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Cage-Free Eggs

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Walmart has announced it will transition to all cage-free eggs by 2025. What does this mean? Is it a good thing? Is it more ethical to eat eggs now?

If you’re picturing happy flocks of chickens scratching away for insects on a sunny hillside somewhere (the kind of images egg companies love to adorn their cartons with), you’d be wrong. Cage-free facilities can still be industrial-scale chicken farming where thousands of hens spend their lives indoors in what many would consider cramped conditions.

Walmart will require all their egg suppliers to be certified by United Egg Producers and compliant with the trade organization’s Animal Husbandry Guidelines. The UEP—which represents U.S. chicken farmers who own about 95 percent of the country’s laying hens—updated its guidelines this year, including the standards for cage-free operations. Based on the guidelines each hen should be allotted between 1 and 1.5 square feet of space and 6 inches of elevated perch space, and 15 percent of the usable floor of the hen house must be a scratch area. This setup allows the birds to exhibit some of their natural instincts such as dust-bathing, scratching, perching, and wing flapping. There’s no provision that the birds be allowed outdoors.

One issue not fully addressed by Walmart is beak trimming, the practice of removing part of the top and bottom of a bird’s beak in order to prevent the animals from pecking each other in close quarters under stressful conditions—and in some cases cannibalizing each other. (The term “pecking order” is very much rooted in reality.) The procedure is painful, sometimes chronically so, and may reduce the chicken’s ability to eat. The UEP suggests that it only be carried out by “properly trained personnel monitored regularly for quality control,” that egg producers use more docile breeds that don’t require beak trimming, and that the procedure be done only when necessary to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism.

The open question is whether it is possible to have industrial farming of animals under some sort of ethical standards? I maintain that it is possible, or at least it is something we should strive for under any circumstances. Without outside monitoring, I worry that the egg lobby won’t really follow through, but Walmart is a powerful player and that should be the focus of efforts to enforce this. So obviously this is something of an improvement, where a chicken’s life is at least a little bit like a chicken’s life should be. But it’s certainly not great, not with the beak trimming. Chickens are easy enough to have around that people having them in their yards should be encouraged, although not roosters. It’s a small animal that can live a decent life and produce for human consumption without really harming them. As in the rest of the industrial food system, there’s a long ways to go and a lot of work to be done. But at least this is a little something to build upon.

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  • Karen24

    This is a marginal improvement, but one that is almost certain to last and do so without significant increases in costs to consumers. Measure the improvement against what existed before — hens in tiny cages — and not against the unicorn angel ideal. Small improvements over time that can be achieved without much notice are much better than revolutions that never happen.

    • DrDick

      I agree completely. While I am skeptical that we can truly achieve anything the animal rights movement will accept without significant increases in cost, I do think we can actually build on this.

    • delazeur

      I’m not really convinced we can call this an improvement; it’s a change, certainly.

      Like a lot of campaigns for environmental protection, animal rights, sweatshop labor, etc. I think cage free eggs are about making consumers feel good about themselves with an aesthetic change that doesn’t really accomplish anything substantive.

      • I don’t doubt that you are right–this is primarily about consumers feeling good about themselves. I think the question is whether it is also a positive for the chickens. And in a small way, it is.

      • This argument is sort of like libertarians saying that being forced by the government to pay taxes for social programs strips helping the poor of its moral component, and that liberal politicians only support those programs to gin up political support.

        To which I say, “So what?” If consumers have developed enough humane sense to not want to torture chickens, great! If enough of them have done so that corporate America is responding to their demands, great!

        I just don’t understand why either of those developments should detract from my happiness over this. They both sound to me like further reasons to celebrate.

        • delazeur

          I certainly wouldn’t complain if politicians and corporations did the right things for cynical reasons, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Cage free eggs don’t torture chickens less, they torture chickens in a different way. That different way just happens to have been branded better.

          It concerns me when people celebrate something that doesn’t accomplish what they believe it does, but even more importantly I am concerned that celebrating this as a victory will reduce the motivation of consumers to fight for real change. Lots of energy has been expended working for this, and I think that energy could have been better used elsewhere.

          • Cage free eggs don’t torture chickens less, they torture chickens in a different way.

            This is nonsense, the equivalent of saying the having private insurance under the ACA is no better than having no insurance – right down to the “reduce the motivation to fight for real change” motivation for believing it.

            Let’s test this theory that it makes no difference: If every cage-free hen operation currently in existence were to announce that they were going to henceforth raise their hens in standard foot-cube-or-less cages, would you consider that development good, bad, or neutral?

            • delazeur

              I would consider it neutral. Have you ever seen a cage-free chicken farm? The one pictured in this post is much, much nicer than most of them.

              • I’m not sure you’re all that read-up on the details, then.

