post in and I’ve already fallen behind on my vegan Q & A. (Weakly shrugs in complete surrender while at the same time knowing I will never stop planning…)

In my defense, I’ve had a second question in mind (for weeks now), and I’ve been working on drafting a post (for weeks now), but then…so much interference. First there’s a product I’m testing before I can rave about it, and then new info keeps demanding to be included. So instead of trying to force the post before it’s ready, it just seems wise to choose another topic. I settled on a popular one, not only because it’s a perfectly valid question, but also a hugely important one: I can understand the meat, but what about milk and eggs?

Ethics

For someone who makes the deliberate choice not to eat animals, the vegetarian route is easily understood (even if not easily condoned). And regardless of whether or not you agree with the vegetarian stance, it’s still usually ethically clear why a person would choose that lifestyle. If I eat a burger, I’m eating a cow; there’s no two ways around it. But at first glance, where exactly is the problem with eating an egg? Or drinking a glass of milk? Or indulging in a cheesy pizza? There’s no (obvious) death involved, so the vegan view starts to seem more than a little bit extreme, and often more than a little bit unnecessary. And here we are, just making trouble. Again.

But what if I told you that if I were forced to choose between drinking a glass of milk and eating a pork chop, I’d go with the pork chop every time? And for someone who hasn’t eaten animals in over a decade, that’s saying a lot. Since I seem moderately intelligent, you probably figure there must be a reason, right? (Just nod yes, and we can all pretend you agree with the moderately intelligent part.)

Miss Ruby. Just look at those eyes…
A Vegan Life

Back when I first became a vegetarian in 2007, I really had no idea what a vegan even was. In fact, I thought it was just the slightest variation on the whole vegetarian theme. But the more I read and the more I learned, the more it became clear that it’s a whole different ball game altogether, especially if you’re opting for a vegan life.

Owing to my insatiable need to always have all the facts, I blindly dove into documentaries as a source of info without really being aware of what I was getting myself into. And all of a sudden, instead of just an abstract idea about what was going on in the animal industry, I now had visuals. (Which I definitely wasn’t prepared for.) Heartbreaking images that I can’t un-see no matter how hard I try, and trust me, I’ve tried. And faced with that unquestionable evidence, the merits and necessity of a vegan lifestyle became obvious to me, and I finally understood the distinction.

Mary Todd – the chicken with 9 lives. A fox snatched her several years ago and tore out half of her feathers before she escaped, surviving to tell the tale.
What Did I Learn?

It’s true, eating that egg and drinking that milk doesn’t have to mean death, but the sad fact is that it does. Every single time, it does. Our demand for more (as-much-as-we-want more), means that as soon as an animal becomes less productive, it’s no longer serving its “purpose.” And what other alternative is there besides disposing of the financial loss and starting fresh? Letting these animals live out the rest of their natural lifespans isn’t really a feasible option. We don’t have the resources to feed them, and we don’t have the space to house them, so what choice are we left with?

You guessed it–we’re left with slaughter.

And while the suffering of the animal in the meat industry is over in a relatively short (life)span, those in the dairy and egg industry linger for much, much longer. And then? Their fate is exactly the same: We kill them. And then we eat them. Suddenly, things aren’t quite so black and white anymore.

Self-preservation

A little bit of info is necessary here to explain my position, but no worries, I won’t go graphic. And I won’t go deep. The reason why is twofold: If I dig into the harsh realities (which are really hard to take), I’ll likely lose most everyone except for those already vegan. And then what would even be the point of this entire post? Secondly, I can’t handle it. Seriously, confirming facts for this was hard enough, and I had to stop watching the documentaries years ago. So as a matter of self-preservation, I’ll only give you a brief overview; I’ll leave the telling (and showing) of the horror stories to others, who’re obviously made of much tougher stuff than I.

