Why Real Feminists Should Stop Eating Eggs

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5 min read

The human egg is tiny, undetectable to the human eye—and yet it’s a powerful, life-giving force that is still polarizing nations. Such an innocuous little ovum, yet it holds such an immense power to divide—and to divide people.

As the battle for control over women’s fertility and reproductive rights wages on, feminists are rising up against abuse and exploitation.

So what does it mean, then, when women take another female’s eggs from her without a thought and readily pay money for her eggs, knowing that she was imprisoned, her reproductive cycle was controlled and manipulated, and she was forced to bear young on someone else’s timetable?

Can we really call ourselves “feminists” if we eat eggs?

Some are quick to dismiss the suffering of female members of other species as unimportant. But let’s recall that human females, too, have been dismissed as not important, valuable, intelligent, or worthy of consideration. The justifications that people give for being unconcerned about chickens’ suffering and denying their basic rights are strikingly similar to the justifications that have been given for disregarding women’s suffering and denying their basic rights, all of which are false.

Chickens are inquisitive, and they can complete complex mental tasks, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and pass down cultural knowledge. In some aspects, their cognitive abilities exceed those of cats, dogs, and even primates. Like all animals (including humans), they love their families and value their own lives. They look out for their relatives and the other chickens in their group. They have complex social structures, well-developed communication skills, and distinct personalities, just as we do. If you’ve ever talked about a “pecking order,” “hen fest,” or “mother hen,” you were describing behavior that we have observed in chickens.

But chickens are arguably the most abused animals on the planet.

In the United States, more than 300 million hens are exploited for their eggs every year. The vast majority spend their entire lives in intensive confinement—from the moment they hatch until the day they’re killed. They never get to scratch in the grass, feel the sun on their backs, or breathe fresh air. They spend day and night in a feces- and ammonia-filled warehouse with the bodies of many of their dead and dying friends and family members lying on the floor or crammed inside a filthy cage so small that they can’t stretch even one wing.

Farm workers manipulate hens’ reproductive system using light and food to induce extra laying cycles, forcing them to produce as many as 300 eggs per year—far more than the 15 per year their ancestors used to produce in nature. Because of this, the birds often suffer from cysts, infections, ovarian carcinomas, and reproductive tumors, and sometimes multiple eggs become lodged inside them. Their bones often shatter from osteoporosis because their bodies are forced to produce massive quantities of eggshells.

Farms don’t see chickens as individuals—they see them as egg machines to be used, manipulated, and pushed beyond their biological limits in order to make money.

Chickens crowded into small space, patches of feathers missing

If treated well, a hen’s life expectancy is about 10 years. On an egg farm, her body will typically give out after just two, if that. When her egg production drops, she is considered “spent” and is thrown into a truck full of other “spent” females, shipped to the slaughterhouse, and strung up by her legs so her throat can be slit or else gassed to death. Her body will likely be turned into chicken soup or food for companion animals, because her flesh is too bruised and battered to be used for anything else.

The hen has been turned into an egg machine. In previous eras, she embodied the essence of motherhood.The Roman historian Plutarch admired these animals’ mothering instincts, writing that he observed hens “drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with joyous and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their children, they stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.”

The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi said that mother hens present, in every way, “a noble example of love in their offspring.” These females represent the best qualities that any of us can hope to possess: selflessness, generosity, compassion, courage, and unconditional love. Shouldn’t we, as humans, be capable of the same?

PETA encourages everyone to stand up to the systematic abuse of females of all species. Widening our circle of compassion doesn’t hurt anyone—It only serves to end the cycle of oppression and suffering that results when one group seeks to exploit another that it has deemed inferior.

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