                I’ve seen both cage-free and caged “farms,” and the notion that the shortcomings of the former make them the equivalent of the latter is indefensible on the facts. There is nothing about a caged farm that makes it superior to even the type of cage-free farm shown in the photo, while there are a number of aspects of even the type of cage-free farm in the photo that are inarguably superior.

                I’d rather not be confined to a prison camp, but it would be a whole lot better than living in a box too small for me to stand or turn around.

                • delazeur

                  No, I’m not read-up on the details. That’s because I grew up in a farming community and I’ve seen it first hand.

                  I’m not sure why you think you need to point out to me that cage farms aren’t superior to cage-free, or that the cage-free farm in the photo is superior to a caged farm. I have already volunteered statements to that effect without prompting from you.

                  Thanks for comparing me to libertarians and ACA opponents, though. That was really relevant to this discussion. If you want to throw yourself a party for eating cage-free eggs, go right ahead.

  • AMK

    What does Walmart care about less: the chickens or the store employees? Toss-up, but there are a hell of a lot of putative liberals who care more about the chickens.

    • Yes, this is true.

    • DrDick

      Walmart cares about one thing and one thing only, and that is fattening their bottom line and the Walton family’s bank accounts.

    • ProgressiveLiberal

      LOL at the silliness.

      I doubt there is anyone here who cares more about the chickens than I do, but even I care about both walmart’s and the farm’s workers more.

      Although I do see all these liberals marching in the street for their Fight for 15 square feet… Oh, right, its Fight for 15 dollars. Oops. In reality, the number of liberals who care more about the chickens is minuscule.

      But thanks for taking a shot at those who care about both. I mean, we can only choose one, amirite?

      • delazeur

        I see a lot of vegans walking around with brand new electronics.

      • ThrottleJockey

        If it makes you feel better PL, when it comes to chicken the only thing I care about is how many pieces I’m getting.

    • but there are a hell of a lot of putative liberals who care more about the chickens.

      Perhaps this is because chickens need someone to help make sure that people don’t cut their beaks off? I’m assuming that Walmart employees, being naturally smarter than chickens, can provide for themselves in ways that chickens can’t.

      • NewishLawyer

        You bring up a good point but I don’t think AMK was saying that it is wrong to care about these things. AMK was mentioning that there are plenty of liberals who are going to be posting “Good job Wal-Mart” stuff on social media for the egg announcement while not caring that Wal-Mart is still a shitty employer that underpays employees, busts unions, and gives no benefits.

        There is nothing wrong about caring for animal welfare or rights but there is a certain kind of progressive I see that cares deeply about issues of animal welfare and nothing about issues on human welfare.

        We are never going to live in a world where all humans are vegans. I think that eating meat and diary is biologically important and part of human evolution. And yes, meat is tasty.

        • Crusty

          It is a variation on Tony Soprano, who cared about animals, like the ducks that lived in his pool, but murdered people.

          Maybe not.

          • AMK

            Hitler had the strongest animal rights laws on the planet etc etc

        • AMK

          Bingo.

          I think the biggest news in animal welfare was actually the Seaworld announcement this week on no longer breeding the orcas….which of course does nothing for the orcas there now, but I guess is a step in the right direction.

        • DrDick

          Pretty much. Meat played an important role in our evolution (though not as much as the “man the hunter”/paleo nuts think) and has been an important part of the diet for most human groups for a long time. That said, we have continued to evolve to changes in our diets (adult lactose tolerance is the classic example) and humans can easily survive and be healthy on vegan diets, owing to agriculture and selective breeding.

          • Being married to a vegitarian (not vegan), I can attest to that :-)

            What I will say, though, is that I do feel much healthier after substantially reducing my meat intake.

            • DrDick

              Most Americans could benefit from reducing their meat consumption and I have done so myself for health reasons. That is not at all the same as going vegetarian, which I will never do.

  • Murc

    That’s a lot of chickens.

  • Joe_JP

    Sherry Colb and Michael Dorf’s book Beating Hearts: Abortion & Animal Rights (and in their other writings, including their blog, Dorf on Law) suggests (but determines the evidence is mixed enough not to say conclusively) small steps like this won’t net help animals. I disagree overall and agree with Karen that “small improvements over time that can be achieved without much notice are much better than revolutions that never happen.”

    OTOH, the mild help it might do doesn’t really mean bottom line that eating eggs — at least those obtained from factory farms etc. — is suddenly ethical. At least, from a vegan mind-set. The possibility it is ethical to raise chicken for food being granted, on some level “what’s the point” given in practice (even if you accept using them for food – I gather eating our dogs might be okay too) the level of care required will not be followed. It is not like it is necessary to eat chicken.

