Do Vegans Eat Eggs? – The Real Reasons Why Vegans Don’t Eat Eggs
Last updated on September 30th, 2023
It might be easy to understand why vegans don’t eat meat but maybe you’re not exactly sure why vegans don’t eat eggs. On the surface, it seems natural, but it’s a topic you really need to dig into to fully understand the reasons why vegans don’t eat eggs. Well, I’ve done plenty of research and digging and I’m here to share what I’ve learnt. Let’s start at the beginning…
Do Vegans Eat Eggs?
The simple answer is no, vegans don’t eat eggs. And you’re not the only one asking this question, many animal lovers don’t see the harm, keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it.
- Do Vegans Eat Eggs?
- How Many Eggs Do Hens Lay?
- Why Don't Vegans Eat Eggs?
- What is the Average Life Expectancy of a Hen?
- What are the Living Conditions of Egg-Laying Hens?
- Are Hens Intelligent Animals?
- Do Vegans Eat Free-range Eggs?
- Do Vegans Eat Eggs from Backyard or Rescue Hens?
- Are Eggs Healthy?
- Vegan Alternatives to Eggs
What Harm Does Eating Eggs Cause?
Hens will lay eggs regardless, right? Yes, that is somewhat true. But unfortunately, there’s so much more to the process.
According to Peta – More chickens are raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined’ – this is for both their eggs and their meat.
How Many Eggs Do Hens Lay?
In the wild hens will lay 10 to 15 eggs a year, they will do this during the breeding season.
On the other hand, hens that are bred to lay eggs can produce up to 300 eggs a year.
This number immediately tells us that something unnatural is happening. But sadly it makes sense because without these ‘super’ hens it would be impossible to feed the world eggs at the rate they are being eaten. According to Egg Info people in the UK consumed 13.5 billion eggs in 2021.
Why Don’t Vegans Eat Eggs?
Well, firstly if a hen is laying about 300 eggs a year instead of 15 it’s going to quickly lead to destressing and painful reproductive problems.
And of course, when they can no longer lay eggs they are of no use and get sent to the slaughterhouse.
So, for their entire lives, female chickens are used for their bodies – this is the reason why vegans don’t eat eggs!
What is the Average Life Expectancy of a Hen?
In the wild, it’s common for a hen to live up to 10 years. However, hens bred and kept captive for laying eggs are lucky (actually maybe not lucky) to see 18 – 24 months.
They are sent to slaughter as soon as their egg production slows down. This is usually before 2 years old.
Hens only live 20% of their life expectancy in captivity. Another strong point for the argument of why vegans don’t eat eggs.
What are the Living Conditions of Egg-Laying Hens?
Not every hen has the exact same life in the UK. But the majority of eggs come from either battery hens or free-range hens. Unfortunately, organic eggs only make up a few percent of those eaten in the UK.
There are also barn hens, where the hen’s quality of life is somewhere between battery hens and free-range hens, and these make up about 5%.
Enriched battery hens are the new battery hens. There was a law passed recently to give caged hens a little more space, 50cm2 more to be exact, This is about the size of a beer mat.
While there are some free-range and organic farms – not that that means a lot, sadly, about half the eggs that reach our tables in the UK come from battery hens.
And the problem is increasing with the growth of mega-farms. There are almost 800 of them here in the UK today. Take a look to get an idea of the extent of these mega-farms.
What’s Life Like for Intensively Reared Hens?
From the moment they’re born, their life is already full of hurt.
Once they confirm that the chicks are female and have some value the tips of the beaks will be cut. This will stop them from pecking at and pulling out their feathers. I guess this can happen when the insanity of being stuck there for their whole lives sinks in. This procedure can be extremely painful and there’s no pain relief given to the little chicks.
Many hens will never see the light of day. They spend their entire lives in a dark shed with no windows. Unnatural light will be used at different times to trick the hens into laying more eggs.
Living Space for Intensively Raised Hens
Each hen is given 600cm2 of usable space – an A4 piece of paper is 623cm2.
Their sole purpose is to lay eggs. Some hens can do this for up to two years but as soon as they slow down they’re not worth the space or the cost of their feed so they are sent off to slaughter. Usually, their meat has no value because birds bred for meat are different and the meat is best when the hen or chicken is young. So, a two-year-old hen is worth absolutely nothing…to the farmer.
In some places, before the hens get sent to the slaughterhouse they want to drain every last penny of potential profit. So, a process known as forced molting can take place.
This involves starving hens of all food and water for 7 to 28 days and this leads the hen’s body to produce as many eggs as possible before they die.
While this may not happen to the hens laying free-range eggs here in the UK it does still happen. So, when we see eggs listed on the ingredients of supermarket items we buy such as cakes, biscuits and sauces, this process could have been used on these hens.
Are Egg Laying Hens Killed?
Yes, they kill the hens that lay eggs too, so that’s also why vegans don’t eat eggs.
Slaughter is an inevitable part of life for every hen in the egg-laying industry. How they live their last hours is even sadder than the terrible way they’ve lived their entire life.
Most hens are gassed. When on their way to the slaughterhouse they often stuff them into crates as if they are already dead. And because they’re packed so tightly they have no choice but to pee and poo on each other.
They also suffer injuries such as broken legs, broken wings, strokes and dehydration. Many die before they even reach the slaughterhouse.
