Most people understand a vegetarian’s choice to avoid meat products, but many are baffled by a vegan’s choice to avoid eggs. So, why are vegans not eating eggs? The answer to this question of course is not that simple, as people choose to be vegan for many different reasons. However, to understand one main reason vegans abstain from indulging in egg products, let’s take a look at a life of an egg laying hen.

As children we are raised with the idea that our eggs come from happy cute chickens that live in a big hen house and are tended to by the family farm. This is a fantasy that couldn’t be further from the truth for most American hens. Increasingly eggs are harvested in factory farms, much like the meat industry. Chickens used solely for eggs are referred to by the industry as “laying hens.” The laying hens are kept in ultra tight quarters, depending on the factory, but the USDA reports the average floor space provided is somewhere less than a half a foot per hen.

Being this close together causes many hens to have severe health problems. A report conducted by Compassion Over Killing revealed that these hens do not have enough room to even flap their wings and health problems such as osteoporosis, uterine prolapse(the uterus is expelled from the body), and Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome. Also due to the tight quarters, hens are known to damage themselves and others by overpecking. But don’t worry the factories have found a way to solve this: they burn off their beaks with a headed blade!!! This is quite possibly the worst injustice and an incredibly painful procedure, as it is done without anesthetic most of the time.

Now these hens are only valuable during their egg laying span. The farms try to keep the hens for maximum egg production and routinely are involved in a practice called “forced molting.” This practice is when the chickens are intentionally starved for up to 14 days, body fat is lost, and egg production begins again. Sometimes they are even kept in complete darkness. This can have severe psychological and health problems for these hens, as well as horrible suffering.

So what happens when the hens can no longer produce eggs? They are shipped off to slaughterhouses to end up on people’s tables. But because of brittle bones and mistreatment, they often are bruised and their bones snap easily. Thus the industry grinds them up and uses them in products such as soup and pot pies, as well as chicken meal. More often, slaughterhouses have enough abused chickens to fill the low grade meat quota, that the egg farms need another way to dispose of the hens. There have been reports of farms using wood chippers, often while still alive! And one part of this whole process that is often forgotten about is the baby boy chicks that¬† hatch at the factory farms. Since the egg laying chickens are the only part of the puzzle these farms care about, they are discarded as soon as they are born. Some of the more common ways to “dispose” of these poor souls is being thrown into a dumpster until they suffocate or dehydrate, ground up alive, or gassed.

Clearly , the American practice of factory farming is not only cruel, but unnecessary. In fact the European Union has banned the use of these “battery cages” beginning in 2012.¬† So what can we do about it here in the States?

First step, hit them where it hurts: their money! GO VEGAN and start boycotting the egg industry! If you just can’t give up those eggs, only purchase eggs from small organic local farms that still use humane practices. Or get involved! Most have heard of PETA, but there are a number of other great organizations that could use your help including: Compassion Over Killing, Action for Animals, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary and a host of others.

So next time someone asks you, “why don’t you eat eggs?” or “what’s wrong with eggs?” you’ll not only have a complete answer, but be able to send them resources.