    • DrDick

      There is nothing that will make animal husbandry of any sort “ethical” in the minds of vegans. Of course this ignores the reality that these animals only exist for us to eat (or at least their milk and eggs) and they would be abandoned if everyone became vegan. As for eating chicken, it is probably one of the most ecologically responsible, as well as healthy, meat sources.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but my vegan friends — including the aforementioned Dorf-Colbs — tell me that one of the big problems with egg production, even at a small scale, is that the vast majority of male chicks need to be killed because, as Erik notes above, people want chickens, they don’t want roosters. (There’s a similar objection to even small-scale dairy production.) So, no, there’s no way to produce eggs to satisfy animal rights folks. And I should say, I see the logic of their position, though I’m some combination of not convinced and too morally lazy to act on however convinced I am. That said, I purchase my eggs from truly local, small-scale producers whose chickens afaict actually run around outside.

        • ProgressiveLiberal

          Facts stubborn things etc.

          I also love how 100% of liberals only eat locally produced eggs and meat from farms they personally verify, and never eat out or at friends or weddings or etc etc etc.

          Also, you have black friends? You keep your gun locked up?

          Lazy arguments are lazy. I don’t believe ANY OF YOU one bit. And I’m tired of liberals making the same arguments conservatives make when its their shit on the line. Either those ass clowns are ass clowns, or we all are. Can’t we do better than this?

          • I also love how 100% of liberals only eat locally produced eggs and meat from farms they personally verify, and never eat out or at friends or weddings or etc etc etc.

            You seem like a real fun person to hang out with.

            • Marc

              Vegan evangelists can easily top my “most annoying” lists, even though I’m perfectly happy to eat vegan food and perfectly happy to prepare it for others.

              And they’re up against stiff, stiff competition in today’s environment.

              • delazeur

                In the last couple of years I’ve started to come across vegans who think we should be doing something to stop violence/predation between wild animals.

                • ChrisTS

                  What? What the hell are the carnivores supposed to eat?

                • delazeur

                  ChrisTS: I’m not sure, really. Depending on who you ask the answer is either to euthanize them or feed them soy protein. It’s so ridiculous that every time I bring it up I have to think for a second to make sure I had these conversations in real life and not in a dream.

                • ChrisTS

                  Wait, we are going to kill carnivores – lions, tigers, etc. – to prevent them from eating herbivores? Holy Christ.

              • Crusty

                Have you ever chatted with one of these anti-circumcision folks?

                • Marc

                  Like I said, stiff competition!

              • DrDick

                Yep and PL is a worst case example. He actually hurts his cause every time he comments (makes me want to go out and kill Bambi and eat it raw in front of him).

                • Moondog

                  And your comments make me want to join an animal liberation group.
                  I doubt that either of you are actually trying to change anybody’s mind. Maybe you’re just expressing yourselves. Or seeking to encourage like-minded people.

            • sharculese

              Behaving on the internet like PL is a thing you do because you don’t have friends in real life.

              • Moondog

                So, to sum up, your opinion on the cage-free eggs issue is that ProgressiveLiberal is “shallow and selfish” and has no friends.

          • Rob in CT

            In conclusion, both sides do it.

          • delazeur

            Step up your game PL. Usually your complaints are at least coherent, but I’m really not sure what you’re saying here.

          • ChrisTS

            So, only if one lives a 100% pure life is one being ethical? Good luck with that.

            The early(Greek) Stoics held that no man is, in fact, moral and that all immoral men are equally immoral. They used to say, “A man is drowning ten feet from shore as much as another is drowning 100 feet from shore.” Later Stoics realized this perspective would only encourage people to give up entirely on living good lives. Why bother, if any failure is as bad as any other and no one can achieve perfection?

            In other news, you continue to be a moral idiot.

          • njorl

            ” I don’t believe ANY OF YOU one bit.”
            You typed that while swallowing a big chunk of bacon. You can deny it, but I won’t believe you.

        • Joe_JP

          Dorf-Colbs

          Their daughters have used Colbdorf:

          http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2014/01/two-vegan-kids-teach-us-about-turkeys-equality-and-happiness/

          Also, seen on a Youtube channel and in the referenced book. So easier with such short last names. I always see the parents just use “Colb” and “Dorf.”

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            That’s right. I was refering to the two of them by hyphenating their names. They each go by one; their kids use the portmanteau.

        • ThrottleJockey

          What’s wrong with Roosters? I didn’t understand Loomis’ point there… I thought he was complaining about their crowing in the morning.

          • Fnarf

            Um, roosters….don’t, uh, lay eggs. I thought this was covered in the “birds and the bees” part of the curriculum, back in seventh grade.

            Nobody wants to feed and raise animals that can’t give you the thing you need from them to make money.

            In Seattle, where backyard chicken-raising is now a popular activity amongst a certain class of individual, it’s illegal to own a rooster in the city. You can only buy properly sexed female chicks.

            Me, I don’t raise chickens, but I do make an effort to buy “pastured” eggs, which cost a goddamn fortune but are better-tasting.