So that’s what happens to the hens after they have fulfilled their duties.
What Happens to Male Chicks in the Egg-laying Industry?
Well, let’s go back to the stage when they check the gender of the chicks just after they hatch because this is another reason that so many vegans don’t eat eggs.
As mentioned, the chickens being bred for laying eggs and the chickens being bred for meat are not the same. These chickens don’t grow as big and as quickly so they are less profitable.
So, what happens to them when they are male and can’t lay eggs? They are usually gassed on hatching. And In some places, they’re just fed into a shredding machine usually within a day of hatching.
Are Hens Intelligent Animals?
Hens are sentient beings and this is why vegans don’t eat eggs
For some reason, people think it’s more acceptable to eat eggs and chicken than other meat. Maybe because they don’t build such an emotional connection. But hens are smart little things and time and time again show that they have emotional intelligence.
Read Peta’s 21 Surprising Facts About Chickens to learn some really cool things that show chickens to be smartie pants.
Interesting Facts About Hens:
- Chickens can make up to 24 noises to communicate. Each with a different meaning. They use the noises as a way to let their friends know there is a predator nearby or as a way of expressing comfort.
- Chickens can feel pain, they have pain receptors. This means they will feel more pain in their short lives than I’m likely to feel in my entire life.
- Chickens are playful animals. They love to play, run, jump and sunbathe when given the chance.
- Chickens can have dreams just like we do. I wonder if they dream about being wild.
- Chickens first originated from tropical rainforests and have evolved over millions of years.
- Roosters do a dance, it’s called tidbitting, as a way to woo hens. You’ll find roosters bopping their heads up and down looking for some female attention.
- Hens are always on the lookout for a rooster who has a large wattle! – You know, the dangling thing on a rooster’s head.
- Mother hens create an emotional attachment to their unborn babies by talking to them and they even chirp back through their shells.
Do Vegans Eat Free-range Eggs?
No, vegans don’t eat free-range eggs either. To understand the answer we need to know what free-range actually means. Often when people think of battery hens they think of hens in tiny little prisons whereas when they think of free-range hens they think of hens hopping around and playing in huge open spaces.
This is not the case.
What Does Free-range Mean in the UK:
- There must be no more than 13 hens per square metre
- Hens must have access to the outside at some point in the day.
- Hens must be at least 56 days old before they are sent to the slaughterhouse.
These are significantly better than the battery hens, but the word free in free-range seems pretty far-fetched.
As with caged hens, these birds are bred in a way that ramps up their egg-laying capacity. This can still lead to reproduction issues that can cause a lot of pain or end up fatal for the hen.
And the male chicks born on free-range farms are still being killed at one day old.
Free-range hens are still not free, they’re still in a cage, be it a bigger one. And the sole purpose of their life is to lay eggs and once that’s done, they’re done.
Do Vegans Eat Eggs from Backyard or Rescue Hens?
This is an interesting question because there is no doubt that the life of a rescue hen is so much better than it was before.
And if someone rescues hens they surely want what’s best for them.
But as a vegan, we should avoid taking anything from an animal. I’ve heard many times from experts that hens will eat their own unfertilised eggs and they offer great nutritional value to them. And if we always remove the eggs they will continue to produce more, which causes problems for the long-term health of a hen.
So, my personal feeling on this is that eating eggs that come from rescue hens does not cause them as much harm, but their eggs belong to them, so maybe we should leave them.
Now, you’ve read all the reasons vegans don’t eat eggs and the immense harm it does to hens all over the world.
But maybe you’re still wondering, are eggs essential for the human body?
Are Eggs Healthy?
I think we can agree that there are some key nutrients and vitamins found in eggs such as B12, B2, iron and protein.
However, we do not need eggs. Everything found in eggs can be found elsewhere in a vegan diet.
And while eggs may have some nutritional value they also have some unhealthy elements. They include saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which are linked to heart disease. One egg has about 370 grams of dietary cholesterol and we’re recommended no more than 300 grams per day.
They are also a big cause of food poisoning and are linked to hormone-sensitive cancers. So, they really aren’t all that healthy.
Most vegans feel it is unethical to consume or make money from the bodies or products of other animals, with this in mind hens are being kept captive purely for the benefit of those wishing to eat their eggs, and for farmers to profit from, is surely unethical.
Vegan Alternatives to Eggs
The great news is that if you’re transitioning from a diet that includes eggs you don’t have to just act like they didn’t exist. There are some great alternatives available, some options are great as a replacement in a recipe and others are perfect for breakfast with your vegan sausages.
Vegan alternatives to eggs:
- Scrambled tofu:
- Mashed banana
- Chickpea flour
- Apple sauce
- Vegan yogurt
- Just egg
If you want to know more about baking with egg alternatives take a look Short Girl Tall Order’s 9 Best Vegan Egg Substitutes For Baking.
Vegans don’t eat eggs and living without eggs is very possible, there are so many resources and ideas out there to help you. By making a change to your diet you are helping to make a massive difference to the lives of innocent animals.
Looking for something to read next? Well, did you know even some alcohol is off the table for vegans, but don’t worry, not all. Check out these posts – Why is Vegan Wine Different? Wine is Wine? Sorry, No. & Is beer vegan? Yes, sometimes. So, what beers are vegan?
Meet the Author
Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living.
With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.
Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.