Are eggs vegetarian ?

I have just read a piece in the papers about a company in Erode, Tamil Nadu that is going to produce "100 percent vegetarian eggs." The article is headlined;

"Now, eggs to go veg!"

"You have given up meat and fish, but finding it hard to stay away from eggs? Here's some good news for vegetarians who love to tuck in eggs. India's leading egg manufacturer and exporter will launch a "100 percent vegetarian egg" in the coming year both for domestic production and export. The company is already exporting 100 percent vegetarian egg powder, egg yolk powder and egg albumen powder to 27 countries. So the next time you gobble up an egg pastry, just don't feel guilty.

 What does this poultry company say is a vegetarian egg ?

Their chicks are brought to poultry farms and when slightly older, they are forcibly made to lay eggs – as many as 300 each in a year.  The company says that the difference is that while other poultries feed their chickens fishmeal, their company feeds their 1.5 million soya powder. Therefore their eggs "are fully vegetarian."  

(This same company, by the way, had its eggs rejected previously by the EU because their eggs contained more antibiotic in each egg than is allowed).

When I read this I went to the Internet and I found advertisements for vegetarian eggs all over the place. One site that advertises vegetarian eggs  says "Healthy and humane the vegetarian way." And calls them vegetarian because the hens have been fed natural grains and supplements (that the word that mans hormones and antibiotics), the hens are not in cages (which means that they are crowded on the floor in closed barns), there are vets on the premises, and the packaging of the egg is recycled plastic. Other sites confused the word organic, free range with vegetarian.

Unfortunately, I also found lots of sites in which people debated whether eggs were vegetarian or not – with so many vegetarians claiming they were.

Is an egg vegetarian?

The most obvious answer is that an egg comes out of a chicken. It is not from an aubergine or the child of a mango. It is from the sexual organs of an animal. Therefore it cannot be vegetarian. Why does the chicken have eggs? In order to reproduce. The eggs are menstrual blood. If fertilized they turn into chicks. If not, the egg menstrual blood has been discarded by the hen’s body the way women discard their infertile blood every month. So they cannot be vegetarian by any definition of that term. Don’t excuse yourself by confusing the definition of the term. Would you eat human period blood. That too is discarded eggs. There is a debate on whether human placenta which is the result of abortion can be used in anti-ageing creams. Would that be vegetarian? After all the human is an animal just like the chicken.

This tendency to reclassify food simply because you want to eat it is annoying. The Bengalis call fish "river vegetables" and the vegetarians eat them. Abroad you have ovo-vegetarians, lacto vegetarians, ovo lacto vegetarians, piscitarians – anything that will bypass your conscience while filling your stomach.

Let us look at some more arguments made by the pro egg eating vegetarian:

Arg: There are two kinds of eggs , fertile and infertile and the egg industry produces infertile ones. These are vegetarian because there is no life in them.

Ans: Once hens reach maturity, they start laying eggs whether there's a cockerel in the brood of hens or not. It is thought that these eggs are infertile - meaning no chicken will hatch from them it. (For instance a woman will get her periods whether she is a virgin or not. ) and that fertile eggs are those in which a cockerel has inseminated the hen . Untrue. All eggs are in the process of becoming fertile and all hens will produce both. Eggs have the possibility for a week and then all of them become infertile. After becoming fertile, they are difficult to cook and consume and the hue and thickness of the shell changes. So poultries sell eggs immediately and those that sell chickens as well  hatch the same sourced eggs and then sell the chicks.

Arg: No chickens died in the process so no cruelty took place

Ans: Battery hens produce infertile eggs. These hens are considered no better than egg-producing machines. The battery hen is an anxious, frustrated, fear-ridden bird forced to spend 10 to 12 months squeezed inside a small wire cage with up to nine other tormented hens. There are usually many tiers of these cages in gloomy sheds which hold a total of 50,000 to 125,000 birds. Caged for life without exercise while constantly drained of calcium to form egg shells, battery hens develop the severe osteoporosis of intensive confinement know as caged layer fatigue. Calcium depleted, millions of hens become paralyzed and die of hunger and thirst inches from their food and water. Their beaks which are as sensitive as fingers are cut off without anesthesia , so that they eat less. Many die in the process. They are injected with hormones as they will not produce 300 eggs otherwise. They are subjected to long periods of artificial light so they cannot sleep and then long periods of darkness for a month so that their feathers fall off artificially. As soon as they start laying less eggs, they are sold to the butcher. Free range chickens are simply chickens that are squashed together on the floor in  massive closed barns with no access to the outside. All chickens – even those that are fed grain and called "organic" are also fed hormones, steroids, antibiotics and chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. All the male chicks are killed at birth and the female hens are killed prematurely, so by buying commercial eggs, you're supporting that process.

 However, the extreme cruelty meted out to hens at poultries cannot be the primary argument. It is not a cruelty issue.Some arguments say that their eggs were taken from backyard hens who roamed free in the village and were kept as family. So, if I keep a tomato well with a well watered vine and enough water and sun, will it become an animal? Similarly, will an egg, whose mother was treated well by being allowed the freedom to run around and eat worms, become a vegetable ?

Arg: An egg that has not been fertilized cannot result in the birth of a new animal so it is vegetarian.

Ans: Is a virgin or a woman who cannot have children a vegetable? A rooster that has been castrated (called a capon) so that he no longer produces sperm, is he a vegetable? Is one’s species to be defined by whether they can produce life? Is the yellow/white in the egg similar to human placental fluid or not? Yes. So which part resembles a potato?

 Arg: An egg has no more senses than a plant so no pain is involved.

Ans: A plant probably has more senses than an egg – whether chicken or human egg. But that still doesn’t make the egg a plant since it is not senses that define a species. Would you say that a man in a coma or a newborn that is mentally and physically deformed is a carrot?

Arg: It's not slaughter to eat an egg.  It is simply the base nutrients and proteins that are used to construct the chick.

Ans: That is called placenta. Would you consider eating human placenta or would you call it human meat or cannibalism? Human hair is used in commercial biscuits as it contains a chemical called L Cysteine. This has been denounced as cannibalism and now the EU is on the verge of banning it. But hair has no life? So why should that be cannibalism? Could hair not be classified as vegetables?

Arg: If chickens ate only vegetarian food, the egg is vegetarian.

Ans: 99.99% of all poultries feed their hens bone meal, blood, excreta, the meat of dead chickens, fish, the filth of other animals from rendering plants. "Most of us use fish feed for the hens because soya feed is expensive," says the All India Poultry Feeds and Egg Producers' Association. However , even if they were to be given only grain, would that make them vegetables? A cow eats grass. Is her meat vegetarian? Is the chicken’s meat eaten by vegetarians? So how can the meat be non vegetarian and the blood that forms the egg be vegetarian. I am a vegan – am I salad?

Arg: if eggs are non-vegetarian, then how come many vegetarians eat eggs?

Ans: Murder is illegal and immoral. But so many people commit murders. So shall it be regarded as legal and moral? Vegetarians are humans and humans – all of them- are self delusional.  Each one of us lives a construct of life that we can cope with and make excuses for. And no greater excuses are made than in the field of eating.

There are laws in every country that allow advertisers to exaggerate the quality of their product, but not lie. The vegetarian egg sellers need to be dealt with legally. And vegetarians who delude themselves need to deal with their own moral issues.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in



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