        • Brett

          Couldn’t they just sell the roosters to a “chickens-for-meat” place, and then have them slaughtered for consumption when they’re full-grown? It seems like a waste just to kill them as chicks.

      • ProgressiveLiberal

        There is nothing that will make animal husbandry of any sort “ethical.”

        FTFY.

        It would probably be easier if I just didn’t think about it. There is nothing that helps a liberal get through the day better than rationalization.

        BTW – the animals wouldn’t be bred, nor born, if we didn’t eat them. It’s not like we find roving gangs of chickens and capture them. Your argument is silly. But, again, I understand the urge to rationalize. It’s easier than admitting you’re wrong and changing. Welcome to US history 101.

        Saying eating chicken is ecologically responsible “compared to the alternatives” is like saying burning oil is more responsible than burning coal. Sure is, but not compared to ALL the alternatives.

        You literally couldn’t find a better example of rationalizing. Then again, the day is young…

        • sharculese

          Your argument is silly. But, again, I understand the urge to rationalize. It’s easier than admitting you’re wrong and changing. Welcome to US history 101.

          This has been your regular reminder that for all PL blathers on about his deeply help convictions, announcing how smart he is is way more important to him than convincing anyone to do the right thing.

          Because he is, at heart, shallow and selfish.

        • DrDick

          ”I don’t believe ANY OF YOU one bit.”

          Right back at you, asshat.

        • keta

          Rationalizing is underrated.

          For instance, you could go without sex for a long, long time. But you can rationalize every day. More than once, even.

      • bexley

        As a veggie this logic seems suspect. If people stopped eating eggs/milk then people would stop breeding farm animals to produce eggs/milk.

        It also doesn’t really touch on one of my key reasons for giving up meat – namely the resources used up and carbon footprint of meat production.

      • Joe_JP

        What does the “only exists for us to eat” point supposed to tell us? If animals only existed [insert whatever appalls you here; let’s say live sex toys], I gather it wouldn’t suddenly make the existence worth the candle.

        If everyone became vegan, they wouldn’t be mass produced in the first place. Everyone also won’t become vegan all at once probably. It would be phased out. The existing animals probably won’t simply be abandoned either if everyone becomes vegan. Veganism itself would find that problematic.

        It’s interesting that chicken (I thought the “other white meat” was pork) is called a ‘meat source,’ but again, it isn’t really necessary to have “meat sources.” Still, granting you are going to have meat, I guess raising chickens could be useful for that reason.

        • Crusty

          I won’t speak for Dr. Dick, but I think “only exists for us to eat” refers to the idea that they were specifically bred by a food company for food, these were not happy animals wandering around in nature and then captured, enslaved and slaughtered.

          • Joe_JP

            What does the fact they were specifically bred supposed to tell us though?

            • Marc

              That they never would have existed in the first place otherwise; the alternative isn’t idyllic life in the wild.

              • Joe_JP

                Well, covered that — mere existence isn’t to me enough to justify the system in place.

                The alternative is non-existence like people with small families also cause the non-existence of those children that might exist if we were all like the Duggars.

                And, there probably would still be chickens in the wild or in private locations even without Erik Loomis’ moderated path, which would severely reduce the number of chickens in existence probably.

              • bexley

                But so what. If someone started cloning humans in big tanks as a source of food I don’t think anyone would accept that as moral purely because the clones wouldn’t exist if they weren’t being created for food.

                • timb

                  Humans = chickens? Why can’t humans see chickens like a fox or a hawk sees them?

                  They absolutely would not and could not exist without us. Domesticated chickens are genetic oddities with no natural defenses. A feral pig they would not be

                • bexley

                  My point isn’t that humans and chickens are equivalent but to push back against the idea that we can justify any treatment based on the whole non-existence argument.

                  If existence is better than non-existence for farm animals are we all obliged to eat as much meat as possible to ensure that there are more farm animals around?

                • UserGoogol

                  For the same reason we shouldn’t see humans how a fox would see humans. And for that matter, it’s also true that humans wouldn’t exist without humans making humans. We are all born into a world we didn’t make.

                • advocatethis

                  Timb –

                  They absolutely would not and could not exist without us.

                  Apparently you’ve never been to Kauai or Key West.

          • DrDick

            Actually, most domesticated animals exist because our ancestors selectively bred their wild ancestors so that we could eat them, their milk, or their eggs. They only exist to be eaten and if we stopped eating them, there would be no reason to have them, other than in zoos as a curiosity. Joe_JP to the contrary, large numbers of these animals would be dumped if the market for meat collapsed. Nobody is going to take care of that many animals if they are not making a profit off them.

            • advocatethis

              Why, in this discussion, would you ever assume that the market for meat would collapse, rather than dwindle, along with meat production? There would never likely be a sudden surfeit of animals raised for meat that suddenly had no commercial purpose. As markets shrink, production will as well.