Chickens love affection just as much as the next animal. Alice Lee snoozing, lulled to sleep by a warm lap and soft hands.
A “Beef” Cow

A beef cow is generally sent to slaughter before two years of age, and a veal calf? Ugh. Maybe those babies make it to four months old. Maybe. The lives of the beef cow on the feedlot are bad–rampant respiratory problems and infections mean tons of antibiotics, which in turn cause more health problems (for both cow and human alike). The diet fed to these cows isn’t a natural one (for the species), nor is it designed for proper nutrition. It’s sole purpose is to fatten up these animals as quickly as possible, no matter the repercussions. And yes, there are tons of repercussions.

The conditions are cramped, muddy, and dirty. The cows lack freedom and space and grass. Truly, they lack a life. To those that would argue that these living arrangements are perfectly fine, and even humane, I always wonder what they would say if their beloved Fido were to be kept in the same conditions–for the rest of his life. I have a feeling the perspective might change.

A “Dairy” Cow

While the story of the beef cow is one of physical and mental hardships, I feel that the ladies in the dairy industry have it even worse. Not only is their health compromised (frequent mastitis is one example), but they’re trapped in a cycle of repeated emotional strain. In order to keep the milk supply constant, the cow is bred yearly, which might not seem like that big of a deal. Until you factor in the consequence (a.k.a. the baby), who would only deplete that precious milk supply if left to freely nurse, as nature intended.

This problem is “solved” by selling the baby boys for beef or veal (i.e. slaughter), and the baby girls will often replace their mamas, who’ll burn out long before their time (also by eventual slaughter). But in either case, they’re removed from the mother cow quickly after birth. Year after year. And even if you don’t believe that animals have feelings, they still have instincts. Instincts that, in the wild, would have them defending their babies at all costs. Do they cry, and bellow, and scream? Yes. Do they hunt down their newborn babies? Yes. Do they chase down the trucks carrying them away? Yes. And as a mama myself, I can’t even begin to imagine that repeated cycle of pain.

75%

If one of these dairy cows were allowed to live out her full lifespan, she would have about twenty years of living ahead of her. But the unrelenting strain of pregnancy, milking, illness, and constant loss shortens her existence by roughly seventy-five percent. And at around five years of age, when the milk supply begins to dwindle and she’s no longer deemed useful, she’ll be sent off to slaughter just as brother beef cow was. With the same cruel transport and the same terrifying death.

The “Meat” Hen

The story is exactly the same for the meat hen versus the laying hen. The conditions that the meat hens are kept in are beyond-words bad. Atrocious, even. Believe it or not, I’m trying really hard to refrain from my typical expressive means of writing in this post (I do love my adjectives and adverbs). This is me, exercising restraint, and making a valiant attempt to keep a subject that affects me so deeply as neutral as possible. But sometimes only atrocious will do.

Some of the most disturbing images in my mind are those of chickens in the meat industry. They’re treated as less than nothing, their environment is filthy and so cramped that they can and often do trample each other to death. Having no access to the sunshine or fresh air or grass (no matter what that label says) means that it’s truly a blessing that they’re only forced to live for a mere two months before their time is up. Two months from birth to plate.

The laying hens are no better off; worse, even, in my opinion. Their living quarters are different, but definitely no better, and if you do a search of a spent battery hen the images are truly heartbreaking. Their lifespans range from one to three years, depending on how well they’re producing eggs.  And once again, the end result is exactly the same as that of their “meaty” brothers–they all end up on a plate somewhere, sometime, having lived a life shortened by up to ninety percent. (Our oldest chicken friend here at Follow Us Home lived to be a ripe twelve years old. Some hens have been known to live even longer.)

Little D, keeping watch
Not the Babies

But when it comes to layer hens, there’s even more to the story. In order to meet the demand for egg-producing hens (both commercially and for smaller backyard farmers), many, many eggs are hatched each year. Immediately after hatching, the newborn chicks are sexed and, of course, only half of these end up being “useful” females. The females are thus spared, thanks to their egg-laying abilities, and the males? Ground up alive–literally. Or tossed, still breathing, into garbage bags to be slowly crushed to death. In the US, this number reaches into the hundreds of millions each year. Seriously, is there any way to make that neutral?

