At the depth of our being is Spirit. Some people call this God within. Some call it Lord. Others call it their higher Self. Whatever you call it, it is our Spirit-self that seeks to express as Love, Compassion and Understanding. Even though we often ‘miss the mark,’ those of us on spiritual paths are always striving to become a clearer expression of Love, Compassion and Understanding. We turn within for clarity and guidance.
How are you allowing your Spirit-self to guide you today? Will you allow it to bring light to the choices you make in your everyday life?
It’s really very simple. When faced with a choice, ask yourself:
Most of us like to think we are kind people. We help people in need. We may perform random acts of kindness. We give to causes we believe in or to people in need. We say nice things to other people to lift them up. We do our best to appreciate the contributions of others and to be cordial toward those who are more difficult. We do what we can to not hurt others. We also do our best to be aware of the times when we are not kind and strive to do it better the next time around. And we are certainly put off by what looks to us like unkind people or unkind acts.
But in our complex society, our impact on others can sometimes be completely invisible to us. As consumers we may have no idea if we are participating in something that is kind or not. But we can do due diligence to find out. We can give it some dedicated thought and put our minds and hearts in gear!
Here is one thing that may have never crossed your mind: eggs.
We eat them for breakfast. We use them to make egg salad or potato salad. We use them to bake almost everything. They are an integral part of a lot of what we eat. They also seem pretty benign. After all, hens lay eggs naturally and if the eggs aren’t fertilized, no harm is done; no life is taken, right?
I used to think that. For decades I had no idea that there was anything harmful in the production of eggs (or milk for that matter, but we will save that for another day). But eventually I made the choice to discover the facts. Underneath my scrambled egg breakfast was egregious cruelty, beyond the pale.
What I learned was this:
More than 300 million hens are raised on factory farms, representing 95% of the eggs that we buy. The hens are kept in crowded, unarguably abhorrent conditions. The ammonia level in the air caused by the breakdown of uric acid in their excrement is pungent and a respiratory hazard.
First image above shows battery cage hens. Second image shows free-range hens. Is this kind?
Compared to a century ago, when an egg-laying hen laid 100 eggs a year, the modern hen has been bred to lay between 250 to 300 eggs a year. Laying such a huge number of eggs can cause her to suffer from conditions such as osteoporosis, fatty liver syndrome and prolapsed uteruses. No veterinary care is provided for ailing birds. They are left to suffer and/or die.
Is this kind?
There comes a point in a hen’s life cycle when she is found to not be laying a sufficient number of eggs by production standards. She is then put into a forced molting process, where she is essentially starved for up to 14 days. This puts her body in a state of shock and induces it to produce more eggs for our consumption. Keep in mind, there is no biological reason for us to consume eggs, and there are plenty of ways to bake without them.
Forced molting is a widespread practice in the United States.
Is this kind?
To keep this machine going, you need a constant supply of new hens so of course some eggs must be fertilized and hatched. Soon after hatching, all these little chicks are separated in a mass production line by the chick ‘sexers.’ Yes that is actually a role for a person in this assembly line production. You can guess that only females are desirable for this business since they are the ones who can actually biologically lay eggs. Males born to egg-laying hens are considered useless, because they can’t lay eggs and their breast tissue is insufficient chicken sandwich material.
This is an assembly line folks. It looks like they are playing with Peeps, but these are real living beings with a desire to live, being separated by gender. Is this kind?
So what do we do with the ‘non-essential’ male chicks? They are discarded, gassed or ground up alive right after birth. And that is the awful truth. More than 260 million male chicks are killed every year in the United States alone. And if you think that your certified humane, organic or free range eggs are free of all this, even the most rigorous humane labeling certification programs in the U.S permit the killing of male chicks at the hatcheries which supply their egg farms with laying hens. It's no different with 'backyard chickens.'
Above are male chicks being suffocated in plastic bags or disposed of as trash. Below are male chicks going into a grinder alive. I spared you the video.
Is this kind?