              • DrDick

                Because that is how things actually happen in the real world? Actually I never said a “sudden collapse” and imagine it would somewhat protracted, but as the market declines more and more producers are going to be dumping more and more animals, because they are going to have too many.

                There is also the issue of what happens to everybody working in this and related sectors of the economy? What happens to the farm communities on the Great Plains, where livestock raising is the only ecologically sound use of the region (wheat and other grains are far worse in these environments)?

      • delazeur

        I’m a meat eater, but I don’t really get why people like to point out that farm animals would go extinct if everyone became vegan. Do we have a moral responsibility to preserve those species? If we do, how is killing them and eating them the right way to reward ourselves?

        • DrDick

          I am not arguing they would go extinct, but they would definitely be reduced to very small numbers. None of these animals makes a good pet and they are mostly expensive to maintain.

  • cleek

    do the chickens have large talons?

    • tsam

      Heh. Nice.

    • I can’t understand a word you’re saying.

  • tsam

    Shouldn’t we be having a scold from a vegan or vegetarian by now? Where my condescenders at?

    • Murc

      Well, I’m the resident “doesn’t care much about animal rights except as they pertain to people” deviator in this commentariat; I could try instigating from the other direction if that would help?

      • tsam

        #AminalLifesMatter

    • ProgressiveLiberal

      I’ve been busy this morning. I apologize.

      • tsam

        THERE YOU ARE! Still a rather quick response. 7/10. Would read again.

  • ProgressiveLiberal

    Thanks for the post.

    But until they stop grinding up 50% of the live chicks (the males) and you find somewhere to let them live out their lives in peace (which no one will ever pay to do) eating eggs will never be “ethical” if you at all care about animal welfare (which almost none of you do to any appreciable amount.)

    But rationalize whatever you need to get you through the day…or at least breakfast. It’s the american way.

    PS. Plenty of people around the world think its silly that we give a shit about things like cock fighting – they still break up rings down here in miami. I’d love a liberal to square their acceptance of eggs with their disdain for cock fighting. Is it because they don’t eat the losers of the fights? Maybe if we fed them to homeless people?

    • Crusty

      I’ll take that bait. Eggs are food. Cock fighting is just twisted entertainment?

      • Denverite

        “They’re angry. All I feed them is cocaine. And chicken.”

        • tsam

          This is like the best life ever. I’m moving in with you.

      • ProgressiveLiberal

        Food is entertainment for your mouth – there literally is no difference, no matter how you rationalize it. This isn’t five thousand years ago. You can eat a perfectly healthy vegan diet in the united states (and the rest of the first world) on the same damn given budget.

        I mean, foie gras for fucks sake. Veal. And on and on.

        • Marc

          Yum. Both are delicious.

    • Marc

      I don’t buy this at all, and it isn’t for lack of thinking about the ethics of eating meat or eggs. Basically, people have different places where they draw the line between food and not-food. I don’t feel even the slightest guilt for eating meat, any more than I do for eating corn.

      We can start with the fact that, as animals, we eat other living things rather than photosynthesizing. I question a moral system that, at its root, treats something that we need to do to survive (kill other living things for food) as bad.

      We can then go to the question about whether it’s better to never exist than it is to be raised for food. We can proceed to the fact that numerous small creatures are killed in the production of plant-based food. Presumably, the argument is that insects and plants don’t count as alive, and the small mammals killed in harvesting fields are not intentionally killed. They’re still a completely predictable consequence of industrial agriculture.

      Oh, and your false equivalence question? We don’t need to have cockfights to survive. We do need to eat to survive.

      • timb

        What a lovely comment.

      • bexley

        We can then go to the question about whether it’s better to never exist than it is to be raised for food.

        As a hypothetical would you apply this to humans raised for food? I doubt anyone would consider that ethical.

        We can proceed to the fact that numerous small creatures are killed in the production of plant-based food. Presumably, the argument is that insects and plants don’t count as alive, and the small mammals killed in harvesting fields are not intentionally killed. They’re still a completely predictable consequence of industrial agriculture.

        Or the argument is one of harm minimisation. Raising poultry for food involves giving them feed made up of corn, soybean and other ingredients. Those need to be grown so eating a meat based diet will involve the killing of more insects and plants than eating a plant based diet. Furthermore it also involves more land and water use and a higher carbon footprint.

        • Marc

          I don’t really disagree with your basic theme; that there is an ethical boundary between food and not-food. My claim is that there is no obvious single place to draw that line; people who eat meat aren’t people who haven’t thought about it. They simply have different metrics for setting boundaries.

          I dislike the concept of harm mitigation because I don’t view the things that I need to do to survive as a bad thing to be minimized. But I’m totally in favor of minimizing things like gratuitous cruelty, which is why I favor humane conditions for animals being raised for food.

