Is Egg Farming Cruel?

For many vegetarians, the decision to go one step further and become vegan often comes with the realisation that both the egg and dairy industries are cruel – and essentially an offshoot of the meat industry.

Egg production, particularly on an industrial scale, has been documented many times and criticised for causing harm and cruelty to chickens.

Chickens used for egg production are often kept in crowded and inhumane conditions, leading to the birds developing physical and behavioural problems.

In battery cage systems, chickens are confined to small wire cages, often stacked on top of one another, with each bird given barely enough room to stretch their wings.

The birds are unable to engage in natural behaviours such as dust bathing, foraging, and perching, which can lead to physical and psychological stress.

The close confinement and high stocking density also increases the risk of disease outbreaks and makes it difficult for farmers to provide proper care for the birds.

As a result, chickens are often subjected to painful beak trimming to prevent them from pecking each other in the close quarters.

In addition to the physical confinement, chickens used for egg production are also subjected to genetic manipulation and selective breeding, leading to rapid growth and increased egg production, but also causing skeletal disorders, heart problems, and other health issues.

The birds are often kept in a perpetual state of near exhaustion, laying an egg every 25-26 hours.

When their egg production declines, usually after a year or two, they are considered “spent” and are sent to slaughter. The journey to the slaughterhouse is often stressful and traumatic, with the birds often suffering from further injury or death during transport.

Even so-called ‘free range‘ chickens often do not enjoy as much space as the romantic drawing on the front of the egg box might suggest.

And with avian flu decimating populations, many free range birds are being kept in more cramped conditions indoors instead, to prevent the spread of the killer disease.

The environmental impact of industrial egg production is significant, with the high number of birds in close quarters producing a significant amount of waste.

The manure produced by the chickens can lead to air and water pollution, affecting both the environment and local communities.

One of the most distressing sights for animal lovers (you can watch videos from the likes of PETA and The Humane League if you really want to), is the barbaric way most male chicks are killed.

In egg farming, male chicks are typically culled shortly after hatching, because of course they do not lay eggs, and they are not suitable for meat production. 

The most common method of culling is to use a process called maceration, where the chicks are killed by grinding them in a high-speed mincing machine.

This is considered an efficient and cost-effective method, but is understandably considered inhumane by animal lovers and many campaigning animal welfare groups.

For more information, watch this video from The Humane League. Some scenes may be distressing.

If you want to search for vegan alternatives to eating eggs, check out this section in our Best Green Brands directory…

Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell
Editor of GreenGreenGreen, Mark has been a journalist for more than 30 years, campaigning on environmental issues. Living a vegan lifestyle, he writes and creates content for ethical businesses and organisations across the world.