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Ethical eggs and milk?

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clayto
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Ethical eggs and milk?

#1 Postby clayto » July 26th, 2009, 5:03 pm

Just about all vegans and many other ethical vegetarians consider both eggs and milk to be unacceptable because of the ('indirect') animal suffering involved in their production.

The following are brief extracts from correspondence I have had with Compassion in World Farming:

Quote: "It is possible to determine the sex of eggs before they hatch, which could avoid the need to kill male chicks after hatching and therefore remove the factor of any animals being killed for egg production."

Quote: "For dairy cows, the use of sexed semen and/or methods of prolonging lactation could be used to reduce the number of males born."

This raises the question for vegetarians (perhaps of little interest to others): If it were possible, at first theoretically and eventually commercially, to produce eggs and milk in ways which did not require the killing and associated suffering of 'surplus' male chickens and male cattle, could this lead to a withdrawal of the objections some vegetarians have towards eggs and milk?

If the answers is 'yes' or 'maybe' should vegetarians investigate this and in time try to promote production in the ways indicated (a) for their own diet (b) to influence the market, as was quite successfully done in the case of free range versus caged egg production?

Some vegetarians would not accept eggs or milk in any circumstances but many others are motivated by the simple principle "as far as we reasonably can, we avoid food and other things produced in ways which cause unnecessary suffering to non-human animals." How would the application of this principle apply to future production methods which reduced / eliminated the animal suffering to which they now object?

Chris
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Hundovir
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#2 Postby Hundovir » July 26th, 2009, 8:46 pm

A number of vegans I know wouldn't even eat eggs from home reared chickens raised, housed etc. compassionately, because they believe it is exploitation of the animals even if no suffering is involved.

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getreal
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#3 Postby getreal » July 26th, 2009, 8:56 pm

Surely the elimination of the killing of unwanted offspring is not the only (and certainly not the easiest to address) ethical problem in the production of milk and eggs?
If dairy cows were kept in more humane conditions and treated better by farmers/workers this could make a huge impact on the welfare of dairy cows. To see them coming from milking with huge inflamed and often bleeding udders makes me want to weep.

I am a total hypocrite though as I am not a vegetarian, however I feel that the lot of farmed animals could be improved immensly with a little will on the part of the farming industry and pressure from the general public (a la battery hens).
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

clayto
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#4 Postby clayto » July 27th, 2009, 9:33 am

Hundovir --- you are right about the likely response from most vegans (though not all) but most vegetarians, including ethical vegetarians, are not vegans

getreal --- I think 'hypocritical' is too self-critical, in all sorts of ways and for a variety of reasons most of us have problems with doing what our principles suggest we should do, if we were totally consistent. Vegetarians have particular difficulties in a 'veggie unfriendly environment' but I believe we should not try to be perfect, rather we should aim to do the best we can in the circumstances (the pursuit of perfection drives out the achievement of the best, or at least the better).

Chris
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Nick
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#5 Postby Nick » July 27th, 2009, 3:49 pm

clayto wrote:This raises the question for vegetarians (perhaps of little interest to others): If it were possible, at first theoretically and eventually commercially, to produce eggs and milk in ways which did not require the killing and associated suffering of 'surplus' male chickens and male cattle, could this lead to a withdrawal of the objections some vegetarians have towards eggs and milk?

I doubt it Chris. I would expect there to be considerable commercial interest in the science you cite, but, besides any discussion about the ethics of various farming methods, chickens and dairy cattle are killed once they stop being productive.

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getreal
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#6 Postby getreal » July 27th, 2009, 4:06 pm

Nick, I just had a vision there of fields full of geriatric cows, pigs, chickens. Farm's retirement fields.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

clayto
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#7 Postby clayto » July 27th, 2009, 6:00 pm

Quote: "chickens and dairy cattle are killed once they stop being productive." I understand this to be not necessarily so, and have seen examples of where it is not the case, though presumably it is, in large scale commercial production. Then that would lead some people to say the fault lies in current methods of commercial mass production, as it often does; and it it open to those who are concerned about (a) their own behaviour, and (b) to promote wider adoption of a particular practice they favour, to pursue the changes they think are desirable.