The Problem?

Things get a little bit more hazy when you factor in all of the small “hobby” farms scattered across the lands. Let’s (generously) assume that all of these hens get to live out their full lives–birth to a natural death. Many of them are loved and cherished and cared for. They’re not merely “chickens,” they’re pets. Or even better, they’re friends.

And I’ll even take it a step further and assume there’s no rooster fertilizing the eggs. From the outside, it becomes really hard to see where the conflict lies in consuming those eggs. They house no babies, and the chickens are healthy, happy, and protected. Sometimes, enormously loved. Problem? There is no problem.

Not My Body, Not My Egg

Until you factor in the fact that those eggs aren’t mine. They were never mine. Our feathered friends didn’t ask to be brought to my home, and if they could safely free range they wouldn’t even need me to feed them for much of the year. Those eggs were created in their bodies, and 100% of the effort involved in birthing them goes to the hen. The same applies to the dairy cow and her milk: the milk belongs to that cow, and it belongs to the baby she birthed. In what way can I claim ownership and rights? In my mind, I can’t.

This way of thinking isn’t quite as black and white as the dairy cow who inevitably ends up at the slaughterhouse, because morals and ethics vary from person to person. I hesitated to even include it because I think it will be less understood. But, in the end, it’s important to me and it’s the foundation for not only my choices, but many other (ethical) vegans as well. And even if not fully accepted, it still gives insight into the no-milk-no-eggs perspective. If something comes from my body, it’s mine. The same applies to the chicken, the cow, the sheep, the honeybee, the…honestly? The same applies to every-being.

Cora Beth
To Sum It All Up

In a nutshell, vegans don’t eat milk or eggs because to do so means the death of an animal. It means the acceptance and condoning of cruel and inhumane treatment. It means pain and suffering and heartbreak. The death may not be immediate, but it is inevitable. So whether or not I eat a burger or drink a milkshake, I’m killing a cow. Whether or not I eat a drumstick or scramble an egg (or purchase from a hatchery), I’m killing a chicken. And while ownership rights might not always be agreed on, there’s no gray area when it comes to being alive or being dead.

And that, my friends, is my personal answer to the but what about milk and eggs question (wipes sweat from brow). This series isn’t an easy one for me to tackle, (I’ve now seen additional images I can’t erase), but I’m going to continue nonetheless. I hope it helps to shed some light on what can sometimes be a mystifying question.

Wishing everyone a happy week. Love & Blessings ~ Melinda

P.S.

We’re just getting started, but please visit here for more in our Vegan Q & A series. New question and answers coming soon! And, of course, if there’s a specific question you’d like me to address, please leave it below.

And just in case you thought chicken hugs weren’t real. Here’s Lizzie, letting Jordan know how much she loves her.

If you’re braver than I and searching for the facts, here’s a list of documentaries commonly recommended by vegans. Please note, I have not watched most of them and viewer discretion is strongly advised. (I’ve been warned that Earthlings is particularly graphic.) Also, feel free to visit our Recipes page for some tasty vegan fare–more treats coming soon!

Food Inc

Earthlings

Live and Let Live

The Ghosts in Our Machine

73 Cows

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Vegan Q & A ~ But What About Milk & Eggs?

  1. Food Inc is what got me started in the journey to veganism. I’ve always wondered if I had my own hens if I would eat their eggs.
    You raise excellent points about that. So my question is, what if your family does not embrace veganism? I am the main cook for a large multi-gen family and I warned them a few weeks ago that I’m about done cooking meat for them. I’d love to know your thoughts on that. 🙂

    1. Hi Kara ❤ Food Inc. is one of the only documentaries featuring the animal industy that I’ve been able to watch. I’ve seen others on the health benefits of it all, but as soon as I try to dig deeper into the animal facet I get so overwhelmed that I need to back off. Personally, I think Food Inc. is one of the best for giving enough info to open eyes, yet not so much that I had to run away screaming!

