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Veganism: What's Wrong with Dairy and Eggs?

Updated on June 10, 2015

Egg and Dairy Products Are Not Harmless

Every glass of milk, slice of cheese, scrambled egg, and baked good made with eggs or dairy products has an invisible serving of meat on the side.

Dairy products and eggs seem wholesome, and most of us were raised to believe in their health benefits. Since they do not require killing the cows and hens from which they come, we can easily think of them as being cruelty-free.

Sadly, though, the mass production of milk and eggs results in horrific living conditions for hens and dairy cattle and is every bit as ethically objectionable as the meat industry.

Indeed, it is fair to say that dairy and egg production is, in fact, part of the meat industry, since cows and hens are killed for their meat at the end of their lives and male offspring are routinely killed either immediately or within several months of birth, their bodies often to be consumed by animals or humans.

Vegan Cookbooks

The Vegan Planet, Revised Edition: 425 Irresistible Recipes With Fantastic Flavors from Home and Around the World
The Vegan Planet, Revised Edition: 425 Irresistible Recipes With Fantastic Flavors from Home and Around the World

There are numerous vegan cookbooks available, so you are sure to be able to find a style to suit your dietary needs as well as your taste and cooking preferences.

You can prepare excellent cruelty-free dishes and know that every vegan meal alleviates some suffering in the world!

This cookbook is my all-time favorite.

Dairy cow in a factory farm
Dairy cow in a factory farm | Source
Downed cow being dragged to slaughter
Downed cow being dragged to slaughter | Source

The Treatment of Dairy Cows

Cows on dairy farms are kept almost continuously pregnant in order to trigger profitable milk production. When a calf is born, it is taken away from its mother and is formula fed so as not to consume any of the precious milk the cow produces.

Dairy cows are typically kept in small pens. The taste of their milk is affected by what they eat, so they are not allowed to graze during the periods of time that they are producing milk.

Between selective breeding and bovine growth hormone, the cows' udders are painfully large and subject to frequent infections. While cows might naturally live an average of 25 years, a dairy cow is typically sent to the slaughterhouse when she's four or five years old, her body spent with the stress of constant pregnancy and extreme lactation.

Although a cow is not killed in order to produce milk, when her milk production begins to decline, she does become a direct part of the meat industry. Her life ends just like those cattle who are raised for meat. She is harshly transported to the slaughterhouse where she is brutally killed. Her meat may be marketed for animal rather than human consumption, but she is certainly a victim of the meat industry.

Veal calf
Veal calf | Source

The Dairy Industry and Veal

About half of the female calves born on a dairy farm are kept to replace the older cows on the farm. The rest of the females, along with most of the male calves, are sold to beef farms. Some are destined to become veal, living for only a few months in absurdly tiny stalls before being slaughtered.

The veal industry's cruelty has been so well publicized that many people who eat meat refuse to consume veal. Very few of the male calves are kept for reproductive purposes. With the advent of artificial insemination and sperm-storage technologies, the demand for live bulls has been greatly diminished.

Battery cages
Battery cages | Source

The Reality for "Layer" Hens

Egg production mirrors dairy production in many ways. Hens who lay eggs live in horrific conditions, their bodies pushed to the limits to maximize egg production. They are de-beaked without anesthesia and crammed into tiny cages with other hens. Many of them never see daylight because they are "stored" inside a "factory."

At about 18 months of age, the tormented hens start to lay fewer eggs and are sent to the slaughterhouse to be sold as meat. (A hen living a more natural lifestyle would live to be about 10 years old.)


The Terrible Fate of Male Chicks

Male chicks of the layer breeds are basically considered useless by the industry - they are little more than by-products of egg production and are not well-suited for meat production. A certain number of males are needed for breeding purposes, but the rest are killed at the hatchery when they are a day or two old.

Because the males obviously cannot lay eggs and are not appropriate to raise for meat, they are quickly disposed of. For nearly every female chick who is sold to a layer farm by a hatchery, there is an "invisible" male that who been killed.

This means that the killing of chickens does occur as a direct result of factory egg production.