The female chicks will grow up without any natural parenting from their mothers. At just a few days old, the tips of their sensitive, nerve-ending-laden beaks are shorn off without anesthetic. This is done to keep them from pecking each other in the unnatural confined conditions they are kept in. It would be kind of like having our fingernails pulled out to keep us from scratching at each other, because if we were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in a small space with other people, standing in our feces and with no natural light for our entire lives, we just might do that.
Is this kind?
And the cycle continues. Eventually every hen stops producing a sufficient number of eggs (after numerous cycles of starvation) and she is considered to be ‘spent’. At that time, she is just 12-18 months old, while her normal lifespan might be 10-15 years. Regarding lifespan, this would be comparable to a seven-year-old human being. She might be transported to slaughter where her depleted body will be made into low grade food. Or if market conditions for that aren’t so great, she may simply be gassed and put in a landfill, ground up alive or slaughtered to become food for other farm animals.
On-farm composting is a means to dispose of laying hens considered no longer useful for egg production because it is considered convenient, cost effective and environmentally sound. They did nothing to us. Is this kind?
I hope you made it this far, because now we get to the good stuff: inquiry.
What does this say about our humanity?
I invite you to look at the reality as well as the symbolism here for a moment. It seems ironic that the egg is a symbol of life, and there is so much death around this so-called 'life.' We may say, ‘it’s just a chicken,’ but we (humankind) have said that about lots of ‘others’ throughout our long history, and we have deeply regretted it (or loathed our ancestors for it). So let’s not say that. She is a she. She has her own interests. And her body is completely abused and used for human desires, which are not even needs. There is also a huge denial/repression/domination of the feminine going on here, which I will write about in another blog. Today, I’ll stick to Kindness and respect for Life. For all of us who try to be kind in our lives, this is about the most unkind thing that we humans systematically participate in.
When you learn the truth about something like this, it can be enormously unsettling. Because once you know, you either have to ignore that it exists (which wastes a lot of internal energy and ultimately harms you) or make the decision to change (which takes a great deal of courage, conviction and fortitude).
The path of least resistance is to stay with what you normally think and do. There’s a part of you that - even with everything you may have just learned, and even if you think it is all horrible - will defend the status quo with statements like, “But I love my eggs; they taste so good!” or “It is just too much trouble to figure out how make a cake without eggs,” or once again, “It’s just a chicken.” Watch for those thoughts.
I know. I’ve been there. But I did change. Because for me, I knew that I didn’t want to be a part of something so terribly unkind. For me, every life deserves respect. And for the sake of the poor chickens who are forced to give every last ounce of life for a human want, for the sake of Kindness itself, and for the sake of Peace and Harmony in my soul, I chose to take action. I did not want to be a person who says/believes one thing and does another. So I found a way to live without this non-essential food that causes so much harm to other beings. And the peace I feel in my soul every time I say no to eggs is uplifting. I am in closer alignment with the Divine expressions of Love and Harmony, which admittedly I also want to see more of in the world.
For every person who takes a brave step to live more kindly, the world becomes more kind. And the world needs more Kindness, don't you think?
Be Kind. Be Love. Be Peace. Today.
© carol saunders 2016
Thank you for listening. If you are moved to learn more, here are some resources:
More about the egg industry:
What labels on eggs really mean:
Easy egg substitutes in baking:
The social world of chickens:
You think eggs are cheap protein? Take a look at this:
Rev. Carol Saunders
I am an ordained minister, speaker, writer and lover of all life. In 2010 I founded a spiritual community in Deerfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have recently transitioned it to a weekly interactive gathering and podcast called The Spiritual Forum. Being a voice for the animals and a light for the spiritually-inclined who are willing to seriously examine the self and begin to awaken, are what Spirit has called me to be. I am here to support anyone who wants to move toward living in closer alignment with their deeply held spiritual values. Our world needs more Love, Peace and Kindness. We can make that happen. But we won't be able to until we transform some of the violent and unkind ways of living we inherited from our culture. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Kind. Today.