      I had more thoughts on the eggs, but I figured it best not to dig too deep, lol. It’s one of the last things we gave up because we have hens, and I know they are in no way physically harmed. In fact, they’re extremely loved, just for who they are. It was a slow awakening in that aspect as to what is “mine” and what is not. The journey into veganism has been a long and interesting one!

      When I initially decided to become vegetarian I thought I was doing it alone. I made the decision for myself and one day simply vocalized the announcement to my family. At that point I figured I could still prepare the meat, just not actually eat it. Thankfully my girls (then 7, 9, 11) jumped right on board. My husband did too, although he had more struggles along the way. (He moved back and forth several times before being able to fully commit to veganism.) What I didn’t realize at the beginning was that it would become impossible (eventually) for me to prepare meals containing animals; that meat simply represents too much pain.

      So when I went vegan I just started COOKING vegan (I’m also the chef in my home) and basically wooed everyone with the food, lol. If it tasted good and they walked away full, eventually they realized they weren’t actually missing out on anything. So essentially, there was nothing to complain about 😏 Plus, they’d all seen the documentaries with me and no longer wanted to contribute to the whole horror show, either. I guess when given the option between cooking for themselves or simply eating what I prepared, there really wasn’t much of an option. And over time it just became what it currently is: our norm. It was a process of change, some bumps along the way, but patience and persistence brought us here. I know that it’s a different scenario since your family hasn’t embraced the change (yet. but with your example maybe soon ❤) but I would still say the same – patience and persistence. Some of us have our eyes opened in an instant, while others need a little bit longer ❤ And unless one of them wants to assume cooking duties, maybe the adjustment won’t be so hard 😉 I’m not sure if that helps at all, but let me know if you need me to dig deeper! ❤

  2. It’s great you have such idea about health and you also don’t want to harm the non-human world.
    The only thing which is bothersome with being a vegan is that your brain does not receive a very special essential omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexanoic acid, or DHA from plant foods because they simply do not contain it. DHA is crucial for brain function and, certainly, people can supplement it, but that has proven to be not that effective.
    I do get why you would want to stick to vegan food. As somebody who has reviewed thousands of clinical trial materials, I am convinced that n supplement can ever replace the authentic substance. It is because any formulations will not have the same buildup. They are usually fractions of the real thing.
    Well, it’s not my intention to turn off anybody of their chosen path. However, I want to always remind that only nature has it all: anything natural comes in such genetic composition which our ancient genes are able to decode, recognize and use purposefully.

    1. Hi Inese ❤ First, thanks so much for your thoughts. And second, I agree 100% with you that nature does hold all of the answers. I wish we didn’t need to use supplements, but the sad fact is we’ve severely depleted our soils with our current farming practices (which is also why I choose an organic lifestyle) and, consequently, sometimes we do use supplements in my home. I thoroughly research each and every one choosing only certified organic whole food options. Our numbers respond beautifully to the chosen supplements, so they are being properly utilized by our bodies. I believe that eventually there WILL be negative side effects found from the synthetic versions as our bodies can’t utilize them properly, so I am definitely with you there ❤

      As for the DHA, it actually is found in two places that are suitable for vegans – both seaweed and algae naturally contain it. And I can attest to its efficacy because since my daughter started a supplement her naturopath has been happy with where her numbers are ❤

      It’s my personal belief that humans did, initially, need to depend on animals for survival. I don’t believe that is still the case, especially not in middle class America where so many other options are now readily available. Anything we find ourselves lacking, I’ve been able to find a plant based solution for. And ultimately, spiritually, there’s simply no other way for me now. I didn’t realize the implications of eating meat until I stopped. Now I can’t imagine ever going back.

      Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate your thoughts and for taking the time to share them. Hope your day is a good one ❤

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