          • advocatethis

            I dislike the concept of harm mitigation because I don’t view the things that I need to do to survive as a bad thing to be minimized.

            I think it’s well established that eating meat is not necessary for human survival. We continue to do so because we think it tastes better or for other largely esthetic reasons. Pretending this isn’t so makes it easier to disregard harm mitigation, whether it’s the carbon footprint or the other negative environmental effects associated with industrial meat production.

            • bexley

              Bingo. To be honest the thing that really stopped me eating meat is the fact it uses up so much land and water, has a high carbon footprint and the stupidity of the antibiotic use involved in raising livestock. If it was just animal cruelty I might have lived with my own hypocrisy and kept eating meat.

            • Marc

              Drinking wine isn’t necessary for life either. Having sex isn’t necessary for life. Neither are laughing or listening to music. All of these things, however, make living life a hell of a lot more enjoyable. So does eating meat, as far as I’m concerned.

              There is a laundry list of things that you can do in life to reduce your carbon footprint if you’re so inclined, and you do them without being morally obliged to change your diet for the sake of the planet. For most people “not driving your car so much”, “moving closer to work”, etc. are going to be more important things than “not eating any meat ever”.

              • Drinking wine isn’t necessary for life either.

                Beer and bourbon on the other hand….

              • advocatethis

                Or, without going to “not eating any meat ever,” you could reduce the amount of meat you eat, possibly enjoying the meat you still eat more while still reducing negative impacts. You can do some of all of those things and not really feel particularly inconvenienced by the changes you’ve made.

    • delazeur

      There’s evidence that people who are violent toward animals are more likely to become violent toward humans in the future. I think that’s a pretty good reason for a meat eater to criminalize cock fighting.

      • Crusty

        No pun intended, but there’s still a chicken-egg issue there.

      • DrDick

        My hillbilly grandfather, who was completely comfortable killing, butchering and eating animals, adamantly opposed abusing them, including sport fishing and hunting. His standard line was, “If you ain’t gonna eat it, don’t mess with it.”

    • Dangling Dildo of Damocles

      So what is your “scoring system” for proving you’ve lived the one and only correct way to live life?

      • njorl

        Look in the mirror. If you see ProgressiveLiberal, you win!

    • AMK

      There are ways to make cockfighting humane (time limits, blunted spurs instead of sharpened spurs or razor blades, etc..) because it’s natural behavior, the same way there are ways to make most equestrian sports humane. Horses run and jump. Cocks fight. And there is no scientific evidence that either animal is self aware, which would justify the kind of “rights”-based arguments that make sense for great apes or cetaceans or elephants.

      • DrDick

        Chickens are just plain nasty beasts and will peck each other to death, as well as cannibalize one another.

        • N__B

          No wonder people like them: they remind us of ourselves.

          • Thirtyish

            People are by far the worst creatures to have existed on this planet. But chickens can be awfully mean.

    • But until they stop grinding up 50% of the live chicks (the males) and you find somewhere to let them live out their lives in peace (which no one will ever pay to do) eating eggs will never be “ethical” if you at all care about animal welfare (which almost none of you do to any appreciable amount.)…I’d love a liberal to square their acceptance of eggs with their disdain for cock fighting. Is it because they don’t eat the losers of the fights? Maybe if we fed them to homeless people?

      I love it when people on the internet spend so much time among the like-minded that they believe their very-easy questions are insoluble debate-enders merely because their own circle agrees to treat them as such.

      I don’t care about animal life. I care about animal suffering. TA DA!

      Your question is even dumber than asking how someone can oppose torture without being an absolutist pacifist. Rather easily, as it turns out.

    • UserGoogol

      My inclination on animal rights tends to be somewhat Singer-influenced, and from that perspective grinding up baby chicks seems more humane than letting them live, since you’re preventing them from suffering. Just a quick death, probably not painless, but better than a lot of alternatives.

  • Denverite

    Chickens are easy enough to have around that people having them in their yards should be encouraged, although not roosters.

    I’m shuddering thinking of what our dogs would do to chickens in our backyard.

    • Crusty

      What do I do with my fox?

      • Denverite

        We actually have foxes in our south Denver neighborhood. A lot of people are speculating that it is because Denver repealed its ordinance on keeping live chickens a few years back. We also had a bunch of coyotes for a while, but they’ve managed to control them, mostly by controlling the rabbit population, and I haven’t seen a coyote in at least a year.

        • tsam

          What do they say tho?

      • ChrisTS

        Having learned the hard way (though it was a hawk not a fox): you should make sure your chickens have a nice big screened pen attached to their house, where nothing can get them. This also requires digging down a fair way.

        • N__B

          I don’t think I’d be able to dig without muttering see you in hell chicken every five minutes or so.

          • ChrisTS

            Heh. Yeah, you have to really, really like them.

      • Joe_JP

        Does it sound like George Clooney?