Many animals which are 'used' by humans are not killed off when they cease to be useful. Scale is of course a practical issue but again, there are strong arguments not only from vegetarians but also from others, in favour of massively reducing the scale of animal farming (as discussed on this Forum and elsewhere).

Chris
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getreal
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#8 Postby getreal » July 27th, 2009, 6:13 pm

clayto wrote: Quote: "chickens and dairy cattle are killed once they stop being productive." I understand this to be not necessarily so, and have seen examples of where it is not the case, though presumably it is, in large scale commercial production.


Do you have any information about where this is not so (appart from "hobby farms)?

clayto wrote: Many animals which are 'used' by humans are not killed off when they cease to be useful.
Chris

I can think of where animals are "retired" but these are, in the main, pets (horses, competition dogs). I cannot think of any farm animals (with the possible exception of sheepdogs) which are "retired", wheather it be a large or a small farm.

BTW many farmers shoot their dogs when they are no longer able to work.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#9 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » July 28th, 2009, 1:46 am

clayto wrote:If it were possible, at first theoretically and eventually commercially, to produce eggs and milk in ways which did not require the killing and associated suffering of 'surplus' male chickens and male cattle, could this lead to a withdrawal of the objections some vegetarians have towards eggs and milk?
As Nick has pointed out, there is still the issue of dealing with non-productive hens and cows. I would certainly be open, though, to the possibility of a much more ethical way of producing hens' eggs, on a very small scale, and might even consider eating them under certain circumstances. But milk? No, that's another kettle of asparagus. It's not just about killing, as I've said in this forum before. It's about calves being taken away from their mothers before they're weaned. In beef cattle, as in wild cattle, calves are allowed to suckle for nine months. If dairy calves did that, there wouldn't be very much milk left over for humans. And I do not believe that a dairy industry in which all the (female) calves produced were destined to become dairy cows themselves, without a single one being slaughtered, and where all post-productive cows were allowed to die of old age, would be economically or environmentally sustainable, even on the very smallest scale.

I confess, though, that my objection to the dairy industry is an aesthetic and emotional one as well as an ethical and rational one. For me, there is something quite obscene about the idea of keeping female animals constantly pregnant (by artificial insemination, of course; it wouldn't be viable to do it "naturally" if you're going to sex the semen) just so that one can harvest their mammary secretions. I'm sorry; I know that probably sounds quite mad. But that's what 24 years of veganism does to you. I've acquired different cultural norms. :D
clayto wrote:Some vegetarians would not accept eggs or milk in any circumstances but many others are motivated by the simple principle "as far as we reasonably can, we avoid food and other things produced in ways which cause unnecessary suffering to non-human animals." How would the application of this principle apply to future production methods which reduced / eliminated the animal suffering to which they now object?
I too am motivated by that principle. And that's why I don't consume dairy products now. I don't think someone who lives by that principle can justify continuing to consume dairy products on the basis that there might be a way of producing them in the future that is ethically acceptable. I think there are strong ethical and environmental arguments for people to cut down substantially on both meat and dairy products now. I would no doubt find a small-scale dairy industry less objectionable than a large-scale one, even if the production methods still involved the slaughter of excess calves and spent cows. Any reduction in scale is going to mean a reduction in suffering. But talking about future production methods that might eliminate the suffering of dairy cows and calves is too much wishful thinking, in my view. And a bit of a distraction. Much more constructive, I think, to focus on reducing the demand. One pint at a time.

Emma

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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#10 Postby clayto » July 28th, 2009, 2:24 pm

First, I should point out that my first posting on this (and my other one on Leather) are questions. I am trying to establish what others think, partly as part of a personal effort (including some postings on a Vegetarian Society email discussion) to identify what really are the core differences between non-vegan veggies and vegans, and whether possible changes in production methods might make a difference to current attitudes.

