To the question of ‘the chicken or the egg’ we say: Neither.
What about eggs? Is it possible to produce them humanely?
We often have in mind images from our childhood books where happy hens would run around on green prairies. What harm could it do to them if we eat their unfertilized eggs? Unfortunately the reality of egg production is far from these pastoral images.
Laying hens spend their entire life crammed in a cage where they cannot open their wings nor can they can make a nest to lay their eggs. To satisfy their natural nesting need, some hens will make a semblance of nest in the body of one of their dead companions.
The psychological distress of these birds is shown in the aggressive behavior they adopt toward each other in their much too small living environment. To palliate to this behavior and prevent the wounds that it causes, we cut the hens’ beaks without any anesthesia. They live with this mutilation.
And what about free-range eggs?
The «free-range» label does not mean much in Quebec. It can mean, for example, a warehouse where thousands of hens are packed together and where we could find an access to the outdoors at one extremity, no matter if the hens in reality have access to it or not. Indeed, it could be difficult for a hen to make her way through thousands of other stressed and aggressive hens to head toward an exit that she might never have seen. Free-range hens are often wounded and featherless because of the multiple attacks that they suffer from other birds in this unnatural and overpopulated space.
Is any of this humane? Is this ethical? There is no ethical solution to an unethical situation.