As I posted previously, over 57 billion chickens a year are slaughtered worldwide. The chickens we kill are not just the ones that end up on our plates. A substantial number of deaths are due directly to egg production. These are not incidental or accidental deaths; these are the direct and inevitable result of the mass production of eggs.
I shared the following image on Facebook yesterday:
These are male chicks, killed very shortly after birth, either by suffocation, maceration, crushing, or gassing. This occurs on conventional, organic, "cage-free", and "free-range" farms. Billions of babies, simply thrown away.
And of course, their sisters are slaughtered as soon as they can no longer produce eggs. This killing occurs not just on commercial farms, but on the majority of family farms and by those raising chickens in their backyards, as few people want to keep a non-producing chicken around for years until it dies of old age.
This image may have opened a lot of eyes, but also brought out a lot of defensiveness. Some insisted that they kept, or knew of someone who kept, backyard chickens as beloved pets and really did let them live out their whole lives and never killed them. What could be wrong with eating their eggs in such a scenario?
Well, first of all the brothers of those backyard chickens were almost undoubtedly killed as above. Second, chickens will eat some of their unfertilized eggs to address nutritional deficiencies, so taking them isn't a completely harmless practice. And of course, we could never make the tiniest dent in the country's demand for eggs from the service of backyard chickens alone.
But the ultimate problem I, and other abolitionist vegans, have with taking the eggs or milk of animals is that keeping sentient beings as property is simply unjustifiable. If it's not a matter of survival, we don't need to eat those products. Saying that we're giving them "a good life" in exchange for their milk or eggs is no justification. A life in captivity is not a good life. The chickens - and ducks, cows, goats, etc. - had no say in the matter. Projecting our own views about what constitutes quality of life for an animal is just an excuse to continue the exploitation. There is no good reason for it.
Seeking welfare reforms like bigger cages and quicker, more "humane" deaths is not the answer. The answer is to end exploitation, by not eating the bodies or products of animals and not breeding any more of them. That is why I am vegan.