Poor Chicken Slaves

Hot on the heels of me saying I can’t be bothered to blog, I’m blogging three times in one day. 

I need the chiming in of vegans and non-vegans alike. Seriously, some feedback/discussion would be greatly appreciated. 

One of my dear lady friends owns chickens. She owns them because it seems like everyone in Portland wants to own some chickens these days. God knows why. I grew up with chickens and they smell terrible and wouldn’t stop getting eaten by raccoons.

She also owns four dogs. The chickens, to her, are more like pets. Her boyfriend is in love with them. He built them a temperature adjustable coop and fenced off a large portion of the yard for them. Though a fair amount of the time they’re out running free with the dogs. One chicken (found wandering the streets of their neighborhood and unclaimed by anyone) is now convinced that she IS a dog, preferring the company of canines rather than the her own kind.

At several points my friend has offered me eggs because her family can’t eat all that the chickens produce. She doesn’t want to waste them by throwing them away. She knows that I attempt to maintain a vegan diet.

Her question to me was this: if the idea behind my personal veganism is that I don’t want to hurt animals then what’s the problem with eating eggs from chickens who are simply pets in a loving home?

I had no good answer.

(Keeping this strictly ethical. I know all about the health aspects and general grossness of eggs. I’m asking this in a strictly moral way because that’s why I want to be vegan. Healthy is great but I’m mostly in it so that I’m not hurting anything.)

I posed her question to several vegan friends. An answer given several times is that animals should not be pets. That just owning the chickens is going against vegan ideals.

You know where I’m going with this….

Where do you draw the line? Dogs and cats are acceptable pets but chickens are not? If my dog happened to shit vegan cupcakes every day that I happened to eat (ew, I know) then would my dog be a “slave”? Would it then be unethical for me to own my dog after saving him from a shelter and giving him a better life?

Another one: I know a girl who lives in Canada on a ton of acres with her family and a bunch of animals. Included are a small herd of goats. The goats are treasured family members, the kids adore them. They’re given names, documented in numerous photos and given a good life. Occasionally, when a goat becomes pregnant, this girl takes some of the mother’s milk and makes goat cheese.

(Pausing here to say I also grew up with goats and I adore them even though one of them used to kick the shit out of me on the daily. Their milk is disgusting though. I find goat cheese to be repulsive because it tastes exactly like goats smell. Perhaps I associate it’s flavor with getting my ass handed to me by a goat but either way, I never liked the stuff.)

My problem with milk and dairy products is the way that we get the milk. Keeping animals in a constant state of milk production is horrifying. Everything we do to cattle is horrifying.

So then, if she’s making cheese from goats who are naturally producing milk for a short period of time, goats who are well treated and loved, who prance about on acres and acres of gorgeous farm land, why am I supposed to be upset?

I’m not asking to be an asshole. I might be genuinely blind to a terrible truth. Please enlighten me.

Before I decided to give vegan life a go, I questioned the boyfriend about vegan ethics. I asked would it be okay to get cheese from small, local farms where the animals weren’t being mistreated. Due to his massive irritation at answering stupid questions like that for the last 7 years, his answer was not as detailed as I would have liked. Suffice to say, in his opinion, it was still wrong.

I understand that is naive to think that just because I buy local cheese at a farmer’s market from a kindly looking gentleman, does not mean that his animals are well treated. It’s like the Portlandia episode where they drive all the way to a farm to see where their chicken dinner has been raised to make sure he’s had a good life. I want to do that sometimes.

All this is not because I’m trying to justify eating dairy. It’s because I want answers that aren’t ridiculous.

Because of veganism I will never go horseback riding again because it’s apparently horse slavery (no matter if you love and cherish that horse and treat it like a queen), I feel guilty for wanting to have goats someday because god damn it I really like goats because then I’m keeping goats captive. If someday I get to run my sanctuary farm, will I be an asshole for loving and feeding cows and pigs and sheep? Should I rescue them and then send them off into the big world with a knapsack full of grass and a love note?

Okay, I’m getting ridiculous.

Sometimes I want to make my own rules. I want to decide what’s right and wrong morally for me as far as veganism goes. But there’s no wiggle room. There’s judgement and snark and elitism. If I were single and had no vegan friends I would feel free to adjust my life according to what I felt was important.

Like enjoy your chickens and love your goats. You’re not evil.

Now tell me why I’m a raging asshole.