      • DrDick

        Or any of a number of other predators, including raccoons and snakes.

    • Rob in CT

      One of my dogs got out of our yard (jumped the fence, before I put in an invisible fence to back up the physical fence) and wacked 3 of my neighbors chickens. He was so busy hunting them that he would leave a dead one lying on the ground and move to the next. Another neighbor’s dog (Border Collie, smart) came over and brought 1 of the dead ones home.

      That was an interesting day. Thankfully the neighbor was forgiving (though sad that he didn’t get any of the roosters).

      • Denverite

        We had a border collie from 1999 until she passed away in 2013. She was very mild mannered and never really hunted anything. More interested in playing Frisbee.

        Our current dogs were rescued from the side of the road in New Mexico as puppies [ETA: We think that they’re ridgeback and aussie mixes]. They’re only about a 18 months old, so they’re still a bit wild — constantly wrestling and chasing after each other. One of them managed to kill a mouse while back, and they constantly are chasing after birds. They’d rip chickens to shreds.

        • Rob in CT

          My other lab was, at least in his youth, a baby bunny killer. He rarely got the chance at it, but man if he saw one… he yanked my wife right through a hedge once (saw the wabbit first, caught her off guard and yanked her right off her feet).

          The chicken killer is just an all-around hunter. He’ll go out in the back woods and dig for hours, seeking moles and suchlike. He even succeeds sometimes, through pure effort. He doesn’t have a stealthy bone in his body (I mean, Labrador, duh).

          • ChrisTS

            Ugh. One of our cats is a baby bunny killer. The sound they make is awful.

            • advocatethis

              I just lost a cat that was a squirrel killer. I will always remember the sound of a screaming squirrel I woke up to one night as my cat “played” with it outside my window.

              • ChrisTS

                Really horrific.

  • Crusty

    Try this one on for size- outrage at Michael Vick, human cockfighter, for running dog fighting ring.

    • ProgressiveLiberal

      I love all the hypocrites bitching about vick while eating their animals dinners…you can’t make this shit up.

    • ChrisTS

      Try this:

      1) He serially abused the dogs, beating them and killing them in horrific ways.
      2) The purpose was entirely to make money out of a ‘sport.’

  • ChrisTS

    I’m curious about the ‘no roosters’ thing. We always had at least one rooster, sometimes more, though we had to make sure they did not go after one another.

    • In suburban areas people object to the crowing.

      • N__B

        Not just suburbia. In 1981 and 82, I was commuting by bike from Flushing to Manhattan for high school. About 7, 8 miles total, and I started early to miss the worst traffic. All through the immigrant neighborhoods of Queens – Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights – I was hearing roosters crow as I rode.

        • El Guapo

          I lived in Jackson Heights during this time (87th St between 30th and 31st) and can attest. (Santeria maybe? My family is Cuban but never practiced this.)

      • ChrisTS

        Ah. This actually can be a matter of training or the individual bird. Our neighbor’s rooster was a huge, loud crower. Our guys never really were. On the other hand, we had one who was prone to flying up and trying to attack me with his talons.

        • Rob in CT

          Roosters are nasty bastards. Fucking miniature T-Rex’s.

          • ChrisTS

            Yup, some of them at least. I admit I did not weep when that one vanished.

            • Rob in CT

              The ones I’ve encountered were universally aggressive mofos. And as noted below, they don’t just crow at dawn, they crow constantly. Thankfully my house is far enough away that I can’t hear them.

              • ChrisTS

                It does depend (a) on breed, (b)on individual temperament, and (c) on ‘training.’

      • wca

        In suburban areas people object to the crowing.

        As someone who shared a yard border with someone who decided to keep chickens for about a year or two, I’ve got this to say:

        You know how they say roosters crow at dawn? This is, of course, true. But it’s misleading. Roosters crow at dawn because ROOSTERS … CROW … ALL … THE … FUCKING … TIME.

        • Yep. We stayed with friends who raised chickens after their pig experiment. Not only did the one rooster crow, but hens have quite a vocal range.

          They’re very interesting though.

        • advocatethis

          When camping in Hawaii we found that roosters are quieter, as a group, at night, but never completely silent. And the broad group crowing seemed to start at about 4 am, still a couple of hours before dawn. (what was cool was it seemed to be something of a social or communication thing, as it would progress from one side of our range of hearing to the other)

      • DrDick

        It is also the case that you do not need them to get eggs. Indeed, the eggs are much better if they have not been fertilized.

    • As others have said, basically it’s the whole “wake Erik up at 3:30 am” thing.

  • The open question is whether it is possible to have industrial farming of animals under some sort of ethical standards?

    Unfortunately, I think this would take a level of oversight and enforcement that we still can’t get for nursing homes.

