Harvesting the Girls – Hindsight is 20/20

I used to be a vegetarian. It wasn’t for health reasons. I chose to become a vegetarian because I felt that killing animals for food was wrong. Once I made the switch to vegetarianism, I found myself consuming copious amounts of cheese. Cheese, glorious cheese. And eggs. Technically speaking I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian, meaning I ate eggs and dairy and plants. I thought I was doing right by the animals by making this lifestyle choice and I lived within that illusion for well over two decades.

I’m vegan now, for a much shorter amount of time. Technically speaking, since I’ve only just renounced the consumption of honey, it’s only been a few months that I am actually vegan. Veganism is violence awareness on a profound level that cannot really be described until you’re here, and then you realize that yes, even bee farming is a brutal, destructive, and exploitive industry.

Recently, some former neighbors of mine started a business to assist people with becoming backyard egg farmers, and they invited me to like their Facebook page. It was a whole mixture of feelings that arose from that invite: Love for my former neighbors – they are lovely, generous people. Rage for the injustice of hurting animals – egg-laying animals, in this case. And guilt – for I had gladly and graciously accepted a few dozen eggs from my former neighbors during the years that I lived adjacent to them. And I was complacent in the murder of innocent beings.

My neighbors had chickens and ducks. “The girls,” they used to call them, for, like most animals exploited in animal agriculture, they were necessarily female. Not that male animals aren’t abused by the industry. Male bovine are stimulated (read: sexually assaulted) by farmers to create semen for artificially inseminating (read: raping) female bovine so that they will produce milk. Baby male chickens are immediately sorted out and thrown into a giant macerator – ground alive into baby chicken pulp because they won’t produce eggs. Sadly, they might be the luckier ones in this particular gender inequity.

Living with that rural-esque ambience of cluck-cluck-clucking was usually quite pleasant – except for the time when my neighbors decided to try having a couple of turkeys. Confined large animals in small spaces fare even worse than smaller animals, and their aggravation was evident. As was their odor – the turkeys used to hop up on a slab of plywood a few feet from my south facing window and take some of the worst smelling poops I’ve ever smelled wafting into my living room in the summer heat.

I may have complained to my neighbors about the smell. The turkeys disappeared shortly thereafter. I’m not sure to where.

At the end of that summer, I was just leaving my house to run some errands when my neighbor stopped me to let me know that they had a man coming by to “harvest” the chickens. Never having heard this term before in relation to chickens, it took me a minute to realize what he meant. My neighbor complained about how his partner had left him to oversee the dirty work. I thanked him for the heads-up and decided to take my time with my errands.

I could have purchased those chickens from them. I should have. Taken them to a sanctuary. Something. But, like a lot of people, when faced with atrocity, I simply turned away. I am not proud of this. Hindsight is 20/20.

Unfortunately, when I arrived home, the last of “the girls” was being harvested. I’m glad that I didn’t visually witness this murder. It was happening just on the other side of the fence. There were chicken sounds, and then a chopping sound, and then no chicken sounds.

It hadn’t occurred to me, when I was gladly receiving free dozens of fresh, locally-produced eggs (doesn’t get much more local than next door), that “the girls” who provided me with this bounty would eventually be murdered. But this is the way life ends for ALL of the girls (namely cows and chickens) who produce “food” for human consumption. They live horrible, confined lives in pain, and once their sickly, depleted bodies are no longer exploitable, we murder them.

If it could be proved somehow that eggs were actually a healthy and sustainable resource for “food,” then at least egg farmers could use this argument to justify their cruelty. Alas, the United States Department of Agriculture themselves have declared eggs unfit for human consumption (watch the video in the link below). And so, we are left with nothing more than a cruel industry that hurts and murders animals, promotes disease, destroys the environment, and ultimately destroys humans as well.

No matter how you treat "your" fowl while they are alive, whether it is at an industrial level or in your own backyard, egg farming is inherently exploitive and abusive. Chickens have been genetically altered to produce many more eggs than they normally would in their natural life cycles so that they will better serve human appetites. It hurts like hell every time they lay an egg. Their male counterparts are killed shortly after birth because they don’t have egg laying capability. Chicken farms burn off the beaks of “the girls” so they won’t damage the goods as they go crazy in their shortened, brutal lives of overcrowded confinement. And in the end, they will be murdered – sorry, harvested – when they are no longer of use to us. All for a product that we are healthier living without.

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