Good Resources for Vegans

The Vegan Sourcebook (Sourcebooks)
The Vegan Sourcebook (Sourcebooks)

This book provides ample information about vegan living, including what how it relates to our health, animal welfare and rights, and the earth's environment. It also provides information and resources for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.


The Bottom Line

The egg and dairy industries are not kind to hens and cows. Those animals suffer every bit as much as animals raised for meat, and they ultimately face the same fate in the slaughterhouse.

NOTE: I did not go into detail about the inhumane conditions in which factory farm animals live. You can easily find such information online or in books about vegan living.

Your Comments Are Welcome!

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    • mannyg35 profile image

      Emmanuel Gitonga Munyi 3 years ago

      Great lens.!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @TerriCarr: It really is heart-wrenching! I try not to get overly graphic in my lenses because it just churns my stomach. For me, knowing that even if an animal is treated humanely on the farm, it will meet with a premature and violent death is a big part of why I choose to be vegan. There just doesn't seem to be a way to gently transport and execute a large number of animals. And while chopping off a chicken's head on a small family farm may be relatively quick, it's not something that I can envision doing myself. And so I feel like I'd be asking someone else to do my dirty work if I chose to eat meat. To be clear, these convictions are part of my personal journey. Other people come to different conclusions and decisions that are appropriate for them, and I respect other people's considered choices.

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 4 years ago

      Yep, you broke my heart. As I mentioned on another page, many farmers are adopting more humane least very small family farms.

    • profile image

      kulla 5 years ago

      Much of the information about egg production was not only new to me but an eye-opener to what is done to hens for providing us breakfast. If I read more of your lenses I may turn a vegan!

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 5 years ago

      thanks for another informative lens on Vegan lifestyle... obviously, I am seeking to make a change yet some issues do baffle me a wee bit. I pride myself on using only dairy from local dairy farmers who I believed to be humane, etc. Perhaps it is my reluctance to give up certain foods that keeps me looking for answers... I admit it!!! I don't want to give up cheese:( I even make it myself with vege rennet! thanks for the food for thought:)

    • bagskartIndia LM profile image

      bagskartIndia LM 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your great lens...

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @Spencer36: Thank you!!!

    • profile image

      Spencer36 6 years ago

      Well written & concise. I'll be sharing this with some people for sure.

    • perrybenard profile image

      perrybenard 6 years ago

      This is very alarming, I had no idea that egg and milk production could be so . . . distasteful and cruel, it is shocking! thanks for sharing

    • Edwardjames81 profile image

      Edwardjames81 6 years ago

      An interesting lens this. I have t be honest and say I have never really thought about it before and maybe I should have done. A thought provoking piece this.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @anonymous: Great question! But it is not my role to dictate how others should live their lives or determine what is ethical for a particular person in a particular situation. Having said that, I do have friends who have their own hens and love their hens and use the eggs that their hens lay, and I certainly respect and admire these friends.

      My only real response in answer to your question is that it is important to understand whether or not animals are abused or killed in order to acquire the chickens and to honestly ascertain if the chickens are kept in conditions that are kind and healthy.

    • SandyDell profile image

      Sandy Dell 6 years ago from Lenore, Idaho

      Would loved to have read some of the health reasons why dairy and eggs are not good to eat. There is multiple facts on the health issues behind eating dairy in particular. Might think about adding that to your lens at some point in time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What if you have your own chickens that you treat very well, let them run around and what not. Do you think it would be okay to eat eggs then?

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @KellydeBorda: You're right -- seeing videos is a powerful experience, one that I can't stomach! Wouldn't male chicks in the supply chain of the small local farms experience the same fate? I can't imagine small farms would want (or be able to afford) "extra" males running around...

    • KellydeBorda profile image

      KellydeBorda 6 years ago

      A quick search for a video about what happens to the little male chicks at the laying factory will turn your stomach off factory eggs. I'm not vegan, but fortunately can buy cheap from local farms.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing, I will share this as well! :) (the security word was "cowbird," how ironic!)

    • BusyMOM LM profile image

      BusyMOM LM 6 years ago

      Very informative. Thanks for sharing this. There is so much I still am learning!