The distinction in practice (but not in 'ideology') between strong ethical vegetarians and many vegans sometimes looks to me a bit thin. As someone who is not ideologically a vegan I find myself wanting to move towards vegan practice, especially regarding eggs and dairy (hence for example my search (unsuccessful so far) for acceptable vegan cheese, discussed in the past. Emma puts the arguments on this well and I generally find myself unable to disagree with her. But I am moving slowly, cautiously, because there are major health impactions, mainly for my wife for whom I am a 24/7 Carer. To give just one example, if we went over to eggs / none-dairy on grounds of principle where do we stand if trying to be 'perfectly consistent' on the many medications my wife has which contain dead animal products, such as animal gelatin (when I finish this posting I am going to a pharmacy to try to get an animal free version of one of the medications she requires).

getreal said "I cannot think of any farm animals (with the possible exception of sheepdogs) which are "retired", whether it be a large or a small farm." Except perhaps "hobby farms".

Nor can I if we are talking about food, although I have seen a documentary about sheep rearing in this country just for wool, were the sheep were not killed at any stage. But I did make the point about 'scale' myself and Emma has dealt with it more thoroughly. Meat production, eggs and dairy may well be scaled down in the not too distant future for a variety of reasons (environmental, etc) in some countries perhaps, rather than others, which could make the changes I identified (and possibly others) more economically realistic; so my question was, if this were to happen here how might it affect vegetarian attitudes to eggs and dairy? If a niche market grew up for milk and eggs produced in this country for ethical vegetarians, etc., given that the Veg Soc already 'approves' milk and eggs (unlike Vegan Soc) how might / how should veggies respond?

Chris
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getreal
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#11 Postby getreal » July 28th, 2009, 10:56 pm

clayto wrote: Nor can I if we are talking about food, although I have seen a documentary about sheep rearing in this country just for wool, were the sheep were not killed at any stage.
Chris



I find this very hard to believe.

Sheep, as they get older, lose their teeth and thus the ability to graze effectively. The quality of their fleece also deteriorates as they age.

They must have been killed when they became "unproductive", surely? What farmer could afford to specially feed (bad teeth, remember) and care for old sheep from whom there would be no monetary return?
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#12 Postby Nick » July 28th, 2009, 11:06 pm

I'm curious. What is the logic which supports the choice to allow humans to end their suffering, but seeks to deny it to animals....? I must go and google "Nice deaths for sheep".

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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#13 Postby getreal » July 28th, 2009, 11:15 pm

maybe there's a clinic, somewhere in Switzerland, they can go.....
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

clayto
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#14 Postby clayto » July 29th, 2009, 9:15 am

getreal --- the programme regarding sheep was discussed on thie Forum at the time of its broadcast. I will see if I can find it via Search, though I do not always find this successful.

Chris
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#15 Postby clayto » July 29th, 2009, 9:22 am

Nick ---- now that is a daft response if ever I saw one. Farm animals are 'exercising a choice' to be slaughtered are they? To make such a remark suggests total misunderstanding of Dignity, which is about humans exercising a free choice, when they have 'rational capacity' to do so, whereas farm animal slaughter is just about as far away from that as anyone can imagine!

Chris
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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#16 Postby Nick » July 29th, 2009, 9:44 am

Well, Chris, it's quite true my comment wasn't meant entirely seriously, but it was probably engendered by the daftness of the original proposition. I certainly don't doubt the sincerity of Dignity, though I myself have unanswered concerns about how it might work in practice. I also think there is a great deal of scope to improve the treatment of animals in meat production, which has sadly gone backwards in recent times because of the response to Mad Cow disease and other related factors. I was just making the point that to leave animals to die on hill-sides is equally daft and cruel. If they are to be slaughtered anyway, then it moves the goal-posts, so to speak. The idea that it is viable to keep sheep for wool alone is somewhat...err...woolly in itself.

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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#17 Postby getreal » July 29th, 2009, 9:45 am

clayto. You cannot get away from the fact that farming animals means there will ALWAYS be slaughter.
Surely you are not advocating the keeping of unproductive animals?
(in a farming sense, obviously)
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Re: Ethical eggs and milk?

#18 Postby jaywhat » July 29th, 2009, 10:52 am

getreal wrote:clayto. You cannot get away from the fact that farming animals means there will ALWAYS be slaughter.
Surely you are not advocating the keeping of unproductive animals?
(in a farming sense, obviously)


I guess it means not farming animals at all. Hard to imagine, but I thought one was being philosophical here.


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