    As for sub/urban chickens, it sounds great. But there needs to be some sort of training requirement before people can have them. Our local humane societies got swamped by chickens because people didn’t know what they were doing. (Also, chicken shit smells awful. Worse than pigs.)

    • Denverite

      Unfortunately, I think this would take a level of oversight and enforcement that we still can’t get for nursing homes.

      That’s a shot! (In my experience, SNF surveyors and other regulators do a decent job. It’s the ALF industry that is the real problem, mostly because its regulation is 10+ years out-of-date.)

      • This is my point. Despite the fact that there is oversight and enforcement, gross abuses still occur in post-acute care facilities. (And acute care, come to that.)

        • Denverite

          Oh, gotcha. This is true.

    • Origami Isopod

      Also, chicken shit smells awful. Worse than pigs.

      I disagree with you on this. Chicken shit smells nasty, but pig shit is a WMD.

      • Rob in CT

        Seconded.

  • After reading the comments so far, I eagerly await the day when we can get vat-grown chickens and eggs.

    Chickens have been around for a long time. The used to run around free, like all animals used to do. At some point in time, our ancestors decided they were good to eat, just like any other predator. Being kinda smart, some of our ancestors figured out that they could house the chickens and breed them for food and eggs so that said ancestors didn’t have to expend energy chasing them down. Later on, some of our ancestors figured out that they could trade excess eggs for stuff. Some figured out how to make a living out of it, and so on.

    Point is, if you like chiken and eggs, you can pursue any of the steps above. You can also trade stuff for other people’s eggs, and even be selective about whose eggs you buy. Or, you can just not eat eggs. But factory farming is here to stay. 7 billion people gotta eat. Chicken rights are definitely a first world problem.

    • bexley

      7 billion people do need to eat but if everyone started eating meat in the amounts that first worlders do then that would be a serious enviromental problem for many reasons.

      • Agreed. The root problem being, of course, that there are 7 billion people with no end in site.

    • Yankee

      We’ve got seven chickens in the backyard and we give away eggs by the dozen. They reprocess our kitchen waste into garden fertelizer. Them hens will live a long useful life in their coop and run. Prior to home refridgeration, people got their eggs from the backyards. More people mean more backyards. Fuck your factory farming, sir.

      • Not my factory farming, sir, although I’m quite certain that there are not enough backyards in NYC to support the population, even if everyone wanted to do it. And there certainly is not enough to feed the world that way.

        Don’t get me wrong. I would prefer it if the chickens could just run around and be free like they were in the day. But in order for that to happen, the Earth would need to be divested of about 75% of its human population.

  • Crusty

    Just eat egg beaters. Problem solved.

    • njorl

      Egg beaters are made with egg whites.

      • ChrisTS

        I think Crusty was joking.

      • Crusty

        That sounds kinda racist.

  • tsam

    Erik;

    Off topic, but personal to me, since my daughter attends this college (Prescott). This would make a good blog post, I think.

    http://www.prescottenews.com/index.php/education/prescott-college/item/27419-prescott-college-students-rally-in-support-of-undocumented-students

    Very short story: One student’s senior project turned into a petition drive by the students, and imposition of a $30 fee to fund a scholarship for an undocumented person who demonstrates financial need.

    This is a good thing, right? WRONG! Fox says it’s worse than Hitler:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/04/06/arizona-college-imposes-mandatory-fee-to-fund-scholarship-for-illegal-immigrants.html

    I liked the story, since my daughter was all over this petition drive and helped make it happen, and it shows that even in psycho-ass Arizona, people can do the right thing.

  • Crusty

    Chickens haven’t figured out we’re going to eat them?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whmSW3sOOG8

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    “Free range” has also been given a misleading legal definition. If chickens raised in a barn like the one in the photo are given the chance to spend a few minutes a day to wander into a crowded yard adjacent to the barn, they can in many states be classified as “free-range.”

    I think it’s worthwhile not to be indifferent to the suffering of animals. I’ve heard animal rights advocates who’ve infiltrated the factory-food industry say that caged laying hens live the most miserable lives of all food animals.

    If you’re going to eat eggs, you can make the world a slightly better place by going cage-free or “free-range.”

    • DrDick

      I think you may be right about caged hens, but caged hogs on the factory farms are a close second.

  • Wasn’t there an actual murder case in South Africa where the prime suspect was a chicken farmer? The problem was that the investigators couldn’t find the corpse (maybe it was corpses).

    • DrDick

      Hogs are much better. They even crunch up the bones.

  • Yankee

    Liberalism is a worthwhile thing to be doing while we wait for something better, but it’s a sin to stop there.

  • ChrisTS

    To those who say chickens cannot be good pets: I am not familiar with all chicken sub-species. I will tell you that some birds can be quite nice.

    For us, the “Silky/Silkies” were lovely pets. The roosters were quite mild, and the females and youngsters were realy affectionate. As their name suggests, their feathered bodes were lovely to stroke.

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