  1. luminousvegans

    I think it’s great that you are thinking about this stuff. No point in having a set of beliefs and not being able to back that shit up. For me, I don’t believe animals are our property, so ultimately I don’t think humans should have pets. However, we currently live in a society that has not been and is not vegan, so there are a slew of domesticated animals. Domesticated. Meaning they can not live independently of humans. My rescued greyhounds would die if I did not take care of them. I will continue to adopt and rescue animals throughout my life as long as I can afford it and as long as there continue to be domesticated animals. I do not support industries or organizations that continue to breed domesticated animals though.

    I would love to own or run a farm/animal sanctuary one day too. This does not mean I will steal the chickens’ eggs or use the wool of the sheep just because the animals are well taken care of. Those are not my eggs to take or my wool to use. In fact here is an interesting video showing that chickens normally eat their unfertilized eggs (similar to how some humans eat their own placenta after giving birth). In this vid the eggs have to be broken for them due to farming debeaking practices.

    Go to about 2:30-3:30 into the video and listen to what the owner of Peaceful Prairie says…you’ll have to ignore the people who took the vid who are rudely ignoring the tour.

    Sorry for the long comment. I love the frankness in your posts and I find it refreshing that you welcome any and all input to gain insight…even knowing that you might run into some asshole vegans ( I hope my comment was not mean, but informative).

    Plus, your tats are cool.

    • Sweet Bird

      See now that’s what I’m talking about. Honest, eloquent answers with some fact to back them up. I appreciate it.

  2. birds fly

    I think you answered your own questions by stating the following: “I want to decide what’s right and wrong morally for me as far as veganism goes.” As a vegan and as a human being, that *is* your right. All vegans have to draw their own lines in the sand. Where that line gets drawn is your own business. Veganism is a holistic, not a narrow, way of looking at the world. I personally don’t see room for dogma there. We should be encouraging people to think for themselves, to become aware, not dictating how they should live their lives. There is already enough of that attitude in the world. And I think you’re on the right track by thinking critically about this.

  3. Pingback: I Don't Eat Puppies
  4. Anja

    My chickens do give off a terrible stench. And the flies they attract! If it wasn’t for Zach’s deep love of them I think I would prefer to keep our backyard full of dogs and nothing else. However, in the months that we’ve had them I have grown very fond of them (especially Freddy who is an amazingly cuddly and sweet little chicken). They have a pretty pampered life and are probably treated as well as any chickens out there. If they weren’t in my backyard they would be in some other coop somewhere else, they certainly wouldn’t be out roaming the country and enjoying their freedom like little chicken Jack Kerouacs. Obviously, they would die without be taken care of by humans. As far as the egg issue goes, I don’t feel that we are stealing their eggs although I understand that view. I don’t think that chickens “need” to eat their own eggs, as the woman in the video states, and from what I have read about it, chickens cracking and eating their own eggs isn’t exactly a normal practice, but something that happens with particular chickens and particular circumstances. It can happen with overcrowding, calcium deficiency, inadequate nests, etc. I don’t believe that chickens should be relying on their own eggs for their nutritional needs. They should have a healthy and adequate diet. I didn’t eat my own placenta. I saw it through a fuzzy blood-loss induced haze and it looked gross.

  5. Karen Call

    My mother claims to have a No-Kill chicken sanctuary with unfertilized eggs that she doesn’t sell for profit. For a while, I first called myself Vegan while eating chicken eggs from that sanctuary. I came to the realization that if I’m eating chicken eggs, I am not only ingesting extraneous animal cholesterol that is not good for my body (which you mentioned), but if I am the epitome of success in life, others will demand to model it. My actions make me a spokesperson for the green light of eating that product. Not everyone is going to keep their own chickens or can keep their own chickens. This results in others selling eggs for profit. Any system of animal exploitation for profit ultimately leads to animals’ deaths. Show me a No-Kill sanctuary selling any type of animal product for profit, and I will show you a business out of business. Chickens were also hybridized in order to produce unfertilized eggs faster than is good for their bodies. If the rest of the world can’t do this without hurting animals, why would I promote that product? Being an animal-product free Vegan is not only possible but is ideal.

  6. amyhotgirl

    I’ve just found your blog. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly a month and am toying with the idea of veganism – the truth about the way we get cows milk has totally shocked me. Like you, health may be a bonus of a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle but my main concern is avoiding products and foods that involve cruelty to animals. Therefore, I genuinely do not see why the eggs from a chicken raised in a loving home as a pet would be ethically wrong to eat. I don’t see how having a chicken as a pet is wrong, dogs and cats may have a more obvious “pet status” because they have chosen to live with us for thousands of years but chickens can be pretty tame and if they seem happy with the arrangement, who are we to say its wrong? Its not like the chicken keeps making a run for it is it??

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