I received an intriguing question in my inbox the other day:
“I was wondering if you could settle a discussion. I’m not sure if you are still vegetarian or vegan but if we kept hens [as pets] with no cockerel, would it be acceptable for a vegan to eat the eggs? I thought it might be OK as the eggs would be wasted.”
I’m no longer a strict vegan. When I was, I wouldn’t have a problem with eating eggs from pet hens. In a world of food shortages and limited resources, it’s a pragmatic solution and I loathe waste. I believe food is vegan friendly if it didn’t cause a creature to suffer. Although this isn’t correct from a technical viewpoint.
My partner loves bees and dreams of being a beekeeper. Under this same principle, I’d consider the honey vegan friendly—or beegan—as the bees would be treated well. They’d live out their lives and lifespans naturally, just like any of our pets.
The vegan definition has become rather subjective, directed by an individual’s moral and ethical compass. Some believe palm oil isn’t vegan as the industry is causing many animals to be on the brink of extinction. But the actual ingredient is technically vegan as it doesn’t contain an animal product. Yet, many animals are killed in the making of it. Unlike pet hens laying eggs.
Most vegans wouldn’t find a chicken ovulation, or any animal-derived product, the slightest bit appetising under any circumstances. But whether they choose to eat the egg or throw it away, makes no difference to the pet hen’s welfare and so is—arguably—vegan.
Vegan or not, if you’re blessed with a bit of outdoor space then why not keep pet hens? You can have your egg and eat it too (if you want). Speaking from experience, hens don’t just make fantastic pets. Keeping happy hens means you can give your neighbours, friends and family eggs that haven’t come from a cruel commercial food chain. You’ll also be super popular.
Male chicks are killed for being an unprofitable ‘bi-product’ by even the free-range egg industry. The demand for eggs isn’t going away any time soon, so raising your own—whether you eat eggs or not—is a sensible step in the right direction that benefits everyone. Especially the chucks, if you love to spoil your pets as much as I do.