Whether you’re considering a plant-based diet yourself or are simply interested in learning more about the lifestyle, you probably have some questions about what vegans can and can’t eat.
One of the foods people tend to have questions about when it comes to veganism is eggs. Do vegans eat eggs? Why or why not?
We’re going to be breaking down everything you need to know about the role (or lack thereof) of eggs in a vegan diet in this article, so read on to find out more!
Do Vegans Eat Eggs?
If you’re just looking for a simple, straightforward answer to the question of whether or not vegans eat eggs, the short answer is no. In general, vegans do not eat eggs.
Why Don’t Vegans Eat Eggs?
Now, if you’re interested in the reasoning behind why vegans (or at least, the vast majority of vegans) do not eat eggs, stick around for this section.
You may have heard that vegans don’t eat any animal products. Of course, that means things like meat and fish (Check out Do Vegans Eat Fish?) are off the table, which is simple enough to understand.
However, the term ‘animal products’ also refers to animal byproducts, which means anything that is produced by or comes from an animal.
Eggs, as we all know, are laid by chickens. Because eggs come from chickens, most vegans will leave them off their plates.
The Ethical Argument
‘But what’s wrong with eating eggs?’ That’s a good question! The answer lies in the practices used by large-scale farms (the kinds that produce the eggs that end up in your local grocery store).
When you pick up a box of eggs at the store, it probably has a picture of a happy-looking hen on the front, possibly on a backdrop of grass and flowers.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite the full story.
In order to produce as many eggs as possible, egg farms need as many hens as possible. This often means that hens are cramped into spaces that are far too small.
It’s not uncommon for 6 hens to be confined to a single small cage. This is called battery farming, and the practice accounts for 72% of chicken farming in the U.S.
These conditions are breeding grounds for many unpleasant diseases and lead to stress responses like self-mutilation and cannibalism in chickens.
While hens would typically live for between 5 and 10 years, the average layer hen only lives for a maximum of 2 years before being sent to slaughter.
Even worse, male chicks are often slaughtered at birth because they are not useful to the egg industry. Frequently, these chicks are put through a grinder while still alive.
And the sad reality is that buying free-range eggs doesn’t prevent animal cruelty. Free-range simply means that the hens are not kept in cages.
Unfortunately, the hens in these situations are still usually kept in cramped, overcrowded conditions and suffer from many of the same diseases and injuries as battery-farmed hens, including peritonitis, osteoporosis, fractures, prolapses, cancer, and ammonia burn.
The male chicks are usually slaughtered in the same way, too.
The Environmental Impact
Egg farming doesn’t only have negative consequences for the hens and male chicks.
Many vegans have adopted the lifestyle for environmental reasons, and egg farming certainly has a negative impact on the environment.
For one thing, egg farms produce more manure than can be absorbed by the surrounding environment.
This can lead to contamination of the environment (including drinking water) with excess phosphorus, nitrogen, and bacteria.
Workers in egg farms are frequently exposed to excessive levels of ammonia, carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), hydrogen sulfide, and dust, all of which may contribute to respiratory problems.
Surrounding communities are also likely to be exposed to many of these gasses and the odors they produce.
The Health Perspective
Not everyone is vegan for ethical or environmental reasons.
For some, the vegan diet is seen as a way to achieve optimal health, and scientific studies have linked egg consumption to negative health effects.
To be clear, eggs also have numerous health benefits (including high protein content and vitamins D, B12, and A), and research shows that consuming up to 7 eggs per week shouldn’t negatively affect most healthy individuals.
However, the consumption of eggs, particularly at a rate of more than 7 eggs a week, has also been associated with increased cholesterol levels (which leads to heart disease), diabetes, and certain cancers, to say nothing of the risk of salmonella poisoning.
Why Some Vegans Eat Eggs
It should be noted at this point that some vegans do eat eggs that are produced under certain conditions.
There is an argument for the consumption of eggs that are produced ethically. After all, the act of egg laying itself is natural and does not cause harm.
Therefore, some vegans feel comfortable eating eggs as long as the hens producing them are kept in a comfortable, safe environment that allows them the freedom to roam, stretch their wings, and live out their natural lives in peace.
The practice of ‘backyard’ egg farming is a point of contention in the vegan community, however, since many vegans still feel that animals should not be viewed as a resource but as autonomous, sentient beings.
These vegans will not eat eggs regardless of the conditions in which the hens are kept.
The vast majority of vegans do not eat eggs because of the cruelty involved in the egg farming industry as well as the negative environmental impact of egg farming.
There have also been several health risks linked to egg consumption, so vegans who have adopted the diet purely for health reasons still avoid eggs.
Some vegans choose to make an exception for ‘backyard’ eggs, which are produced organically without harming the hens or the environment.
However, this is an individual decision, and most vegans do not eat eggs regardless of the farming practices involved in their production.